We were at a swish dinner with a senior esteemed editor on the table. A modern trendy lady in hot pants answered to a query “umm I’m actually just a housewife” half apologetically accepting the eons old traditional mindset that women are of course to be relegated to the role of homemakers. Never mind their global exposure to education, capabilities and their abilities to fit the high echelons of the corporate world as this young lady was. The senior journalist well known for his traditional attire of khadi kurta pajama, Kolhapuri chappals and bald pate, defining his seniority surprised us with his take. “Well, from what I see around me in Mumbai, and what is probably the case in all the metros and modern cities in India even, is that the equation has certainly changed with dramatic implications that break the traditional glass ceiling.
Women today, especially the younger lot have flung age old traditions to the breezes. In nuclear families today, where both partners venture out to employment increasingly women have nudged the traditional mindset of men incorporating them into some feasible partnership in the home hearth and children responsibility.” He has seen the picture as it is with his vast exposure, relevant to the realities around.
The corollary to this however, is that men seem to have a fixed image of the ‘wife’ as the ‘homemaker’ and entirely responsible for ‘running’ a home and all the added responsibilities of children, washing machine, putting food on the table and keeping out the slippers by the armchair with the TV remote and a cup of tea in the evening. Never mind that she has also come back from a demanding day at her place of employment. And she is the main bread winner too in some cases, and even more accomplished perhaps.
Further research shows me that this is not only an Indian scenario. Even in the US, the citadel of modernity as we Indians see it, men seem to have imprinted in their minds as a footprint in cement that the pretty little wife is perennially in apron strings baking the apple pie and dropping the babies to school, doing the washing, with the permanent vacuum cleaner and mop -displaying proudly the shining clean toilet seat and sink of the bathroom. It does seem strange to the thinking mind that this should be so. It is astounding that even modern women are still accepting outmoded roles and women still have to fight for equal rights and shared responsibilities, for a partnership that defines a marriage.
Certainly in Mumbai I am seeing change creep in, I know a young man who creates a beautiful breakfast for a wife who sleeps in late in the mornings and then she whizzes off to her office because he is self-employed and supervises the maid and the house cleaning. He also boils the drinking water, and personally washes their school going sons white shirts to get them that perfect white. This husband is more an exception than a rule, but this is how it should be done. She comes home and takes over the dinner quotient, but at least it’s a fair bargain. This is a partnership. For a wife to be dumped with the entire load of the home is not really how women see marriage today.
Girls are go getters with intelligence, they are smart, intelligent, and look forward to a life of more than just home and hearth. They study hard to get somewhere and have much ambition to start with. Should it just end up in a life of housekeeping?
We are living in a transitional age, where both things coexist, change is indeed happening. But it is a fact that men are more often left far behind in the culture mindset wagon. They still have huge expectations from women in a marriage, to run a home, taking care of the children, run the laundry, run everything first before running their own dreams and desires.
My question is, should love and marriage become all about being obsessed with running a house, which can drain you from other creative pursuits that stimulate the mind and ambition? More on this next time…
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org