My dad’s ideology and what he envisaged of the future forced him to drive us all to become someone more than a ‘mere’ housewife.  Despite this futuristic, modern thinking, he remained doggedly traditional and orthodox in his value systems and his upbringing methodology. His standard ‘caution quote’ for us sisters was, “Always remember, whether the leaf falls on the needle, or the needle falls on the leaf, it is the leaf that gets hurt and torn apart.”  

Back then, I found my dad’s advice very contradictory, frustrating, and hypocritical. If we step out of the house, work, earn money, then invariably we encounter a mixed group. We cannot dictate to the group all the time nor can we live like an island and isolate ourselves from the group. We must keep up with the social demands. When the other girls wear modern clothes, it seemed ridiculous to always show up in traditional attire! Yet, my father’s rigid rules saw us always dressed traditionally! He never yielded, not once. He stoically emphasised that if one really wanted to outshine and get noticed, it better be because of something more permanent than clothes and appearances as fashions come and go.

Today, I am grateful for all those rigidities. They help me remain uncompromising when I set the ground rules for my children. I grew up rebellious, confused and floundered every step of the way! But what I grew up with and inculcated helped me make sense of it all when I stepped into my dad’s shoes. Most of my logic and reasoning stems from my dad’s one liners.  Without his rules I would still be floundering and setting a bad example for my children.

Another memory that has always stayed with me is what my uncle once said to me.  A few years ago, we sisters had a reunion. We were meeting after a decade maybe. Thus, we were meeting our extended circle also after ages and the first question all of them invariably asked was, ‘what do you do?’.  When my turn came, I answered, ‘Housewife, uncle.’

The way he looked at me and added, ‘Just a house wife is it’; drove a dagger deep inside and I felt insulted.  This happened almost a decade ago and is still fresh in my mind. So, imagine the impact this ‘JUST’ had on me then!

Call it fate or God’s own way of keeping me humble, I entered a family through marriage which gave precedence to being at home; raise the kids and work only if imperative. I did work (my streak of rebellion and financial independence agenda) but the situation was never conducive and I was back to home-management; grudgingly. I am reconciled and happy today. When I see today’s woman; their attitude, I am thankful I remained ‘just’ a housewife.

Recently, I saw an interview of Pepsi co CEO, Indra Nooyi.  She is amongst the most successful and accomplished woman of Gen –Y; hats off to her. Addressing a huge audience, she acknowledged that her life is ruled by her work commitments, top 3 priorities she listed were Pepsi co, Pepsi co and Pepsi co, then came her children, followed by parents, in-laws and then somewhere at the bottom of the list was her husband. All this was fine, her priorities, her call. Her husband made this observation that he was always last on the list; to which her laughing repartee was, ‘Be thankful your name is even there on the list!’ She said this in jest and very wittily, the audience laughed and the husband (seated in the front row) also gave a self-conscious smile. That statement, I felt, did not befit her, her stature. She sounded vain and belittling her husband’s  ungrudging contribution to the family. Once again, I was grateful that God did not allow me a career. I don’t know, with my strong-headed and independent streak, a similar statement or something worse was a guaranteed repartee of mine; and I would have felt small, after. 

Family life is all about adjustment, togetherness, compromise, modification, letting-go of the I-ness, focus in a very forced way at the ‘we’. Men have taken it for granted that the wife takes care of the house and family affairs. The women held it all together; played their role to the hilt; and then they decided to step out, and they have in a very big way. Because of this financial independence that woman of today hunger for, the feeling of ‘I-ness’ is more in family life. It is less of ‘we’ do ‘together’ and more of ‘I’ do what I want and you do what you want scenario. Funnily enough, men have adapted to the role of house-husband with less strife. They have kept their ego in their pockets much better than we have been able to keep our arrogance and new found financial independence in check. Financial independence has not only emboldened us, it has made us power crazy and brazen. We could not retain our modest demeanour and humility.  In all this dual working, money making spree, the progeny comes out as the worst loser. Their future and fate is getting nurtured and designed by hired care takers, crèches and gadgets, (add, giving permission to over-ride the partner’s rules, being unnecessarily lenient; over exposure to guilt-gifts from a very vulnerable, impressionable age). 

We women inherently knew how to serve without feeling servile. For Gen –Y, service also needs to be a profitable venture. We have either stepped out of the house and the house has a very desolate, guest-house look, and if we are at home we have converted the house to some business enterprise. Conclusively, today, I am not very pro-women’s liberation and equal rights for women. We have handled financial independence badly and caused more ruin than good. Lastly, I request women again, take a pause, think again, which way are we headed, why and at what cost? I am not saying we should stop, but I definitely feel , it is high time we took a pause, pondered …

“O Women! May you not be disturbed by the crooked and violent men, and ye men! May you not be disturbed by crooked and violent women. Never abandon one another, never cross the limits of respect never hurt the other. This is to be followed by both men and women. This sweet water, food and fruits are available for both of you who should remove the grief of one another.” (Rig Veda 1/183/4)