For quite some time, I have been observing around and I come to the conclusion that this country is run by women (this is a generalization, outliers remain though)!
If you actually see and analyze, the amount of work that a woman does is much more than the amount of work a man does. There are set duties for a woman, almost all the duties are pertaining to others in her life; anything that she has to do for herself she has to take extra time out – whether it is going for a walk, or office, or beauty parlour, or gym, or any other of her choice. Any of these activities happen only if and when she gets free from her routine duties that are defined for her. And even when she is on her own in any of these activities, you would notice her taking calls pertaining to her ‘duties’ again Why is everyone so enthu about defining duties for women? A friend of mine said once that they didn’t have a cook during their childhood, if they went out on a day of the weekend, her mother used to prepare the food once they were back home. In her own words, ‘bechaari meri mummy ghar aake khud saara khaana banaati thi’, those were not the days of cook for them, also not the days of ordering from outside. I am sure many households are still like this, except for very few outliers.
I had a maid servant some time back who looked like a 12-year-old kid. She was married with 2 kids, she didn’t know her age to tell me when I surprisingly asked her after coming to know she had 2 kids. She was very hard-working and diligent, her work was perfect, she used to come on time, when she came that is. But she used to fall sick very often. Poverty leading to no proper food was most likely the cause. When asked about her husband, she mentioned once that he doesn’t do anything; then a few days later she mentioned that she got the society pass for him too with the help of the other house owners where she worked. So the husband got to sweep the society and earn some money. This lasted a few days and in those few days she was happy and regular at her own work. But just after a few days she again became irregular and when asked, during the conversation she mentioned her husband left the job. There was no feeling of frustration or desperation, she very casually mentioned about her husband leaving the job. He was not doing anything again. She used to work from 6AM to 11AM in the morning, go home and make lunch, feed her children and have it herself. Again at 4PM, she used to come back for the afternoon part of the work. I once asked her if she cooked anything before 6AM when she came for work? She replied in the negative and I came to know that her children don’t eat anything till lunch time. She could not afford that much milk to give them, it seemed. She would be most likely beaten up by the husband also very often. What is all this I wonder?
I have a vegetable vendor near our colony. We make sure to buy from him whatever is needed so that they make some money. They keep vegetables, milk, bread, eggs, curd which are the usual regular day-to-day stuff. The shop is run by a couple who have 3 kids. A few days earlier, I went to the shop in the morning when the woman had opened the shop and was organizing things. There was another customer before me. Our guard came running and asked her where her husband was because a kid had fallen ill and the guard wanted her husband, who also runs an auto-rickshaw, to take the kid to a clinic. She said he had gone to the vegetable market in old Gurgaon, which is his usual morning task. Soon, the other customer left and she burst out in tears (I don’t know what comfort she shared with me) – she said her husband has not gone to the market but he is sleeping because he didn’t come home last night, and was found in the morning in the neighbourhood. He was drunk last night. She was so worried that the vegetables stock was not enough for the day. The kids were ready to go to the school but he is not in a position to drive the rickshaw. She also mentioned there are two other drunkard friends of his whose families are in Bihar. They are regular drinkers and her husband joins them. She was worried about him not making rounds of the auto-rickshaw, saying income from that has stopped because of his habits. While saying all this, she also said ‘didi, 3 bachche hain, ek baar bhi bola nahin hua nahin ki subah uthke school ke liye tayaar kar de’? (didi, I have 3 kids and not one single day has he woken up in the morning and offered to get them ready for school). He is always found loitering around, instead of taking the rickshaw rounds.
What nonsense is all this? Here is a woman who is trying to do everything from managing household, to kids, to the shop. It is obvious that this auto-rickshaw has to be driven to make money, and it is obvious that this man has to make money. Why doesn’t he get it? Why is he not fearful like her on how will the household run? And on top of it, he is so dumb that he cannot weigh the vegetables properly and calculate the money too. I very patiently tolerate his dumbness only because of his wife, I want her to make some money. She has taught him to use the calculator, she once lightly shared that he loses money because he makes wrong calculations. How nonsensical!
I think there is an inherent talent in women that they can multi-task (tasks of different variety, not many tasks of same variety – there is a difference and the former needs more talent) much better. And in the lower classes, I have noticed many couples where the women are much more intelligent than the men. Since childhood, girls are brainstormed about ‘duties’, which take up their entire time, and they are not left with any to grow in their own way. And more often than not, they just succumb top those duties. I am sure they would be getting married under this immense pressure to perform their duty, and further perform more duties to have children and run the household. Had this not been the case, they were capable of getting a much better spouses and would have grown a lot differently, to great heights.
I witnessed an instance in a village where in a family many men were refusing to marry. It was high time as per their age that they get married. There was an elderly man who expressed the worry, ‘why does no one want to get married? who will cook in the household?’. I was shocked! They want them to get married because they can’t cook themselves? Why don’t they teach them to cook themselves?
Who has given the right to men to define duties for women? I think these kinds of men especially are afraid that they would be left behind if these duties are not imposed on women, and when women become more successful their ego hurts and things like acid attacks happen! Otherwise I wonder why are there no acid attacks on men? (At least not reported).
Most of the women face situations like these, at various levels at various intensities – some or the other in the family, in the society, in the surroundings is there to remind the women about their ‘duties’, sadly women themselves also, very sad!
I am reading this book ‘Lean-In’ where Sheryl Sandberg described in detail on how women inherently don’t come forward to take on new things (possibly because of the upbringing, its in the air), and in work-life balance, with all the fears and the biggest fear of being a good mother/wife/daughter etc., usually work is left behind. How true! I realize it is a world-wide phenomenon and just an India story. The intensity magnifies manifold due to the other problems in our country.
To all women – read the book Lean-In.