“Emerging Identity”- 7 March 2012

She was qualified as a software professional with a job in a good company. A reasonably good proposal for marriage had been received by her parents and that day the family along with the boy was coming to ‘see’ her. She was polite and cheerful and prepared to receive them. After exchanging pleasantries, the mother of the boy seemingly innocently asked her if she know how to decorate ‘rangoli’. That came like the bombshell for Manasi! The deal was sealed as the family was written off by her. How stupid of the lady to ask her about a silly skill as decorating ‘rangoli’ and how dare she- she complained to her parents later on!

Another lady also an engineer by profession and married to a decent man was shocked when she heard her mother-in-law state one day that her son would not share the domestic chores as he is ‘a man’. How can he help in cooking and shopping for groceries, she quipped. This lady went into a mild depression thinking of the situation and ‘what she had got into’ as it was an arranged marriage and she had not known the man earlier. Her husband had enough time on hand but would not help his wife who had a busier schedule at work and was earning better than him. Perhaps that was his problem. Or he was never trained by his mother to help around in the house and he was not sensitive to the needs and to the double duty of his wife.

Young educated women professionals with enough confidence are fully aware of their strengths and their earning capacity. They have different psychological identities than their mothers had, who would be willing to compromise to adjust to the social traditions. This is a new emerging identity of young girls who refuse to be perceived from the traditional lenses and would love to challenge the stereotyped image. This is a struggle for these young girls against the age- old perceptions of a culture that holds steadfastly to its norms. Today’s girls are beginning to reject boys and their families that refuse to change and who are reluctant to accept women with new identities.

Education has brought a lot of changes in the mindset of young girls. They believe in equality, work hard to build careers and be independent, have high degree of positive self esteem and look forward to living good lives with modern minded men. That is where we need to really work hard on- changing the mindsets of men. Making men egalitarian in their thinking who can accept independent minded women, can accept women who are earning more than them and accept women taking their own decisions and moving ahead in life – seems to be a tall order. I remember some couples where the husbands had a typical answer or approach to the problem of working wives. Imagine a scene where the wife is asking her husband his permission to work outside the home. He would appear to be very liberal/ modern and condescendingly say ‘yes, of course you can work outside the home, I never stopped you from working, I am not like other men who will not allow his wife to work’, etc. The ‘catch’ comes after the permission is granted. He would add a clause in the end saying, ‘but you will take the entire responsibility of the home and then manage the work outside. Do not expect me to share the domestic chores because I do not have the time’!

What a wonderful escape route! Amazing way to find excuses for himself- he appears to be magnanimous in allowing his wife to work and at the same time frees himself from the drudgery of house work. And I have seen the wives being overjoyed with this ‘permission to work outside the home’ and deeply grateful to her man for allowing her to do so. It is such a relief for her to get away from home, however temporarily it may be.

But that was a generation gone by or is going by. Today, women demand equal sharing of domestic duties as they progress and grow in their careers. They want an equal footing in everything in life. They demand half the sky which is rightfully theirs.

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