Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Today I read my friend Piper's blog and suggest anyone especially,women who find themselves in the dilemma to work or not to work to read it at http://mishyroy.blogspot.com/. The blog is titled " To be or not to Be".

In continuation of that stream of thought and with the belief in the therapeutic powers of writing I give expression to my own angst here. Though it is about my personal confusion, doubts, misgivings and deep frustration, I believe it is an issue for many, many young "educated" women. I put educated within quotes because I think the definition of an educated person is where the problem begins, followed by the societal expectations of how that "education" can be put to use. Being an Indian raised in India my context is the Indian Educational system and the Indian Society. I think what we call an "Education" is basically livelihood training. There are a handful of fortunate people who study for the love of the subject they are studying, and for the quest for knowledge. I cannot speak for the universality of this problem but I know certainly this is a common phenomena in the semi-urban, urban Indian middle/service class.

To make it more real I cite my own experiences. I struggled through school thanks to despairingly low marks in Maths and Science(barring biology which I enjoyed). I lived in a residential colony which produced Engineers and Doctors at an alarming rate. No points in guessing how hard it made everything. Well to cut the story short this resulted in a totally different me, personality wise. If my classmates from school and college were to exchange notes about me they would think they were talking about different individuals . Well this is a natural consequence if you force a person to do something he/she does not like and take away everything they enjoy in my case for e.g. social sciences, humanities, theatre etc. A note to all the parents out there: success in school or college does not always mean a better life monetarily or otherwise.

Luckily by the time I reached high school there was a change in school and city( though I love my previous school and have very fond memories) and most importantly the subjects I was to study. Gone were maths and science and in came politics and history and geography, everything I loved. And things changed. From a nobody to a school topper , to the University topper....But most importantly I was happy , deliriously happy and was doing what I really wanted to...debating, theatre, running for vice president and winning in college elections.

But then there is always some trouble in paradise. With academic excellence comes unreasonably high expectations. I was expected to and wanted to be your next District Commissioner. The lure of the laal batti was just too much. But, what I had not bargained for ,was love to come knocking. So like the heroine of a corny romantic novel I gave up everything to be with my hero. That was and is not an issue because I know I have found my soul mate in him.

But what I did not not know and nobody told me so...that being a wife and a mother means amongst other things giving up a lot and your life is.. kinda on hold. The part of your brain which houses your dreams and ambitions for your professional life keeps hearing this non stop litany of "kripya prateeksha karien aap kataar mein hain".
The disconnect arises due to the fact that you all your life until now you have been told to study and you believe, and wrongly so that, that is all there is. My mom added" if you do not study you will be washing dishes" Now moms are always right, and being in America without the luxury of domestic help means that, that is one thing I am doing a lot of. Though certainly not because of a lack of academic qualifications. And since we have been brought up to think that the measure or worth of a man/woman is equivalent to the salary he draws and the post he holds it can be a very painful and confusing condition...being a stay at home wife or mom. I have spent the first few years of my "staying at home" oscillating between depression,sense of persecution and then martyrdom and finally hopeless resignation. And I agree with my friend Piper, this stay a home situation can be equally bothersome for your "friends" and "well wishers".This needless to say results in a lot of unsolicited advise coming your way, followed by nagging and constant comparisons, and finally regret and pity for the glory lost.

A female cousin who was working and had a 16 month old child once told me that her male senior at work said that your child will respect you more if you have a full time career. Well I support and respect all the working mothers and applaud the juggling they have to do. But I disagree with this argument. If my child has an iota of common sense he/she should see the sacrifices mommy made. What it took to put aside a brilliant or a not so brilliant academic resume and to stay at home. I have not been forced to stay at home. It is a conscious decision though not an easy one. But though I was extremely ambitious and career oriented I also now know that there are somethings one cannot do for you like - having a haircut and raising your kids. And yes the quality of time spent vs the quantity is a baseless argument. Nobody can substitute for a parent. I am not here to make judgement on others but this is how it works for me....now

I know the Indian middle class culture puts a lot of importance to the kind of job you do and the amount of money you make. We put the designation of the Bride's/Groom's fathers on the wedding card???, But our vedic culture does not support this. If only we could all read and understand Gita and other scriptures...but that again is another blog. For those who think it is beneath them to read the Indian Vedic scriptures and for those who like me (I am struggling with Gita these days) who genuinely find it difficult to comprehend and have access to such literature I suggest reading The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle for the time being.

But being a mother does give you a new perspective. That is if you give it time to sink in and do not rush off to do the next thing in your Things to Do List. Do not get me wrong I am a feminist, a believer of equal rights for women and would want to go back to working one day. But I am waiting for the day I do it without guilt and at my own terms. So that I can have a blast because I really love my job and since I deal with people's lives I cannot afford to give anything but my 100%.

Motherhood has resulted in an - evolving me. It has pulled me out of my doldrums. Made me less envious of the professional feats of my contemporaries. I have ranted and raved less about what could have been. I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that a great job/post/professional/financial success, though still desirable do not define me. I am more than that. I am not going to cry for what I thought could have been(I still secretly lust after the laal batti gaadi) but am going to BE and the best that I can. Simply put I am going to try and have pure,unadulterated fun with life.Yes I am evolving ...bit by bit....


Piper .. said...

Can so relate to what you`ve written. Sometimes I feel so totally helpless - left my job and my country to come and live with 'the love of my life'! I thought that was what I wanted all along. But here, being stuck at home,without the freedom to roam arnd on my own(cant drive and new to the place!) and with an insanley busy husband, I`m getting depressed for god-forsaken reasons. To top that, I dunno where I`m headed as far as profession goes! woof! Cribbing however does help! :-)) I just found tht out! :-))

Piper .. said...

Do write something abt your experience at work,back home..

chaganlal said...

I resisted a lot, but just couldn't not write a comment on this brilliant blog. (Pardon the terrible sentence)

You do wield one masterly pen. Can't say have seen as many genuinely well written, readable, enjoyable pieces as yours. Do keep writing. You've read a lot of Durrell, by any chance? Wodehouse?

Your blog reminded me of something my jijaji (who's settled in Edison), was saying: "In India, parents, if given a choice between retirement money and their kids' education, would choose the latter. In America, they'd first save for retirement. And of course, the kids have similar priorities! We Indians bring over our parents' priorities over here..."

-- Shashank Sinha

Vishakha said...

I chanced upon your blogs today and am very proud to see- someone i know writes so well... :-) more than anything else, I am happy to see you have got a way to vent out your urge...
I am stil juggling betweek work-kids time balance... i have not found a solution but I find peace in the madness... your comment on the reason that kids would be proud to see that the mother is working is not the reason why I have chosen to work... that was someone else's comment and I see reflections in my kids behaviour already... WHy I am writing is that you have somewhere said your kids should see what you have sacrificed... in my view dont keep expectations... parenting is a way of guiding kids to grow in a certain manner... but each one as an individual and has his/hers own view... our kids will have too...