I am in a particularly `huff and puff, and I’ll blow your house down’ mood. Funny, how in the past month I have come across some women who are friends or work-associates, and have with the strangest synchronicity, stumbled their way in my direction for me to lend them a shoulder to cry on. My instant connect-the-dots reaction was that their being thoroughly distraught, might have something to do with March 8th , Women’s Day, and the air-raiding congratulatory WhatsApp messages saluting Womanhood! After all, most of us know it is a sham. And yes, to psychologize, it was that Tuesday, that perhaps triggered off that ever raw nerve. It is a Man’s world, and it doesn’t matter if a woman is a professor, architect or perhaps not even that high flown, but is financially independent and puts in her share or more, in the running of the household.
By the way, in so many offices in America, women holding the same profile as men, are paid less. Yes, it’s called `the glass ceiling’. Yeap, dark ages across the Pacific as well! (At least, in India we can gloat that, that is not the case!) However, if the maid goes on a holiday, the same woman who has a board meeting at 9 o’clock will have to wake up extra early to assemble breakfast, pack lunch tiffins, and iron that shirt which the husband had `decided’ on wearing. Attempt mentioning distribution of labour and the family collectively goes stone-deaf. Of course, I’ve heard that the younger generation of men, especially post-Covid, have started putting in their two-pence bit towards household work but…but call it being hardwired to skepticism, here I visualize a young 30-something husband chopping vegetables or towel-drying to a gleam, so that there are no water spots on those plates, certainly an instagrammable moment. These young men, after all, are raised by mothers who do not think it is their job to make it to the dining table to have dinner since a T.V. tray will be placed in front of them. With the way boys are pampered by their Mums, one would say it would be a backbreaking haul for the wife to housetrain her spouse. Besides, these very morph into their very own Mums’ Frankensteins.
Musn’t forget to mention this, a purely Eastern phenomenon. In the West, boys or girls are not brought up so—they have assigned duties—taking out the garbage, vaccuming the wall-to-wall carpet… And making their beds and keeping their room clean does not fall under the purview of household responsibilities. However, as is the tendency, this pen has wandered off, so as to bring it back on track. A few rushed on-the-spot snapshots: A couple of days ago, in the midst of the morning rush, a work-associate from yesteryear phoned. Her wedding silver jubilee a few days away. No, she did not want any shimmering bash or lavish gifts. All she wanted (let’s call her Myra) was a little time with her husband, that he should not leave her at the dining table since he was done with breakfast while she was still sipping her tea; that she, Myra should not be rebuffed for no reason, that he would not be WhatsApping at all hours, never sparing her a smile. The same man so desperate to marry her, had vowed, to her parents, to always keep her happy; for so many years now snapping and snarling at her, remodeling this composed, sure-footed Myra into a nail-biting, rabbity lady. Before panning the next frame have to chug this train to another platform.
Many years ago, I had seen a movie where a woman had temporarily gone off the handle. I think it was about pushing her verbally violent husband from the staircase, as a result of which he broke his blessed nose. Courtroom Scene: The Judge asking the lady in the dock, `Are you Ma’am, PMSing?’ `No’, is her drained reply. `Then Ovulating?’ The done-in response again, `No’. `Perioding it must be?’ The further rummaging interrogation. Again, the quizzing was met with a worn-to-shreds, `No’. And then finally, with a voice that cried Eureka, the honourable Judge touted, `Menopausing, yes!’ To which the lady in a falling to pieces voice staggered out her final, `No!’. Where’s this story going, one may ask?! A woman has little grey matter so her actions are defined by her ovaries, not a mind, as pre-determined, does not exist. Then what is this term, emotional intelligence?! Emotional Intelligence, as opposed to what genre of intelligence?! Hypersonic Intelligence?! So, women, if they make it to the intelligence category can only be emotionally so?! I see this strip is rapidly running out and so, space for only one more slide: Let us christen the lady in question Jia. Her brother had been living in Glasgow for a lifetime and had last visited before Covid had taken hold of our lives.
Of course, here there is noise, the clanking of dishes, the pressure cooker’s whistle indicating that the kitchen is running at high-mast, the rasoi fragrant or pungent with `hing tadka’ (depending on how your olfactory senses perceive it), the maid sweeping up a dust storm, the happy and not-so happy clatter of family life. A month into Jia’s brother’s stay, when their mother joined them from Udaipur, he posed a question. (Here must add that Jia had two college going girls, a husband and an ever-on-the-run Labrador.) The query was an abstract one, he stated, and so, she needn’t answer. Was that supposed to mean she couldn’t comprehend conjectural questions?! `Did she like all this household hoopla, these mountain-high piles of books stacked all over?!’ `Wouldn’t she want to scale back on all this hullaballoo, and do something worthwhile?!’ he asked, his tone judgy and edgy. Now Jia wanted to know how she could customize the air to suit him? How could she recreate Scotland in India? Their mother, believing that he had a license to say anything, puts a sock in her daughter’s mouth, explaining to a hurt Jia that he did not know better.
Takes the mind to the ancient text, Manusmriti. Does what Manu proclaimed, continue to house our mindset? A woman is simply Property. First of her father’s, then her husband’s and finally the son’s. Does this cast of mind, still hold water?