Dilemma of the SAHM

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For the longest I didn’t know what SAHM meant, not until I became one myself. For the uninitiated, it means stay- at- home- Mom. In our quest for simplicity we have a habit of abbreviating cumbersome words – so your husband’s Mom is your MIL, you her DIL and you wish her HBD when she touches seventy but insists she’s still 65.

The new educated me no longer responds to h r u with a - what?? I simply say FTW.

I’m always amazed when women introduce themselves as “I’m just a housewife” when someone asks them – “So, are you working?” As if a housewife doesn’t work. As if being a housewife is a shameful deed and you need to sound apologetic. So sorry, that I chose to stay home and take care of the family.

Personally, I find the term homemaker more comforting. It sounds spiffier and definitely more “productive”. The woman of the house who makes the house a home – yes, that’s me!

The Government doesn’t seem to agree. The 2010 census had very kindly placed homemakers in the same category as beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. They weren’t too off the mark. We do serve our men in more ways than one and often complain of being prisoners of our own fate. At a certain frustrating time in our life, haven’t we all muttered – I feel like a maid, driver, cook rolled into one!

In 2010, I was still working. As in, I was running like a steroid fuelled athlete, fuming, screaming my lungs off, inhaling chalk dust and trying to convince adolescents that studying is a better option than sipping coffee in the canteen. And I got paid for it. I am still working, fretting, fuming but I don’t get paid for it.

When you are an SAHM, what you do throughout the day, is the biggest secret unknown to mankind. Nobody knows because they are not at home when you’re working your ass off. Nobody cares to know because they are convinced that you are having much more fun than they are. You are not allowed to crib because nobody asked you to climb atop ladders and clean book shelves. It’s all your fault that you prefer to fill your day with needless errands and chores, when you can simply sit back and read a book.

It’s you who’s responsible for her misery. The house is perfectly capable of taking care of itself.

From what I have observed, quite a few women have the innate need to make themselves indispensable to our family. They pamper, fuss around their kids and when the woman of the house is away, the family feels like a sinking Titanic. As a wife, as a mother, they feel it’s their duty to serve their family. Unfortunately in the quest for doing a job well, their own happiness is the first casualty. I know many women who live their lives through their family. Their kid’s achievements mirror their sense of self-worth. There’s a thin line dividing obsession from concern.

Of course we are the core of the family. But the core deserves a life of her own as well. What will you do when your kids grow up and seek a life of their own? What will you live for?

I am not suggesting this is the norm and there are many happy exceptions to the rule. Strong women who keep the family together and nurture them to be responsible human beings without being cloying.

I grew up in a family of working parents. Every second Saturday of the month, Paa would stay at home and cook for us while Ma would leave for work. She only got Sundays off, Dad was slightly luckier. Baba would lovingly make pulao and egg curry for us. Yes, the same menu every month, the pulao embellished with dry fruits and the eggs curry with cream, lots of it. After a while I started dreading THAT time of the month. Come morning and I would start whining, I’m not really hungry, do we really have to eat?

I have memories of Maa cribbing about office Politics, while Baba would listen to her in complete silence. A few decades later I was doing the same thing.

I had never imagined life as a stay at home wife. I never was. Both of us would leave for work together and come back around the same time. We would lie on the bed, completely drained out, eyeing each other, waiting who would get-up first and make tea. We had conjured up an imaginary Ramu and would often order him to get pakoras with the tea. The pakoras were always crunchy, the chutney lip smacking. Imagination never lets you down.

I didn’t want to leave my job and now that I have, I don’t want to go back. I still wake up early, not out of compulsion but out of choice. I am still stressed, grappling with a never ending to-do list. But I’m finally doing things I’ve always wanted to. And what’s more I am happier.

So, am I working? Hell yeah! I work for myself and my family. I may not always be happy with my appraisal reports and the bonus I get but I refuse to let my sense of self-worth be measured in terms of how much I don't earn.

The Unfairness Of Being Fair

courtesy : Google images

It’s a crime, not to be fair-skinned in our country. I mean God must have been vacationing in Goa for you to be born so dark. In India only the fair have the prerogative to be lovely. They get courted by all the hormonal adolescents of their locality, are wedded to the scion of the rich family, only to produce fair, cuddly babies. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Your fair skin is the passport to a bright future. Employers will chase you like an agitated swarm of mosquitoes, film producers will bring their Rolls Royce to a screeching halt and beg you to debut in their magnum opus and all you have to do is blush and smile coyly.

The world is at the fair maiden’s feet while her dark counterpart looks on longingly.

One look at the ads, TV serials and you’ll know what I’m talking about. The light skinned protagonist will usually be a confident, sassy girl ready to take on the world. The dark skinned girl on the other hand is invariably portrayed as a tragedy queen, whose cup of woe runneth over. She is usually a mousy-looking girl, who smiles once a month and has yet to discover a shampoo. Her future is as dark her skin.

Do you know what that means? That someone with a lighter skin is better than you just because of that. That your skin tone is more important than your degrees and trophies, more important than your struggles and travails that carved your personality, more important than the shine you spread in other’s lives. It is more important than being loving, honest and giving. It means that the fair one is somehow better and more deserving.

The fair always have an unfair advantage especially if it’s a she.

I am not quite sure which came first, the chicken or the egg - unfair media portrayals feeding on our insecurities or the regressive ads that end up reinforcing our colour bias. But I do know this for sure that the skin care industry makes a killing feeding on our fixation for fairness, promising us the sun, the moon and a handsome groom. In reality the “handsome groom” is an ugly, beer-bellied apology of manliness, who went all the way to Nebraska to get his MBA degree. He now earns a six figured salary, drives a Honda City and puts up with his blood-sucking boss’s tantrums. Of course he deserves a fair and comely bride!

It comes as no surprise that so many comely dames are busy slathering fairness creams, readily believing that a tube is an answer to their life’s woes. Disregarding the health risks attached; the fact that most ayurvedic creams contain a harmful alloy of metals - we continue to be largest consumer of fairness products in the world.

And for those of us who care a damn, it seems the entire world is conspiring against our multiplying melanin. It’s tough to find skin care lotions without hidden fairness agendas. From your humble soap, to your body cream, your talc, face wash, even your under arm deo - all of them are threatening to rob your skin of its colour. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do with fair armpits? For chrissake they are meant to be safely tucked under my arms and displayed only when I have to flex them at 180 degrees! And it’s not that I spend the better part of my day, hanging from a rod, in the neighbourhood park.

And just when you thought fairness could not get any lower, it hit rock bottom with an “intimate wash” that claims to make your privates fresh and fair! What next? An AC that releases fairness inducing ions or lingerie that promises to scrape off your ugly dark skin!

According to Devdutt Pattanaik, renowned mythologist, we were introduced to the politics of colour very early in life, in the most surprising of places; in children’s comic books. We had Gods who were always pink, demons who were always brown and dark gods who were always blue (the colour of divinity). Colours convey the deeper truth – while white stands for domesticity, knowledge, ascetic transcendence: black represents wantonness, desire in all its rawness, nature in its primal elements.

Is it that in our desire to be cultured and in our aspiration to be other-worldly, we choose white over black? No wonder we’d rather be called wheatish, honey, olive, dusky – anything to escape being tagged as dark skinned.

Ironically it is the same earthy tone our western counterparts so crave for. From frying themselves under the sun and risking skin cancer to letting artificial ultraviolet rays in tanning salons give them the bronzed makeover – they will go to any lengths to get rid of their fair complexion. A classic case of what you have is what you don’t want!

Thankfully there are many of us who’d rather be accepted as who we are rather than how we look. We choose to accept and live with our ‘so-called flaws’ and don’t let others trample over our self-esteem. And those of you, who think that a lotion making tall claims can improve your sense of self worth, remember this – if someone likes you for your complexion and not who you are, that person is not worth it.

Are We Failing As Citizens Of This Country?

After I wrote about the “Ugly side of Gurgaon” a lot of my friends wanted to know, what I was planning to do next. An incident such as this cannot be dismissed as a one-off occurrence. It happens every day, people face worse and we will continue to be victimized if we accept is as our karma.

Pawan puts forth some valid observations. It’s an ugly picture he has painted but it’s not far from the truth.

Today, I read your experience with the police. I am sorry you had to go through it.

And then I examined my own feelings about it. I am angry. And I am very angry, because when I read your account, I didn't feel angry. I only nodded along, thinking, "business as usual in our country."

The shocking bit, the painful bit, the irritating bit, the positively galling bit is the apathy towards the system that exists within me and I assume, by extension, the rest of the country (and a majority of those comments on your blog does nothing but reinforce that view).

I wonder why? I can perhaps excuse the uneducated, illiterate people who have to survive despite the system (on 28 rupees a day), and perhaps must make compromises. But what excuse do the educated, well-off among us have? Why do we stop at twitter-trends, and armchair outrage?

Is it that surviving in a country of 1.2bn, where each one of us has to fend for himself, has made us so selfish that we refuse to look beyond issues that don’t immediately affect us? Is it because (at the risk of sounding like Greg Chappell) we have forgotten to stand up for our rights since the British rule? Is it because we are too adaptable? Or is it because we like to feel victimized, and blame something that is not in our control. That feeling of martyrdom that’s so addictive!

Maybe it is all of the above. Or maybe it is none of this. I do not know.

What I do know is, whatever it is, we deserve what we’re getting. Why? Because we haven't done anything about it. We deserve the leaders we have. We deserve the netas that rule us. Because we let them. We deserve this “system” because we are not changing it.

And I am tired. Tired of blaming others. Crying about the problems. I'd like solutions. I want to make a difference. I have already written about how conveniently we forget that we ARE the bloody system, and for the system to change, we must change. I however, struggle to see how to make that happen? How to keep up the crusade even if it is only a single-person crusade against the apathy that infects us so. To make a tangible difference to what the problem might be.Have you ever thought of what we can do to combat this, beyond making it trend on twitter? Have you done anything? Do you have ideas? Is there something that you need people or help with? Can we take the next step after pointing out what is wrong, and actually fix it?

As a "known blogger", is that a question you can ask, and find answers to?

I realize this comes across as accusatory. Believe me, it isn't. I am not glossing over or belittling the anguish you went through. We've all been through stuff like this. I have. But it would be nice if we could do something about it, so this is the first and last time we go through this thing. It would be nice if this post didn’t end up being an ironic reminder of EXACTLY what we’re failing to do.

Pawan apportions his time between real and fictional worlds. In the real world, he pretends to be an IT consultant and wastes the remainder of his time in worlds of science fiction. He likes to reflect on the futility of existence and pontificate on things he doesn’t know much about. He occasionally blogs at @ http://pawanrajs.wordpress.com.