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Who decides the expiry date of a woman’s dream? Part I

September 7, 2014

Excuse me, this is the catchline of a Mallu picture, I am a great fan of Kerala films. Lined up for me to view next, ‘Dhrishyam’ and ‘How old are you?’ starring Manju Warriar. All women-centric films. I am not by any means a feminist, I am a housewife by choice. I wanted to be the mother who opens the door to my son when he would be back from school and college – because I know what it is like for kids coming back to locked, empty homes. I am in Chennai and not in Doha against my husband’s wishes – for my son. I wonder whether our children will ever grow up to realize the sacrifices we parents make for them.

I was wishing my friend KC for Onam this morning. She said, its good I have made my choice. She is a working woman and today she is not feeling well. ‘A dull Onam’ she repented, ‘I wish I had the energy yaar. I envy you. I am doing nothing for my family.’ The grass always looks greener on the other side.

Here (blogging) only for pastime and nothing more. What started as fun & experiment has come to occupy much of my mindspace today and I don’t know whether this is good or bad.

When my husband was in town, we stopped as family in my school friend’s house which was on the way to somewhere. I couldn’t resist pulling over because most of my friends do not know my family because my husband has lived maximum years outside India. He is like a visitor at home. My son typically like youngsters today has no time for us parents, especially for me his mother. Don’t blame him, his age is like that.

This friend, I caught up with thanks to social media, after over 20 years, even though both of us always have been Chennai girls. Today our children are in the same age bracket and both of us are housewives – for the only reason our partners can realize their ambitions, our children need not have to come home to locked, empty houses or be taken care of by nannies/grandparents.

My friend was pleasantly surprised when we dropped in suddenly by 9 pm in her place. We had rounded off one more tiring day with friends/relatives, the way it is always when my husband is home. Btw my man completed 49 years and so we dined out that day. We were in good mood.My friend’s husband was not back from work but her daughter & son were at home. She sgave us tall glasses of chilled buttermilk, shooing away our protests. Then she sat in the opposite settee facing my husband and son. Both her children flanked her on either sides. Said my friend, ‘I’ve known her (pointing to me) since my school days. Ever since we married we lost touch but found each other thanks to social media. In school, i used to hesitate to go anywhere near your mom (she said this looking at my son). She was a good student, she was second school topper, and if it had not been for her family circumstances, she would have become an engineer or a doctor. I was shocked when she opted to graduate in math. I would maintain my distance with her because I never thought I would belong in her circle. She moved in a very sharp, intelligent group. She was respected by teachers and looked at awe by us girls.’

Tears stung my eyes when my friend surprised me with these words. She keeps telling me this thing always but she chose to mention this to the men in my family touched me. My husband managed to say, ‘Yes, when I saw her board exam markss, I was surprised. She’s scored far above me’ My son said, ‘What she did in the past is not important, what is she doing today?’ My husband said, ‘all her brains got rusted with bank clerical work.’

‘She was earning 300 ringitt’ (in malaysian currency) when she quit bank’ said my husband. Like an excuse that it doesn’t matter I don’t work anymore. That’s a favourite joke between father & son on me always. True, but that was still good money in the early ’90s wasn’t it. To be fair to the men in my family, both my husband and son love me and respect me. But what they can never get it is that, some of us women have to become progressively dull and stunt our own growth so that our men can prosper. This we are doing for them with all our heart.

My friend’s story is the same as mine. She worked for a timber & asbestos company where she met her husband. Both started on their own and made it big. A fire destroyed their booming business that had no adequate insurance cover one unfortunate day.The insurance guys cited negligence on their part and IT raids followed. The family was devastated. My friend clawed her way through very tough financial constraints and opted to remain at home against all odds so that her children would do well in school as her husband took upon himself to set things straight. Today her efforts have not gone waste. Her husband has made good the losses and both her kids are outstandingly smart.

My friends’s kids and husband today say the same thing about her the way my husband and son speak about me. Our men think we are lazy, wasted, bored, gossiping and never take into account what we are doing for them every single day that enables them to go on with their mission uninterrupted.

Our husbands forget and our children forget, and most of all they forget what we have been once upon a time  in our lives before we married and before we mothered them. Slowly but steadily they are getting increasingly insensitive even though I admit, they mean no ill will. They love us dearly of which I have zero doubts. It is just that we women have let them over years take us forgranted.

I don’t have to elaborate what I have done for my family – it is my duty and I know I have done nothing extraordinary. But after 20 years of married life, it does make me wonder at times whether I was right in giving up my work.

Another friend whose son graduated from a premium academic institution is confined to kitchens by her family who think the lowest of her – she who stood school first throughout our school days. My friend underplays her intelligence in front of the men, belittling herself that over the years she has actually come to believe she does not measure up to her husband or son. She is one more girl who gave up joining a professional college to plunge into domesticity with all her heart.

My legal friend is a classic case where for the sake of peace she decided to stay at home. Without a doubt she is more sharper and intelligent than her husband who is in the same profession and both could have together had a great carrier going for them, but ego clashes led my friend to withdraw from her chosen career and so the once-boisterous girl we knew is long since gone and in her place is this one who is pale, defeated and lifeless. I wish my friend had never married this guy, I wish she had had her way with her heart. I sincerely wish…

I told my school friend’s children this. ‘Your mother is the reason you have turned out so well, where is the time for your dad. Daddies are no less important, they are the breadwinners, always busy, but who is with you in every step, over 90% of the times.’

Where should I begin in my case. About the promise I gave my husband before marrying him that I would quit one day my job, or the 15 hours I stood in queue to get my son’s school application form or being the sole female parent to go with my son for admissions to his engineering college 50 km afar. Or scampering through the night crowds to catch an auto for ride back home by 9’o pm after the school sports days or annual days got over, refusing car drops from some ‘eager’ fathers of other boys. Or with the meticulous records I maintain at home on everything. Or of taking care of my MIL and swallowing my pride even if insulted by my husband’s family. Over the years, we women become thick-skinned, don’t we.

My son and my friend’s children still feel we both could be doing something ‘useful’ with life. Tell me what job can I take up shuttling between Doha and Chennai every few months. This is the longest break I am taking from Doha. I have to meet up to the expectations of not just a teenage son but also with a middle-aged man.

There are many in our circle who have gone on ahead to make a mark in their career, juggling both family and profession with ease. Hats off to them! But these women are also married to men who have stable roots or who can be flexible, not like mine. I am married to someone who used to uproot every other year almost on a different project. We were on road for years. Either it has to be both of us working in the same city or one of us quitting – and in our case I did. Like mostly women do. Ever come across a man giving up his work so his wife can continue to work?!

There are many things we women have to digest: from an ungrateful mother-in-law whose daughter we will never become, to sons and husbands who will never know what we were before they came into our lives…

What does my husband know of the way I was celebrated by my parents or how my parents desperately wanted to see me as a doctor someday. He was not around to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ how even we girls had normal family life after all once upon a time. You can never convince your husband’s family of the life you have had before you married – and in my case, the fact that I had married as an orphan weighs heavily against me. My first 12 crucial and interesting years are like forgotten history, torn pages out of the novel you are reading.

I remember the times when my father used to lay me down in the sofa and tell me stories pressing my legs, putting me to sleep. Every single day until my mother passed away. He was only a middle-class father who worked for central government. But he was a father who still had the time to cover my books and notebooks with brown sheets and label them.  My husband never had to drop our son in school or college or come for admissions. He did not even bother about our apartment because I was there. He never files tax returns or pays insurance because I am here dealing with all that. I am the one who attends functions or funerals. I am mother & father rolled into one. I spare my husband one hundred percent all trivia so that he can concentrate better in his career and improve his prospects. Most disturbing aspects of family life and joint family relations, I never take to his ears.

Checking into my son’s wardrobe routinely, I buy him even his undies otherwise he keeps forgetting. I do that because as a 13 year old I had none to take me out and buy me basic lingerie. I bought everything for myself on ‘trial and error’ only. I cannot forget that awkward moment when I had to get myself my first intimate garments with a shopkeeper’s assistance. How would you ask your father for anything girlie. We girls grew up overnight. Our father’s duty stopped with giving us the money.

Today I see to that my husband and son do not even have to look for razor or whatever – i keep everything handy. From fresh towels to newly made beds to bath mats to shampoos, do they even know how things came to the counter. May be a paid servant can do all this better than me. All it takes is money, what else.

As I said, this is the longest break I am taking from Doha. My husband owns atleast 500 pairs of socks & undies and keeps accumulating the unwashed ones for me to fly and wash and dry everytime I go there! Yes believe me or not, even before i unpack, i load our washing machine first. Don’t blame him, he is a busy man.

This is not to suggest or undermine what our men are doing for us women in our lives. I fully appreciate that. There is no substitute for love. My husband and son love me deeply, it is just that they are the way they are. But sometimes, I need more than that diamond choker or uncut ruby bangle. I need a hug, I need a pat on my back. We women are human. So are we housewives mere doormats for our men. I love my role as a housewife, but I do wish at the same time, the men in my family care to look into my heart once a while. I find the attitude of our men very annoying and disturbing.

My friend told my husband very sweetly, ‘unlike many other ladies, we do not club, we do not party, we do not shop, we do not go around gossiping – we keep ourselves busy. we do not burn a hole in your pocket. may be we must be doing that?!’ I said to my son, ‘my parents wanted me to marry a doctor who was always our family’s first choice. had my parents been around, i may not have married your father. my parents wanted to see me as a doctor too. may be i would have become one.’ This was not to hurt, this was to show how like I have dreams for my son today, my parents had dreams for me, their daughter too. They had everything ready for me by my 12th year, only the groom was missing. They would talk nonstop about my wedding plans on graduation…. I feel so sorry for them even now.

I joined my bank young. But within an year I had cleared CAIIB part I – the bank equivalent of CA, all papers at one go. In our banks, you need to complete 28 years before you can apply and sit for officers’ grade exams. Some do join straight as officers but in the stipulated age only. When I extended an invitation to my wedding reception to my AGM who had signed my confirmation letter he sighed, ‘why should you marry so soon. I thought you would make a fine officer, i was thinking of posting you in a branch for exposure. can’t you wait atleast until you turn 28?’ By 28 I had quit my work. The girl who joined with me today is a Grade 4 officer in the nationalized bank promoted to branch manager levels.

I don’t regret quitting my job – i only wish the men realize what I quit for.

Today is my birthday. My husband will discover that thankfully from Facebook atleast by evening. As for son, he just hopped in back after a night out and sleep-over at friends.’ He did not hear the phone ringing (from my aunt and sis) otherwise he would have become alert and wished me. We are going out for a feast in the newly married niece’s in-laws’ home.

By evening I expect my husband to call me by phone with his usual dialogue, ‘go buy something – anything you wish. any diamond ear ring you fancy? Eat out or home order food, don’t cook, pamper yourself.’

So is that all I want out of my life?


PS: I love my family immensely and they love me back the same way. I think we housewives have to come to accept some hometruths. Our men belong to a more important, busier world, not petty like ours, have more important matters on their mind…  Or it may be just that we homemakers are slowly losing our perspective … Btw I prefer the word ‘housewife’ to ‘homemaker’ always… i don’t want promotion with the word… the word ‘housewife’ is so warm and homely, absolutely fine…. I have no problems with that….

Recently we asked our son whether he liked any of the girls who came home in mini skirts etc. He said, ‘i want a girl who can cook for me a meal Ma! someone who will iron my shirt.’ That got instant tears to my eyes. So who is he inspired by.

Dear husband and son, I am not made for ironing your shirts or fetching you the ice water bottle from fridge the way Sridevi was not created by God to make laddus in ‘English Vinglish’ picture, I had once dreams too. But I do press your trousers and cook you your favourite meals because I love you both so much that nothing is more worthier giving up these little things for.  I will continue to love you until the last breath I take. This is what I want you to know.

A thousand people may wish me through phone or online on my birthday, but who do I want to hear from first. Don’t make me cry on my birthday, please remember me will you? By the way, today is also my father’s birthday and my mother’s is on 13th. I hardly think of my father these days. I wish I had known my parents better. To the man and wife who brought me to this world – a very happy birthday. Do you hear me, Amma and Appa?

Meantime, I am waiting for that one overseas call anytime now, one bear hug at home anytime now. With a lot of efforts, I am stopping myself from crying.


Updated by 6 pm:

My son saw the cell phone reminder by 2 pm and wished me in our niece’s place – guilt written all over his face. I think he messaged my husband because i got the call in next 2 min 🙂 ‘Why should dates matter to you so much?’ ask both. Yeah may be they don’t matter and i am reading too much into their carelessness, forgetfulness that’s all. But this is all it finally takes to melt my heart: a simple call and an ‘i love you Ma!’ – it makes all the difference.


PS: Ours, the last generation of housewives?

Since I had had a working mom, I never imagined I would be a housewife someday. All my perceptions changed in flash of a second in teens – and here am I. Even if they would want tomorrow, I don’t think boys of next gen can get housewives. It does make me angry at the same time that my son goes out with supersmart chic girls but would want a housewife for himself. What a typical Indian MCP! He is sweet, he is good and all that but its not just with him, i keep talking to his friends and I find this disturbing mentality in all the boys: they like to hang around with girls in tubes and tops who excel in academics but swear they want to marry homely girls. ‘Day dream!’ I tell them, ‘you don’t appreciate what you hold in your hands today, yet you long for this kind of life in future!’

The girls from my son’s school and college far exceed the boys in every sphere. Why should these girls even bother to hang around with these rowdies i don’t know! May be its girls’ psychology you know? We seem to like bad boys always over the appreciative adoring good boys and we get served right back what we deserve for the mistakes we knowingly make.


From → Bharatiya Naari

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