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We women feel guilt about anything we do, no matter what it is. Depends upon the perspective we have of the situation, whom we identify with.
For the longest time, the most dreadful question asked to me has been, “What do you do?”
Anuja who introduced herself as an Investment Banker has just asked this exact question to me.
“Me… Errr… I’m a happy-at-home Mom,” I reply and immediately follow it up with, “I worked for some years in a corporate and then left work to be home with kids. Unlike most women, I didn’t have the heart to leave them alone with maids, you know.”
I’m aware of how people in my social setup look at and judge homemakers. I despise the old school ‘housewife’ perception of myself – I haven’t been able to accept it myself, so I don’t blame them either.
“Being at home is a full time job in itself too. Children these days are so demanding,” Anuja responds with a smile and we move on to the ‘weather’ brand of topics. I assume it is my non-stimulating homemaker vibe that does the trick. When she excuses herself to never return, I understand. I offer no networking benefit and after certain years, people in her position subliminally begin to associate themselves strictly with people who do.
The room I stand in is full of people. Everyone wears his or her badge of work-position with pride. They – and that includes my husband – talk shop ever so often. Slowly but surely, I begin to feel alienated. Thank God for mobile phones, for mine comes to my rescue. Now I can pretend to look busy. Not left out or bored!
When the vodka kicks in, I begin to feel better. I smile more and the catchy beat of the music plays wonderfully with my lightened up mood. Breaking away from my self-imposed exile, I even find some common ground to talk about with someone in the party. But just then I happen to look at Anuja and my bubble is pricked. The happy tipsy feeling abandons me. I find myself standing distressed and alone in the waging war for identity being fought in the battleground of my mind.
“So, what do you do?” I ask this woman who introduces herself as Priya.
“Me… Errr… I’m a happy-at-home Mom,” comes the hesitant answer.
Umpteen times she must have spoken this line and yet there is an apologetic diffidence in her delivery. Immediately after, she adds, “I worked for some years in a corporate and then left work to be home with kids. Unlike most women (read me), I didn’t have the heart to leave them alone with maids, you know.”
With that supplementary information, Priya has established that she wasn’t necessarily schooled to become a homemaker some day. But why would she make that statement about ‘not having the heart to leave kids with maids?’ God knows, we working women have that embedded guilt of not spending enough time with our kids and family, already. And to hear other Moms call us heartless is downright cruel.
While the written analysis runs long, the mental one doesn’t. On the face of it, I say, “Being at home is a full time job in itself. Kids these days are getting increasingly demanding.”
She smiles on the sound of that, I smile too and then I steer the conversation towards some general topic that couldn’t have anything to do with self-esteem issues. Just then, I see an old colleague Rohan walk towards me and I excuse myself from Priya’s company. Rohan and I begin to talk happily. Notes are exchanged about ex-bosses, ex-colleagues, new bosses, new profile, kids, spouses and what not for the longest time.
Sometime later, I happen to look at Priya. In a room full of people, she sits alone; immersed in her mobile phone that she almost seems in a relationship with. Cut to next scene, when she seems tipsy and is having a conversation with someone. Seems this person meets her highness’s compassionate standards and is not nearly as ‘heartless’ as yours truly!
Alcohol has probably gotten into my system, else what explains that my guilt has dropped in to visit me and I am entertaining it too? I begin to wonder if my boys would have grown up any differently with an increment in my hours at home. I ask myself if my relationship with my spouse would have been more loving then? Would my house be better organized if it were that way?
A queasy feeling begins to develop in my stomach and I want it to go away as much I want to go away myself. I need to be home now, I just need to be!!
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Mostly Normal is a book of innocence, longing, filial love, angst and acceptance, encapsulating a gamut of human emotions within its lightweight edifice. The book touches the human heart and will stay with you.
Some books enthral you till the last page, and then there are those that you stop reading after turning a few pages. Some books are a one-time read, while you carry some books with you long after you have read them. Then, once in a while, a book hits you so close to home that you find it difficult to slot into any category.
I will put Priyadeep Kaur’s Mostly Normal (BookSoul Reads, 2022) in this last bracket.
At a little less than hundred pages, Mostly Normal is a testimony of the power of words to inspire, irrespective of their length.
Most women do not get to live their lives the way they want, on their own terms. So why should they be tied down in their old age?
Every morning, while dropping the kids at the bus stop, I find a grandfather waiting with his granddaughter. I see him again when I fetch the kids. This has been the pattern for the last few years.
He is seen actively participating in his granddaughter’s activities, from morning and evening walks to attending her parent-teachers meeting, sending her for extracurricular activities to even planning her birthday party. He is admired by all. He is appreciated for making himself useful in his old age. People rave that the doting grandfather is doing his duty towards his children and grandchildren. The much-admired grandfather is also a widower, having lost his wife years ago to chronic disease. It’s also to be noted that both his son and daughter-in-law are working parents.
Every day, the onlookers appreciate his sense of duty and dedication. They say that this is how the elderly should keep themselves occupied. They should bring up their grandchildren while their children go off to work.
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