I Could Almost Hear People Think, “What Kind Of Woman Stays Away From Her Family?”

Posted: November 7, 2018

“If the decisions have been taken by the couple with mutual consent then what bothers other people?” asks Seema Taneja in this searing look at inquisitive questions about her travelling alone.

‘Oh no, not again!’ I squirmed inwardly. And glared at her; again dil hi dil mein!

Arre, aap yaha kaise (how come you are here again)?’ the lady had chimed in ever so sweetly. Her raised eyebrows belied her honey coated tongue though.

‘Actually I had some work here. And you know, it’s necessary to check out the flat after the rains so I decided to come’, I feigned a smile though I wanted to tell her to go take a walk to dust off the cobwebs from her hibernating mind.

I knew what she was thinking about right then; that I had deserted my husband once again!

And apparently she’s not the only one with those fallacious and weird ideas in mind. Another one had cheekily asked me just a day before I left for Delhi, ‘If your husband is traveling to Delhi later why are you going there three days earlier?’

Am I nothing without my husband?

‘Arre madam, I have a home there too. I have lived there for more than two decades and do need to go there periodically for its upkeep’, I couldn’t stop myself from retorting.

The husband who is a senior central govt officer and the head of his organization in the state gets hardly any time for these mundane jobs when he travels to his head office in Delhi for meetings and conferences. So the humongous responsibility of maintaining two homes – our flat in Delhi and the sprawling govt bungalow in Chandigarh has fallen only on me. ‘We have friends and extended family there and if my husband can’t sometimes be with them in their joys and sorrows should I also not go there? Am I nothing without my husband?’ I had wanted to scream at her but you know I am such an amiable person, I bit my tongue just in time to prevent an unpleasant confrontation.

And lest I blame only the women of being so intrusive and prying, once a gentleman in Chandigarh actually asked my husband if I had fled to Delhi after quarreling with him when the truth was that I had to extend my stay there because of the demise of my aunt and also because my parents had also come down to attend her last rites. My husband told him not to bother about us and mind his own business. That suitably shut him up.

Would they ask these questions of a man?

But these are some incorrigible people who refuse to mend their ways! For these vella people, apparently I don’t have any work at home and so I get into the train just for the heck of it leaving my hapless husband to slog in the office all day and then fend for himself all alone at home while I merrily enjoy myself and squander ‘his’ hard earned money on shopping and partying.

The question is do women need to explain to everyone in the society why they are going anywhere and when? Why should people expect a woman to never go anywhere without her husband or children? It was fine for them if my husband had moved alone when he was posted to Chandigarh last year and I had stayed back in Delhi to look after my children who were based in Delhi then but the day they moved away to the USA I was supposed to move in with my husband without a day’s delay…poor man had been suffering alone for so long, you see!

So when I traveled back to Delhi for a writing project commissioned by Women’s Web within a couple of weeks of moving in with my husband I had to face a barrage of why’s and when’s from all and sundry, ‘You are back? So soon? What project? Is it so important?’

Firstly they don’t understand why and what I write. For majority of people it’s merely a time pass activity especially now that I am not ‘working’ anymore, the children have moved away and I have lots of free time to kill. They refuse to understand writing is serious creative work that I put my heart and soul in. Secondly, writing is not a lucrative occupation; it doesn’t fetch much money to me so it’s not worth the time and effort. If, on top of that, I decide to travel and stay away from the husband for days together then all hell simply breaks loose!

But would the man also be asked the same questions if he has to stay away from the family for work? Or pleasure?

“What kind of woman is she?”

A friend of mine has a group of school time friends – male and female – who sometimes go on trips and excursions sans their spouses. They also keep meeting for lunches and dinners almost every fortnight. Their social media photos again raise quite a few eyebrows, ‘What kind of a woman she is? Leaves her husband to take care of their teenage daughter and home alone!’ And mind you, she’s not a kid who needs to be monitored by the elders; she’s a middle aged woman and heads a senior secondary school as the principal. Still people brand her as irresponsible and insincere, just because she chooses to spend some time away from her family. Or may be their objections stem from the fact that she hangs out with male friends too!

Another friend of mine who has moved in with her ageing mother since hasn’t been keeping well for some years, has been questioned time and again why she doesn’t stay with her husband now. They don’t have children, but then she’s questioned again, why she doesn’t go to look after her mother-in-law who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. The mother in law stays with her younger son and has family members looking after her, whereas my friend is the sole caretaker for her mother. She does try to fulfill her responsibility towards her in-laws as well, and to care for her bed-ridden mother. But people will have problems with everything she does or doesn’t.

Shouldn’t these decisions be left to the couple?

It makes me wonder: Isn’t it for the husband and wife to decide who stays with which mother and for how long? If the decisions have been taken by the couple with mutual consent then what bothers other people?

In fact, during my last visit even I was asked by another invasive neighbour – a male – where my husband was! Before I could even reply that he would be reaching the next day, I was told rather sarcastically, to bring along my husband at least some times when I visit Delhi. What cheek, man! I am not accountable to anyone for anything!

Does a woman owe everyone an explanation about matters which are strictly between her husband and her? Or her immediate family? Why is a woman so judged for choosing to stay alone for a few days even if it’s at her own home? It’s not as if I had upped and booked myself a solo trip around the world! And what if I actually had?

Come to think of it, a solo trip is a brilliant idea, isn’t it? Wink wink* I am getting inspired, guys!

Image source: a still from the movie Here Come The Huggets

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