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Talking of women’s individuality, let me say that as a 27-year-old, I had a completely wrong notion that the job of a housewife was ‘trivial’. At 32 I have realized how wrong I was.
I am one of those thousands of women who move to the US each year on an H4 Visa, having little idea what I was getting myself into. “This could be the break I needed to start life anew”, I thought to myself, and I am still on that break, still figuring things out.
I wish I knew better, but life’s best teachings are not served to us on a silver platter, there have to be trials and tribulations, there has to be some kind of a meltdown to grow that invisible pair of wings, and learn to fly and soar to newer heights. I am pretty much on that path now, from a clueless newly-wed bride flying off to a distant land with her prince charming, to a woman who learned to look at life a little more appreciatively, I have had my share of breakdowns.
The reason: so much free time and nothing much to do, as simple as that.
Back home in the comforts of my parents’ home, I remember waking up to the smell of piping hot sambaar on most mornings, it is such a vivid memory. Did I appreciate my mom’s efforts then? Not really.
My mother is a housewife, and my idea of a housewife’s job was that of someone who has the least to do. Isn’t it just plain old housework, I remember thinking. But then even a paid job becomes monotonous after a while and this, I came to realize, was nowhere even close.
And believe me, what I realized is there is a shit load of expectation of a housewife from her spouse, his circle of friends which is now your social group too, his family, his extended family, which, I was never fully prepared for. It is like being a people’s manager: keep everyone happy, offend no one and be in everyone’s good books, look presentable, and the list goes on.
Without even realizing it, it had somehow become important what people say about me for I was a dependent. My whole existence was centered on how people around me perceived me, and needless to say it got exhausting after a while. Whether or not you wake up on time, whether or not you give dabba every day, do you speak politely, do you keep quiet when he has lost it, do you ensure his clothes are laundered, every single thing, I felt, was under scrutiny with no scope of going wrong. I felt obliged to live up to these expectations as a housewife. But why?
Javed Akhtar, in an engaging talk on Jashn-e-Rekhta, had said and rightly so, “for thousands of years women had a very small canvas. They had a very small space. If you have little to see you see more in little.” It is this quality that drives us to be perfect, to chart out every single detail no matter how minuscule or massive the task at hand, and it also gives us an edge over our male counterparts.
But there is downside to it. As women we also have a finer sense about things, like we know when we are talked about, we know when we will not get along with someone when we first meet them, we know when things are kept from us, we know when we are just needed and not wanted, we just know. Women were mostly confined and have been trained to see more in little. We inherently possess the ability to understand how we are perceived. And hence we try to fit into these unwritten roles as perfectly as possible and fall into the guilt trap when we are not able to tick all the (invisible) boxes of expectations society has set for us as a woman in the role of a homemaker, and even more so for a woman who is working and managing home together.
It is during this inner turmoil that I realized I need an outlet, there was something piling up inside me and I had to find a way to channel it correctly. If I did not find an outlet, it was going to affect my health, my well-being and I needed to make a choice whether I let this piled up energy go down the drain and take me with it, or get creative and do something productive with it.
I took to writing; I always loved putting my thoughts out on paper. I took up photography in the following years, and it has been a wonderful outlet to break the monotony of my otherwise “not-so-happening” life as a housewife.
I feel empowered when I am holding the pen and writing my heart out, it is therapeutic. I have written close to 190 answers on Quora on various topics and have a follower count of 475 and close to 750,000 views. I have a collection of over dozens of beautiful pictures that I captured of the food I make, of the things I see in and around my place, of the places visit; it is fulfilling in a lot of ways.
The thing about creativity is there is no limit to it; years into a creative pursuit and you realize you’ve only scratched the surface. What really matters is I took the first step, I could either stay stuck or decide to go one step further each day. I did the latter and even if it amounts to little, I am learning each time I sit down to write or fiddle with my camera settings to take a new picture. Who knows what I will take up next, dancing may be!
I now live by these 5 things, some that I have achieved some I am yet to achieve, and I believe every woman will be able to relate to it:
Remember you have a mind and voice of your own. Have a say when you feel it’s necessary to voice your opinion. While a little compromise never hurts, it’s important not to do so at the cost of losing your self-respect.
Do not depend on your parents/spouse to fulfill your materialistic dreams, it’s fulfilling to go out and live your dreams on your own and the sense of accomplishments that comes with it is incredible.
Being a woman dictates that you be a certain way, and I have felt the need to be acknowledged and loved, and sometimes need approval for my actions from family and friends.
This kind of dependence is good; ask for advice, learn from others’ experience, but don’t be afraid to go out make mistakes or of being judged. Love yourself and learn to be fine without being always right/ happy/ successful. Others’ opinions about you should not affect the way you feel about yourself. Be open to criticism, with time it will help you take praise and disapproval alike.
It is important to have a support system, it could be your siblings or closest friends and colleagues. That helps you gain control of your life when you are losing it for some reason.
Never let just one person have the power to make or break you. A lot of times relationships can go wrong and at times like these, you need your support system to get back on your feet.
Keep learning new things or more about what you are good at, learning is therapeutic and helps you reinvent yourself as life goes by. In my experience, you never know what you are capable of unless you try learning something new. Learn how to stay fit, stay focused, multitask, and you will feel alive and care less about what can otherwise bother you.
Live one day at a time don’t overwhelm yourself, learn at your own pace and life will surprise you time and again!
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: a still from Tumhari Sulu
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