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Several times, I have tried explaining to her that a woman needs to take care of the house, that she is not the breadwinner. But my wife, she is headstrong.
It was 8:00 pm. Ameet’s shift was over at 6:00pm but he was still in office. Fridays were fundays with very little work and he loved to loiter around with his friends and have fun. They would smoke and have chai at the ‘tapri’ outside the office premises.
He puffed on the cigarette and blew smoke out of his nose while him and his colleagues laughed and joked. It was the famous ‘chai pe charcha‘ moment for the office goers. They sipped the cutting tea from paper cups.
His phone rang. It was his wife, Rishika.
Rakesh, who was also in the group exclaimed, “Watch how busy and serious Ameet will sound now.”
The others laughed while Ameet smirked as he answered the call.
Ameet (on the phone), “Ah. Yes. Chicken chilli and noodles. And gajar ka halwa too. It’s Friday na, time to relax. And yeah order the groceries online too. I am exhausted today. Have too much work. Will sleep little late tomorrow so will not be able to go buy vegetables. Oh yeah. Will you also pick up two beers for me?”
He hung up when his wife Rishika agreed on the dinner menu he decided that she would cook. Ameet’s colleague, Nikita, was there too with her bag of chips. She heard Ameet’s conversation on the phone.
Nikita: “Looks like your wife is a great cook. You told her to make so many dishes. Doesn’t she get tired cooking all day?”
Ameet: “What? She is lucky. She has the freedom to work and not cook all day long.”
Nikita: “You mean she goes to office too?”
Ameet: “Yes and right now when I was talking to her she was just reaching home. Because she is working, I have to get lunch that is cooked by a maid. So many times I have tried making her understand that a woman needs to take care of the house, that she is not the breadwinner. But you know, she is headstrong.” He took a bite of the khari biscuit.
Nikita: “You mean after all that work in office she cooks a full meal for you of your choice does the grocery shopping, and buys beers for you. Meanwhile, you trickle out of your office into the warm tea stall and sit in the open air on this bench, carefree, looking forward to a great Friday meal. All this only show her that you are busy working? Or wait, you actually show her that your job is very tough and requires Einstein brains to do it. Why did you pretend to be so busy when there was not a lot of work today too? By the way, I bet your wife must be an engineer.”
Ameet did not respond. His wife was, in fact, an engineer!
Ayesha: “Oh don’t you know men like to boast about their work a lot? For example see, Ameet, Rakesh, you, and I are in the same team doing the same work and we all should be equally drained out. But I will go home and cook dinner too. Simply because my husband likes to have food I’ve cooked after a long day at work. You get the difference?”
Ameet: “You might not be tired to cook because women have been doing it for ages now. Moreover you don’t need to work. You are not the breadwinner.”
Ayesha: “Okay fine. I agree I am not the breadwinner but I am just as qualified as you are for the job we do. And I don’t want to be the breadwinner either, because I win more than just a loaf of bread.”
Nikita: “So your wife is qualified too. That means she didn’t study just for the heck of it.”
Ameet: “Of course, she wanted to study and fulfil her dreams. Now that her dreams are fulfilled, she should leave the job and look after the house.”
Nikita: “Why did you marry her?”
Ameet: “What does that have to do with it?”
Rakesh: “Okay guys it’s time for me to slip off. Sorry dude, you’re stuck with feminists now.” He laughed heartily and left
Ayesha: “You must have married her because she is smart and qualified. So she could fit into your social circle. And you are proud to have a wife who is intelligent and smart.”
Ameet: “That’s right. Who doesn’t want that?”
Nikita: “My question is why did you marry her when all you wanted was a cook and someone to look after the house? You should have got someone who was ready to do just that.”
Ameet felt cornered and had no words left. Moreover, he thought to himself that his wife earns more than him. It was a secret he kept from his family members too.
His phone rang. It was his younger sister who was just married.
Nikita: “Hey you’re getting a call from Preeti. She just got married right?”
Ameet nodded his head and answered the call. His sister was crying inconsolably on the phone.
Ameet: “What happened Preeti? Why are you sobbing? I am worried!”
Preeti uttered few words on the phone and Ameet cut the call in rage. He dialled Preeti’s husband’s number in anger and yelled to him.
“How dare you treat my sister like that! We have treated her like a princess. She did her PhD, not to sit in the house to cater to your needs. Once again, if you force her to leave her job, it won’t be good.”
After the call, Ameet took another cigarette and smoked. Ayesha and Nikita looked at each other. He called up his wife Rishika and said, “I will be going out to dinner tonight, so will be home late.”
Rishika had gone straight to the kitchen after work and was halfway through her cooking. It wasn’t the first time Ameet had cancelled his plans. She took the half-cooked food and put it in the fridge.
Quite often, he would make her cook a number of dishes, then make last minute plans with his friends and just go off. And despite telling him multiple times about the amount of hard-work and energy that went into cooking the meals, he never listened. So now, she takes it all with a pinch of salt and moves on- not because she is weak, but because she has no time for futile conversations.
In the parking lot, Ayesha told Ameet: “Nikita and I were trying to make you understand something but you didn’t. Just one phone call from your sister made you understand everything.”
Nikita: “It’s not the understanding. Actually, it’s the way you feel about a woman. If the woman is your wife, it won’t affect you much. But if the woman is your sister, it will hurt you real bad. Right Ameet?”
Ayesha: “Let it be Nikita. He won’t get what we’re saying. I need to hurry back. Dinner will get late. How I wish I could parcel off what’s cooked at Ameet’s house because he will be dining out, inspite of the sumptuous meal he ordered his wife to make.”
In that moment, Ameet, understood, for the first time that his wife is going through the same turmoil as his sister.
Ayesha and Nikita left in the same cab.
Ayesha (to Nikita): “My husband understood the post-delivery pain that his sister went through. But when it was my turn, sleeping like a log was all he did.”
Nikita: “That’s a dirty secret and only men like Ameet can answer.”
Ayesha took a deep breath and rested on the seat. How she wished there was dinner ready for her at home!
Picture credits: YouTube
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It is easy to give in to patriarchal expectations from a married woman and lose your self in a marriage, but the path to happiness is in keeping your independence.
Marriage is often described as the joining of two individuals’ bodies, minds, and souls. Upon getting married, you are expected to share everything with your partner, including time, money, and all other aspects of life. Your life should revolve around your spouse from beginning to end.
But is it necessary to spend every waking moment with the spouse? Are you not supposed to have a life apart from your spouse? And do these rules apply only to women or men as well?
Although both men and women may face this situation, women are generally expected to give up everything once they get married. Despite progress in several areas, expecting women to abandon their interests, passions, and friendships to align their lives with those of their spouses is still considered the norm.
The rising numbers of single women choosing this life shout out clear and loud that patriarchy and sexism will no longer break or chain us.
Another book on singlehood? It seems to be the season for books on the joys and freedom of being single. But Demystifying and Dignifying Singlehood: Life Journeys of Single Women Across the Globe by Uma Jain is different. The book does not glorify or glamourise the lives of single women in any way. These are real stories – with the good, the bad and the ugly, all there.
The book tells the stories of 15 single women across the world. A feeling of deep understanding and empathy fills you as you read the book and understand the challenges faced by the women who are single – by choice or chance. Some of the women chose to be single because they faced discrimination and even abuse as girl children. Some others had abusive marriages and sought divorce.
The tag line ‘Crafting pathways on rough terrains’ on the cover page is enough to tell you that this is a serious take on the issue of singlehood. If it focuses more on the rough than the smooth, that has been the reality for the 15 women.
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