If you want to understand how to become better allies to people with disabilities, then join us at Embracing All Abilities: Including People with Disabilities at Work.
Now her cup of woes was packed to the brim, and the stress was starting to affect her work. She was also tired of being made to feel apologetic about her work commitments.
“Black Friday has emerged as a major occasion in the shopping calendar of consumers. We should increase the budget for it going forward,” said Shikha in a voice that sounded alien to her ears. As the marketing head of a top retail chain in India, she was presenting the plan and attempting to get the budget approved for the upcoming year.
“We earmarked a crore for Black Friday promotions for the first time this year. Why do you think we would need more than this next year?” Shikha’s boss, the CEO, asked.
A why question, again.
“Why aren’t you spending more time with our son and doing something for his falling grades?” The why question posed by her husband earlier in the morning echoed in Shikha’s ears. Her son’s poor score was always her fault.
She had come to work like a volcano, ready to erupt at any moment.
“Why is it always my responsibility to take care of everything and provide you an explanation for them?” Shikha lamented loudly.
“I beg your pardon, Shikha, but I will need to understand from the marketing head the rationale behind the budget before approval,” the CEO said, taken aback.
“Oh…it wasn’t you…I mean…” An embarrassed Shikha realised that she had uttered the words meant for her husband to her boss. “I am sorry. I am not feeling well today. Can we reschedule this meeting for another day?”
The request granted, Shikha got some time to kill in her cabin. Numerous things called out for her attention, but she was in no mood to work today. She swivelled her chair around and looked out from the window. The hustle-bustle of vehicles on the highway gave her a sense of familiar comfort as she looked back at her personal life.
Shikha and Arun were batchmates in one of the most prestigious management colleges in the country. Sparks flew between them when they pitted their intellect against each other in a debate. The friendship forged over the discussion on books, movies, and the corporate world had blossomed into love in no time. The duo got married after two years of working in the same city for different organisations.
Shikha was a marketing person, while Arun had a flair for balance sheets and profit and loss accounts. When the former’s tours increased while the latter stayed glued to his desk as part of their respective job roles, the first sign of troubles appeared in their married life.
“My parents are visiting our home after a long time. Can you not postpone your trip?” Arun asked her.
“The entire team is travelling together for the event two days later. I cannot do anything, unfortunately,” she had replied.
“You can take sick leave and skip the event altogether,” he suggested. Shikha was shocked. “I don’t want to. I have worked hard for the event and would like to witness its success.”
There was a pause before Arun asked, “Who will take care of them for the three days you are out?”
“Are you planning to take leave during the period?”
“No. I have a lot of work.”
“Are you also travelling somewhere around the same time?”
“Me? No. Why?” Arun queried.
“Then you will be back home every evening to take care of things. I will also instruct the maids thoroughly so that they don’t bother you much during my absence,” a perturbed Shikha had replied calmly. Why was she expected to adjust her work schedule because her spouse’s parents were visiting while her husband planned to carry on as usual?
The rebukes became more vocal and frequent once she became a mother. As if being a working woman wasn’t challenging enough, balancing work and family expectations as a working mother appeared to be a herculean task.
“Do you have to return to work so soon after Rohit’s birth?” Shikha’s mother-in-law had asked her. Shikha was to resume work after six months of maternity leave.
“I have exhausted the statutory leaves and cannot extend any further. Besides, I want to resume work, Ma. Rohit will be fine with the maid. Especially when you and Papa are here to keep an eye on things.”
“We aren’t here to supervise your maid for you, bahu,” her mother-in-law had replied acerbically.
“Do take Rohit to the doctor today; he coughed and stayed awake the entire last night,” Arun said when their son was two years old.
“I will take the appointment for the evening once I return from work,” Shikha replied.
“Take a leave from the office today. This is important.”
“I can’t; the leadership from Paris is on a visit, and my day is full of meetings with them. Can you take leave?”
“No, I have some important work,” Arun remarked. “See if you can come early, but. His cough would get much worse by the evening.”
“Rohit has again scored low in Maths, Shikha. Didn’t you speak to the teacher during the Parents Teacher Meeting?”
“I did, Arun. Why don’t you come along for the PTM this time and talk to the teacher with me?”
“I am busy, Shikha. But do request the teacher to take tuition classes for Rohit, if required. He is five. His maths will remain poor if you don’t address the issue now.”
The demands and expectations from her had increased with the age of their child. Rohit was eight now, and his future was a moving goal against which Shikha always fell short. Despite sharing a home with her husband, she felt alone regarding the management of household affairs, especially when it came to their son’s upbringing and education.
It was time for Shikha to make a choice.
Shikha took the rest of the day off and went to Rohit’s school. Her son was pleasantly surprised to see his mother waiting for him at the school gate after he was done for the day.
“I thought it may be a nice change for you to return home in the car instead of the school bus,” Shikha remarked, patting Rohit on the head.
Mother and son rode home in comfortable silence for some time before Shikha asked, “How did the math test go today?”
“Uh…so, so,” Rohit replied, looking at the floor.
“I see. I have been thinking of that video game that you have been asking me for quite a while,” Shikha said.
Rohit looked sideways at his mother. “What about it?”
“Why request your mother, again and again, to get it for you? Why not get it on your own?”
“I don’t have the money and depend on you to get it for me,” Rohit replied, confused.
“Do you want to depend on your parents throughout your life to fulfil your wishes? Or do you want to be able to get what you want for yourself someday?”
“I want to buy whatever I want on my own. Like you and dad.”
“Then you have to study well and get good grades. The chances of securing a good job that pays well significantly reduce if you don’t. You either invest in your future by giving some serious time to studies now or spend all your time in fun and frolic, and then even at twenty-five, request your mother to get what you want. The choice is yours. So would be the consequences,” Shikha said, looking straight ahead.
No words passed between them for the rest of the way.
Later that afternoon, Shikha was happy to see Rohit do his homework without the usual prodding from her.
Wisdom had dawned on one man. Would the other man of the house see reason?
“I want to talk to you, Arun,” Shikha said to her husband a few minutes after he had returned home.
“I am tired, Shikha. Can this wait?” Arun said while switching on the TV.
“That is exactly how I feel every day after returning from the office. But unlike you, I don’t have the luxury to wait, and straightaway get into household affairs.”
Arun turned towards his wife, raising an eyebrow. “What’s the matter?”
“Rohit has not done well in his maths test again. I have spoken to him, and it does seem he will study harder next time onwards. What are you going to do about it?”
“Me? What can I do?”
“You are Rohit’s father. His education is as much your responsibility as mine,” Shikha said firmly.
Arun opened his mouth to speak, but Shikha interrupted him.
“Arun, I loved you and got married, hoping to create a shared future with you. That meant sharing my dreams, aspirations, joys, sorrows and responsibilities with you. But right through our marriage, I have felt that looking after our home and child is my responsibility alone. And that it is my mistake that I have a demanding job.”
Shikha interrupted her husband. “I still love you, Arun, but I love myself too. And I love my job, my home and my child. If all the responsibilities fall on my shoulders and I alone have to take care of them, then I might as well stay alone. That way, at least, I won’t have any false expectations of help from my partner,” Shikha said.
“Are you threatening to leave me, Shikha?” Arun asked with a tinge of worry.
“No. I am telling you how I feel. I don’t want to leave you. You can either support me in creating a fulfilling shared future for ourselves or drive me to leave you. The choice is yours,” Shikha replied.
The whirring noise of the ceiling fan was the only sound to be heard for some time.
Shikha broke the silence. “Dinner is ready. You can come to the table when you want.” She turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. She wanted to leave the room before her trembling legs gave away.
She had taken a risk, not knowing what her husband would choose. But it was the right step to take for her future.
Image source: a still from Marathi series Aani Kay Hawa
Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!
Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
Is Hansika Motwani doing anything really bizarre? It is common practice for celebrities to sell exclusive rights to their wedding, new baby etc. to publications.
We heard about a rather unique proposition on social media recently – the monetisation of a wedding – by transforming it into a reality TV show. Now I will admit my first reaction to this was horrified disbelief.
Please enter your email address