This Is As Much My House As It’s My Husband’s, And I Run The Show Here!

‘Madam, we want to talk to someone who is in charge here. Like your father-in-law/husband/father etc.’ The lady with the curious eyes takes over.

The long chiming ring of the doorbell knocks me off from my morning daze. I head towards the main door, leaving the tea to boil on the stove, muttering under my breath who it could be on a Sunday morning? I quickly glance at the wall clock. 10.30 am. It could not be the help. She had made it clear last evening; that she would come post 11 am.

I open the main door but only half. Sceptical, I peep through the grills of the safety door. I do not recognize the people I see. There are three of them. Two women and a man.

‘Madam, we are here for a survey from the local corporator’s office. We need some information.’ The woman wearing a green and red cotton saree, a neat bun, and a pair of full-rimmed glasses protecting a curious set of black orbs, clarifies.

‘Oh ok.’ I nod and open the safety door.  I am relieved it is just them. I do not want any guests now. I was up late at night working on a manuscript, have woken up extremely late, and am about to have the day’s first cup of tea. I abhor talking to anyone at this hour.

So, I am happy.

This will take 2 min.

I tell myself.

‘You live here?’  the other woman, a pen, and a register in her hand, asks.

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I look at her amused. I am still in my night clothes, and I do resemble someone who just walked out of her bed.

‘Can you call someone bigger than you?’ she said, her eyes trying to scan my living room through the half-open door.

She has my attention now.

She is in her twenties I can tell. Dressed in a yellow cotton suit, her thick oiled mane neatly tied into a French plat, a sizeable golden Mangalsutra adorning her neck, and a pretty round face with no expressions.

‘I don’t understand your question ma’am.’ I answer in all honesty.

‘Arre, I mean someone elder than you. Please call him.’  She replies nonchalantly.

‘Well, I am the eldest here.’ I am quick to respond. I am beginning to feel offended.

It has been quite a journey to be able to make it to my 40th year. And when someone does not seem to take me seriously or makes me feel I am not old enough, it rattles me.

Also, the words Please call him– those do not sound right. How did she assume that the eldest member (and here I am saying only in terms of age) would be a male?

‘Madam, we want to talk to someone who is in charge here. Like your father-in-law/husband/father etc.’ The lady with the curious eyes takes over.

There. I am not amused anymore. I am appalled.

‘I am THE in charge here.’ I retort. I point my finger at the Nameplate outside my apartment, carrying my husband’s and my name, both in a clear, bold font.

Her curious eyes shift their attention to the nameplate.

‘Ya, that’s fine. Can we speak to your husband then, in that case?’ She replies. I can sense the indifference.

‘Unfortunately, NO; you may not. He is not in town. He is not in the country. Even if he were, I would still be the one answering your question. Only if you would care to ask me. What is this survey about? Men? Is it?’ I fumed.

‘No no madam, it’s not like that.’ Her tone changed suddenly.

‘Then what is it like? Enlighten me.’ I urge staring at her right back.

‘Ma’am it is a simple survey about who all occupy the household. Just to understand the demographics ahead of the elections.’ Finally, the man spoke up.

I turned my head and saw him. A middle-aged man standing next to them, sweat and awkwardness rampant on his face.

‘If it is so simple then why isn’t she asking the right question? Why am I being asked to call a man? Look if an elderly man was living with us, I would have called the first time they asked. Even after making it clear that I own this place they are fixated on finding a man in my house bigger than me. Not just in terms of age but in stature too.’ Anger is flushing through my cheeks now.

‘Ok OK ma’am…’ he fumbles now and admonishes the two women, ‘finish the survey fast.’

The women quickly follow the instructions.

The one with the curious eyes asks, ‘Who all stay here? Please tell me their names and ages.’

I give her the details of my husband, my two kids, and yours truly.

‘See your husband is 41 years old, which makes him the eldest. You are getting irritated for no reason.’  The woman in the yellow suit smiles and comments.

Now I have lost it completely.

‘Ma’am my husband is a year older than me. I am aware. But your line of questioning is still wrong. You are here for a public survey. Your job is to ask the right questions and not assume who is big or small in a family. You asked me who was in charge of this apartment. I told you I was. You shoved that aside and continued asking the whereabouts of the men in this family. Just to be clear I would have pulled out a man from inside the house if there was any! This is as much my house as it is my husband’s. And I run the show here. Like it or not, I am in charge here.’ I finally blasted.

‘Sorry Sorry madam. They are new. The survey is done. Thank you.’ The man tried to bail them out again and pressed the lift button in haste.

‘There are plenty of women, I am sure who are IN-CHARGE in their respective households. Please be mindful of your questions.’ I left them with a word of caution and banged the safety door.

They must have left the floor, as I heard the elevator door opening immediately after that.

This is a recent experience, not a decade-old one. It is unsettling on a different level because it is women and not men who put me in a spot. It is unacceptable because this is not about proving who is weaker between the two sexes; rather it is about the weak edifice on which a civilization is built, stands, and thrives.

In my 40 years of being a woman, It has been conveyed to me at least a million times, that there are limits to my existence as a woman and I must not cross them; that I should accept those limits as final and not challenge them. And it has always been done very slyly, and sagaciously.

As a teenager, as a naive young woman, I may have complied sometimes. But as I grew both in age and experience, I realized that I was under no compulsion to do so. So, I laugh loudly, I put my foot down when need be, I take my chances, and most importantly, I consider myself second to none.

Ahead of Women’s Day, I leave you with a thought by a steadfast feminist, Justice Claire L’ Heureux-Dube, a retired Canadian judge, in the Supreme Court of Canada.

“Equality is not simply about equal treatment, and it is not some mathematical equation waiting to be solved. It is about human dignity and full membership in society. It is about promoting an equal sense of self-worth. It is about treating people with equal concern, equal respect, and equal consideration. Those are the values underlying equality. Those are the values offered when we discriminate, consciously or not.”

Image source: YouTube/ short film Ghar ki Murgi

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About the Author

Varunika Rajput

Varunika lives in the city of Mumbai with her two gregarious girls and her husband and is happily taking care of her nest. In a parallel universe, Varunika is the author of the book WOMEN & read more...

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