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Reader’s Corner looks at the contemporary urban Indian woman, through the lens of a Women’s Web reader in each interview.
The Blue Bride – if the intriguing name doesn’t catch your fancy at first, rest assured that her free-flowing and humorous writing will! Behind the interesting moniker, she offers us insights into her life and blogs about issues that are close to her heart over at For Whom The Bell Tolls.
Hello! Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a reader and writer, a mother of two and a wife of one, a former journalist, an editor by profession, a cynic and an idealist, a rebel and a feminist who is still mastering the art of holding my tongue. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to reflect on my identity. Some approximation of this can go on my gravestone.
Do you have any life goals for yourself or anything that you think your life must include?
The only thing I think might come close to a life goal is writing and hopefully getting a novel published. Other than that, there are only things I would like to do. I want to learn to speak, read and hopefully write Chinese. I tried a basic Cantonese class but I have concluded that although Cantonese is dominant in Hong Kong, Mandarin is more widely used worldwide and is easier to learn. I also want to learn Tai Chi and Chinese calligraphy. If I return to India, I’d like to learn an Indian language – Marathi, Urdu or Sanskrit but, like Mandarin, I will probably opt for Hindi for practical reasons.
I’d like to visit Africa, at least one country in Latin America and see more of India. I’d like to do a PhD. I’d like to read some of the great works of literature, philosophy and religion. I’d also like to study psychology and get qualified as a counsellor.
How far along would you say you are in achieving these? What would you love to have/achieve that you don’t yet have?
I am very fortunate that all these are very possible for me. It’s just a question of when. At some point, I will take a year off to do the parts related to Chinese. I could probably do the counselling course then too. The PhD might happen in the next five years; if not, when my kids are more grown up in 10 years. I can probably go to Africa with my kids when they are a little older and would be able to enjoy it. Same with travel in India. A couple of years ago, I read Ulysses by James Joyce, a personal goal. I’m currently slowly making my way through the Mahabharata.
As for the novel, I have written a draft but I think it needs lots more work, or maybe I need to start over. I’m undecided about whether I want to write something frivolous or attempt something more artistic. I’m not sure I have it in me to go the artistic way. The Indian publishing scene is vibrant right now and if I can get my act together, I have some hope of getting published.
When I look at my life, there is nothing big that I want that I can’t have as an individual. I have the resources to turn my wants into reality and that’s a very fortunate position to be in.
I would like to be an agent of change in the wider world but I have resigned myself to playing a part only at the individual level. Both in Hong Kong and in India, my lack of skills in the local languages makes it difficult to volunteer at the grassroots level. Instead, apart from financial contributions, I have used my English editing skills to do some pro bono work but I don’t feel that’s enough.
I would like to improve my relationship with my husband and with myself. I would like to be a better parent. I would like to live a greener lifestyle. These are works in progress and again, within my reach. Overall, I’m very blessed and I know it and am thankful for it.
Is your life today as you imagined it would be 5 years ago? If no, how is it different? Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
Well, if I go back just 5 years, I was already in Hong Kong and my life now is not that big a surprise to me. It’s definitely different because I now have kids and that’s a big life change but I always knew I would one day have kids and I was lucky that they arrived around the time that I imagined. I am now in a different career (Corporate Communications) than I was five years ago (Journalism) but what I do is not that different from what I did before (except for occasionally dabbling in Media Relations and thus effectively being on the opposite side of the fence), only it’s now within the microcosm of a university.
My life is completely different from the way I imagined it would be when I was in my early 20s. I had no intention or desire to ever leave India. But I revelled in Hong Kong. I love the verve, the efficiency and the safety.
It’s hard for me to imagine my life five years hence because my husband and I are in the process of discussing some big changes and they are not really my ideal. I will be compromising to help him fulfil his dream, with some sweeteners thrown in for me, and so when I think about the future, I’m psyching myself up for that but we both know it’s not really where I want to be.
In general though I’ve realised one can plan and dream but life has its way of changing things up.
Do you believe that being a woman has made a difference to your choices and/your life?
I’m not sure about this. It must have in some ways. One cannot escape an unhealthy dose of patriarchy growing up in India even if one grew up in a fairly liberal family in a fairly liberal locality. The main thing in India is that even in one of the supposedly safest cities for women in India, Mumbai, you are always aware that you are not completely safe. So that affects the choices you make. Journalism in India and Hong Kong and the communication field I work in has loads of women at the top so I didn’t feel patriarchy in the workplace. Women reporters went out and did the same kinds of assignments as men as far as I know but the press pass was supposed to protect you and there was a car at night for everyone.
Patriarchy hit me like a slap in the face while planning my wedding; so many assumed privileges and entitlements to the boy’s side that even my own extended family seemed to accept.
Patriarchy hit me like a slap in the face while planning my wedding; so many assumed privileges and entitlements to the boy’s side that even my own extended family seemed to accept. I live in a different country from my in-laws so I don’t feel the full force of it but there are sexist expectations – women should cook, one should spend Christmas with the boy’s family – that I have to wilfully ignore. That said, refusing to conform has worked to a great extent and my in-laws are mostly resigned to who I am and that their son seems okay with me that way.
Being a woman impacted most obviously when I had children because biologically I was the only one that could get pregnant and breastfeed. So in that sense, I had a bigger responsibility when it came to my children. And there were things that I could not and would not do – like take up stressful work assignments or new jobs – specifically because of that. That said, even my husband has chosen to be on the slow track at work and he spends a lot of time with the kids and that aspect is evening out a great deal now.
Tell us one thing that you like about Women’s Web and one thing you think we could do better!
I like everything about Women’s Web; the articles are well chosen and well written. I like how there’s a subtle feminist undertone. While I like the newsletter format, I end up clicking on a few articles when I receive the newsletter but not reading the entire thing because I forget to go back.
Thanks Blue Bride!
*Photo credit: The Bride.
Previous Reader’s Corner Interviews:
Women's Web is a vibrant community for Indian women, an authentic space for us
Reader’s Corner: With Shail Mohan
Reader’s Corner: With Indian Homemaker
Reader’s Corner: With Jo Chopra
Reader’s Corner: With Sangitha Krishnamurthi
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