My culinary skills as those of you who have read my post on this know, are nothing to wow about. The husband has now started taking digs at my cooking in rather creative ways!! Watching the new Airtel ad where the wife ( who is also the boss) churn out a great dinner while she waits for her husband to finish work and get home, he asks me slyly “ When are you going to cook a dinner like that for me”!!
“ You will have to wait until I become your boss” I tell him !!
“ Or you should have married your boss” quips junior, (joining forces with me for once)!
“Okay, ladies, why are you both being so nasty” he says throwing up his hands in the air and trying to end a discussion that he was obviously being edged out of !!! “Well it is a stupid ad” says the daughter ending our argument for the evening!!
But stupid or not, the ad is obviously creating a lot of talk in both social media and in general conversation. I understand there was even a TV talk show about it!! Controversial as it may be, the ad has obviously achieved its objective of getting the attention that it sought for!
While one can dissect this ad and discuss the issue about how we Indians seem to reduce a woman’s caliber as a wife to her prowess in the kitchen, I would like to look at this differently!! I think the ad highlighted something that we see in all successful Indian women to some extent. It is this thing called “Guilt”!!
As working women we try to bend backwards to do things for our families that we might otherwise not worry about much. And, where the husband is concerned, I find that many of us tread like we are walking on egg shells. This is particularly so if we are very highly qualified and hold jobs that pay more or are more demanding in terms of leadership requirements when compared to our husbands.
I remember an anecdote that was shared by my late mother in law. There was a feeling in her family that her youngest sister had the habit of “ordering” her husband about. Apparently, she took her sister aside and told her “ Look at me, I am a doctor and how humble I am in front of my husband. You should also be like that “ . I don’t know what her sister had to say about this, but what struck me was the way she tried to teach her sister to imbibe the “culture of guilt” !!! I sincerely hope her sister (a lady of immense character and substance) told her off saying “ Oh, I am just an ordinary government officer, so I will behave the way that comes naturally to me”!!
I don’t know if it is a survival instinct that we women have imbibed to cope with success in a patriarchal society but we seem to make this thing of “trying hard to please” our men into a fine art! I refuse to believe in this thing about “leaving your crown behind”!! If we have achieved success there is no need to apologize for it ! If we have an opinion about some matter that comes out of our knowledge and experience there is no need to hide it to just to massage the male ego!
And let us get this straight, being a wife is not about being a great cook or housekeeper!! Cooking is not a skill that every woman has. Why can’t we bring into a relationship other skills that would help the family? And why cant we be acknowledged for these non traditional skills that we might bring along? For example, neither me nor my husband have great financial management skills but over the years, thanks to my work experiences around operations, we found that I deal better with finances- whether it is negotiating for an investment or managing something. It has therefore fallen into my role function. I try to do it as best as I can seeking his opinion whenever required. I think he appreciates it and almost seems relieved that he does not have to bother with this now.
I think instead of celebrating the Indian woman’s “multitasking” abilities and “schizophrenic” existence trying to balance her ambitions on one hand and living up to the expectations of her as a woman on the other, it might be better if we start looking at her as someone whose family is proud of her because of what she does- as a professional and as a human being.
And more importantly, we should start giving her the confidence to feel that it is okay to be successful. It does not in anyway threaten anyone. It is only then that we will be able to shed this burden of guilt that we carry around us apologizing for being successful!!!