By Lata Jha:Â
I remember in our last year of school, we were casually discussing our future plans with our class teacher. In that warm, intimate, candid environment, girls admitted their desire to pursue everything from fashion to film-making to law. Suddenly, the shyest and most introvert of my classmates were opening up until one person piped in, ‘Sab yehi karenge to ghar ka dhyan kaun rakhega?’ She wasn’t being nasty or sarcastic or accusing us of unrealistic dreams, she was genuinely wondering aloud. We were all amused then, to say the least. But it only makes sense to me now.
I said something similar to myself in my head when Sonakshi Sinha was asked recently on a chat show about how she would respond to Kareena Kapoor who thought as an alternate career option, Sonakshi could be the perfect housewife. She said something about wanting to get married since she was sixteen and that she’d never imagined she would come such a long way in her career, but I wish she’d seized the day a little, been a little braver and a lot less politically correct. I wish she’d had the guts to say that it takes a lot to be a housewife and make a home, something that actors like them probably do not have the faintest clue about. That she’s seen her own mother hold a family together and would be proud to do the same at some point in her life.
I don’t know how many of us have had homemakers for mothers. I, for one, have. I’m not saying working women cannot run or make a home. Of course, they can. In fact, many of them do so beautifully. I have immense respect for women who balance their personal and professional lives, because it is definitely no cakewalk. What I do not understand is the pathetic obsession to see women who stay at home as having it easier in life, or that when we can’t ‘do’ or make anything else of life, we should stay at home, get married and look after the house. A female who gives up her career is no doormat. She’s either gone through the tumultuous ride of making a successful career and then choosing to settle down to domesticity and focusing on home and bringing up her children solely. Or she’s always felt that this deserves her attention more than anything else. Either way, she makes a decision for herself and sticks to it. On the other hand, if she’s been forced into it, it’s an even tougher battle. She constantly combats with the probability that she could be doing something else.
My point is that in both cases, it’s no bed of roses. We need to stop seeing homemakers as the lowest denomination of working people. Nowhere in the world do these women have it as easy as females in Indian soaps. They do not have the time to eavesdrop, complain against the world or take hours to wear what they do. It’s a herculean task and many of them exalt it without knowing what they’re getting into. What they make of it later is a different story altogether.
I don’t think too many of us realise that it’s more than a full-time job. There are no vacations, no perks, no salaries and very little appreciation or reward. You have to deal with not just limited budgets, hordes of paltry expenses, daily hassles but also crabby spouses and children who often don’t even acknowledge what you’re doing for them.
I think a lot of us girls are petrified of ending up as housewives. It would not just be an affront to the ego but the realisation of making the same compromises that many of us have seen our mothers make. Gender studies tell us of matrophobia, the fear of becoming one’s mother, of giving in to the same conflicts that we have with them. Of patriarchy, self respect, identity and so on. In these psychological tussles, we forget to appreciate these extraordinary women who make our homes. Who give us the impetus to walk out of home everyday into the world outside. Without the woman at home, there would be no home. So, we could be out working in offices, firms, schools, hospitals, modelling agencies or the mafia, but we would have nowhere to go and nothing to come back to, at the end of the day.
More power to the aam aurat.