One should always stay grounded to one’s roots.
That’s exactly the narrative therapy my mother displaces upon me whenever I speak to her over the phone – their social circles serve me the content I long for.
A lot happens over these calls, some reformation (both ways), some exchange of giggles and tips, and some reporting. Particularly, this one phone call was an information piece about a neighbourhood girl in her 20s, who had started an entrepreneurial venture – ‘Toppers Institute’, wherein she’d teach every subject under the umbrella of high school, including Psycology.
My mother wanted me to support her and express some words of encouragement and appreciation as and when I received a WhatsApp forward for the same. The conversation then drifted to how she’d negotiate my impending night-out with dad. Needless to mention, she is a saviour.
Pick out a mohalla or two in any city of our developing townships only to acquaint yourself of mushrooming hoardings of such coaching centres popping up in almost every lane, with their names offending the apostrophe or any known rule of grammar known to mankind, while claiming to make a Shashi Tharoor out of your kid.
Well, the eligibility criteria to become a mohalla tuition teacher is fairly straightforward – you have to be studying in the local college and all the neighbourhood aunties and your mother’s friends would be surrendering their kids to you, counting on the sankaar certification that you hold.
That image is built by braiding your hair (oiled hair, preferably), talking in tones mellower than the breeze, maintaining a healthy distance from boys, basically being an eclectic concoction of Naina (Deepika Padukone) from ‘YJHD’ and Preeti (Sonali Bendre) from ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’.
Oh, and talk of the pounds of perks networking has in this profession; the prying aunties (read, clients) end up becoming your wing women and get some good rishtas, when they deem it fit that you are of a marriageable age.
Moreover, this is a relatively acceptable and digestive form of employing yourself, as per the patriarchs of the house since you have no interaction with men above your age, stay safe while being locked inside the four walls of the house all the time, save yourself from the summer tan, remain marriageable while putting your otherwise wasted education to the best use. If lucky, you might end up arranging for your own dowry!
Sounds great, eh?
Young, aptitude-gifted females resorting to this makeshift profession is a sad reflection of the societal construct which does not allow them to move out of their hometowns to get higher education at universities of repute, perhaps because there is something immoral in the air and water of metropolitan cities. Eventually, they end up living in cocooned environments, completely shut out to the world of opportunities, waiting for their fate to be locked by a dowry-deciding wedding.
Kudos, Human Capital – 0, Indian Values – 1.
With humanity gradually moving into the 21st century and smart companies coming up with clever delivery channels to capitalise on local women’s bonds, several other employment opportunities have opened up for these women who want to be equally responsible for the finances of the family and command respect at the same level.
One can open a boutique, beauty parlour or sell (read, shove down your throat) products for Amway, Oriflame, Tupperware and the like. Again, at the root of these opportunities remain the same motivators for the women and the men who allow them, i.e. staying within the same close-knit women’s community and doing your bit.
Once all orthodox guidelines have been met with, one can start the venture in the dead in-laws’ room (because had they been still alive and gawking, you would be in your ‘pallu’ (veil)), go about cleverly squeezing in your latest range of Georgette suits in casual discussions and make the best use of your marketing skills.
Such run-by-women, for-women centres are therapeutic escapes in their own right.
The days are flavoured with chat sessions with customers/bhabhijis covering a range of topics from day-to-day hustle and bustle like their kids’ poop colour and density, mothers-in law’s nosy behaviour, husbands’ forgetfulness, little victories at the dinner table, Facebook pictures of that neighbourhood damsel with a young hunk, yada yada yada.
As friendships ripen with time and trust seeps in, kitty groups form, discussions become more intimate and these women become each other’s support system. One can always get a piece of advice or two on various issues ranging from upping the thrill factor in their sex lives to financial problems.
Intuitively, my takeaway from the daily dose of these stories is that the middle-class women of our generation are strong and feisty; they are the real go-getters. They know when to take matters into their own hands, when to start believing that their fathers, husbands and/or fathers-in-law need to be put down the patriarchal pedestal. Such are the levels of their strength that without even knowing that they are the victims of age-old patriarchy and somehow passively fuelling it, they are putting up a tough front against it every day while co-living with their daft, good-for-nothing male counterparts, who possess some of the worst financial and decision-making skills.
These superwomen are always there to mend the wrongdoings of male family members while keeping their male ego intact, to support and raise the products of their awkward non-consensual arranged marriage sex and their children.
Yet all they need is a session with the women of their tribe and reassurance of the fact that they are in this together to keep them going. Each of these women’s stories only arouses respect and my heart goes to them. Every day, every minute they are fighting a war of their own.
Bhavya Arora is the final year student at Hansraj College, editor of the college magazine – De Facto and heads the board of the student-led strategy consulting society named Mark-It.
Featured image credit: Pariplab Chakraborty