Working Women – Mother, Wife and Daughter
Varuni Anandatheertha (Bangalore): “Should a woman work when her children are very young and family is financially okay. There are different opinions on this which makes it even more difficult to decide. If you can write something about this, it really helps many women like me who are confused ….”
Priya Kamath (Boston): “Our elders say that we have do bhajans (singing songs to please god) every day. It was okay during olden days when female didn’t to work outside. In today’s hectic world we are not even getting time to breath…How is it possible Paimam?”
Minnu Joseph (Delhi): “Uday Sir, shouldn’t all females go for work? Wouldn’t that be fitting reply to Indian male chauvinistic attitude?”
Three different messages. I am compiling all into one. These are inter-related issues.
I am not good at advising people. All I do is sharing my personal experiences and what I have learned from our ancestors.
I have interacted very intimately with four women in my life: My mother, my wife, my daughter and my best friend. So I have tried to learn what women want to do through them.
When I think about my childhood, the first thing that comes to my memory: me getting up from the grass mat. (We didn’t have a cot or bed). I would go to backyard of the kitchen where my mother would have kept the tooth-powder (Umikkari – Cinder of rice husk mixed with bit salt and a pinch of powdered pepper) and tooth brush (twigs from mango tree). She would keep the same for all five of us (children) and my father.
And after brushing and a small prayer in front of Tulasi (remembering ancestors) she would get morning coffee in bronze glass. It was just jaggery boiled water and a pinch of ghee in it! No coffee powder.
She had to get up early morning. There was no alarm then. She had to depend upon the firework sound in the nearby temple. Drinking water had to be collected from the pond or streams then. (Today, put on the tap = water ready). She had to fill the water in the bathroom and toilets manually and heat up water to take a bath. Other duties are to collect firewood (no gas, no electric heater), vegetables, banana leaf etc. from the courtyard.
There was no mixer, grinder, choppers, etc. To prepare breakfast, she had to powder manually using huge grinding stones. And you cannot keep powdered grain or batter for more than 2-3 days (No refrigerator). To prepare sambar, she had to make sambar powder manually. She had to prepare breakfast for seven and a couple of relatives who were dependent on us.
Apart from the breakfast, she had to prepare lunch for all of us and pack it in lunch boxes. There was no washing machine, no cooking range, no cooking gas, and no vehicles – so imagine the workload that generation had been facing then. And if you think, her job is over, I have not yet begun.
She was a working woman. She had taken care of the house as well as her job. She went for job as father’s salary was very poor then (less than Rs 100). (Both my parents were school teachers) If she didn’t, we would have starved. She had equally excelled in the profession, which is evident from the fact that more people know her than all of us together – even today people recognize and respect us because of her.
Today, we have all facilities around us. And technology is developed so much that almost everything can be automated or mechanized. Still, we don’t have time for family! Just think for a moment, compared to our previous generation, how much physical work we do?
So when I hear women complaining about lack of time and facilities, should I tell you what I feel?
I didn’t have a job and was seeking new assignments when I got married. It was really a tough struggling time for us. No money to live. During that time, she has got two job offers, not one. Both are plum jobs – one is from defence administrative service and other from the Khadi Board (She had written UPSC test and finished employment registration before marriage). Anybody would have jumped and join, given the situation.
She was carrying then. She said: “I am not going for a job. It’s okay even if we have one time food a day. But I want to live with my children and husband as much lifetime as I can. Nothing in this world is bigger than our family.”
We didn’t want to depend upon our parents or anybody. So we intentionally choose a path of struggle where our children can also experience the richness of miseries and hardships. We didn’t want to ruin them by providing comfort and luxury.
However, after the kids have grown up, she became free during the day time. She worked from home online as a researcher for a Netherlands based company. She worked for 7 years before calling it a day recently. So she can also claim “I was a working woman” just to satisfy her mind. Now she is not interested in working.
When our kids grew up, we understood that the world has changed a lot. It was not the bygone world where the society and elders took moral responsibility. It has become a market-dominated world, where the mesmeric world of superficial lifestyle is being injected by the media. We cannot isolate them and we cannot fight against the liberal life.
I was not a good parent like my ancestors. So the only thing I could do was making them ready to take up individual responsibility. A person who takes his/her responsibility won’t get time to waste on anything. I maintained this: “I can send you to school till 18 years. After that you have to make money through ethical jobs and pay for your studies. Otherwise, education doesn’t have value. That’s what our ancestors tried to teach us through the Gurukula sambradaya”
I told my eldest daughter who was doing tenth standard then: “After my graduation, I didn’t depend on my parents. I was working, making money and studying.”
She said: “I would also want to work and study.” She went a step ahead. She started working online for 3 hours a day while she was doing her 11th standard. The was getting decent remuneration she was getting was more than enough to take care of her studies. So her focus has been working and study. There was no time for fashion shows and display. She was able to take care of her BTech fees. And she was having a decent savings too.
During her BTech she has got campus placement. She wanted to go for higher studies too. My wife said: “You are now 21 – that means it is high time that you should take responsibility of a family”
There is another alternative. She can work – make money. As the new liberal world says: “enjoy life” for some time. Then marry someone. Again couple can “enjoy” post-pone responsibilities. They both work together again to make lots of money. They can get established (financially) – two or three apartments, cars, huge bank balance.
One of our cousins – a so-called practical guy – married and have enjoyed their life, roamed around the word and financially well-settled – by the time they crossed 30. Now they wanted a child – they thought a child would come if you flash platinum credit card! Now they are undergoing expensive fertility treatment – they have already sold one apartment. And when they get a kid at a later age, it may have some complications too.
“The purpose of marriage, according to our Dharma, is not for enjoyment or to make money. It is for fruitful procreation. We had you born in ten months after our marriage,” my wife told her. You are free to call us non-liberal, conservatives and old-fashioned. No problem. Accepted.
We fixed her marriage during her final year and got her married immediately after BTech exam.
However, she joined the company. But in one week’s time, her husband had to go abroad. She resigned her job and went along with him. Family comes first. You can study at anytime. My father did his post-graduation in Hindi after all of us were born. My wife’s father did his MA in Sanskrit after my wife graduated. Higher studies and career are not to be mixed with family life. My daughter can also do her MS after sometime, when she is free.
In my friend’s case, I told her to go for higher studies and find a job abroad as her situation was totally different. Her family didn’t take care of her. So she had to take care of everything.
So, it is up to you to decide what is important to you. I have seen lots of girls are career oriented now. They want to beat the boys and go up. That’s good. I respect that. It’s high time that you beat the male chauvinistic pigs. But what for? For whom? Are males your enemies?
When a girl is born, our ancestors would teach her: “Dear, you are going to be the light of a house. So you have to keep purity, chastity and dignity in life”
After marriage, the husband’s family will receive her as “Lakshmi” of the house – with arati, flowers and ornaments.
She was taught that she is the person who take a great parambara ahead. All Vedas and Upanishads say that the child belongs to the mother. That’s why mother is given a place above god.
Reflect on this: One of my cousin (younger than me) and wife work as executives in private sector firms. They have two kids. The younger one – just 2 years old – is in a baby day care. The elder one 4 years, in LKG. The kids will see parents only for a few hours. Asked about this, my cousin’s reply: “What to do Anna (elder brother)? The loan element for building our house is huge. We both have to work to repay it and also save for children’s future… We have no other alternatives… This is the pain of establishing.”
This reasoning appeared factual and logical. Nobody can find any fault in this. But I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Why are you laughing?”
“You both have left your parents and built up this house. So what makes you think that your children will stay in this house?”
His face became pale. It’s evident that till this moment he had not thought about it. My understanding is that, for a moderate family can live happily and contented with one person’s job – in normal case. (I am not talking about people below poverty line – in that case, both parents may have to work to feed their kids).
But in most cases I have seen both parents go to work to pay back the loan they took for unessential things. My cousin’s case, they have built a 3000 sq ft house – for what? A luxury car. They believe in an ugly display of wealth – huge house, cars, luxury and over anxiety about kids – Ask yourself, where it essential?
Everybody needs to work towards his/her financial security. We have to meet our basic minimum need. So the need based work is also important. But should one work just to achieve desired and wants? Should we work for the financial security for the next generation? My understanding is that we have to prepare our kids to work, earn and live rather than pampering them by providing wealth.
My mother used to say that girls should study well and try to get a professional degree – it doesn’t mean that they must go for a job – but should be qualified to get a job anytime anywhere.
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© Uday Lal Pai. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing at firstname.lastname@example.org