On July 29, 2012, the Sunday Times of India published an article “Home truths on career wives”, by Chetan Bhagat, in the All That Matters page. The column, mostly a bullet point list of “benefits of working women”, explained how “modern” Indian men should base their choice of life partner on whether the partner is “career oriented” or not. The column, expectedly, received bashing from many readers. On March 08, 2013, some of the women bloggers who are housewives, took a dig at Chetan Bhagat (An Open Letter To Mr.Chetan Bhagat From A Humble Homemaker; Dear Mr. Bhagat, Do You Judge Women Who Make Chapatis?)
On April 08, 2013, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi made a keynote address to FICCI Ladies Organization in Delhi. The speech largely talked about women empowerment initiatives in Gujarat and how the rural women have come out of their kitchen to take part in decision making process of family, running multi-crore businesses (Lijjat Papad, Jashuben Pizza, Amul etc) and becoming sarpach of villages to drive development outside their homes as well. Obviously, the audience did not connect with it but the rest of 90% of Indian women about whom he was talking, hailed the speech. But the media like Firstpost did not miss out on accusing NaMo of being a stereotype (What the woman audience thought of Modi’s FICCI speech).
Few days back, while speaking to one of my colleagues, husband of a house-wife, he said that managing house and managing finances is also a task in itself and much difficult then what we do in offices. Another friend opted for a house-wife instead of corporate-wife citing reasons on the level of compromise one has to make while dealing with corporate-wife. Ofcourse, he had his own reasons and examples on people “suffering” in terms of personal lives after going for “love marriage”. Yes, there is also a section which actually asks for a corporate woman as life partner due to financial as well as personal reasons (essentially the ones cited by Chetan Bhagat). In cities, especially metros, majority of youngsters are looking for working partners – either by choice or by requirement.
Corporate-wife vs. House-wife has emerged as topic of discussion in the society, especially the section where it has relevance ;). Two decades back, Corporate-wife would have been a luxury; a decade back it become it became a trend; today, it is moving towards becoming a requirement. Especially people living in metros are increasingly seeing this as a basic need to meet the ends at the end of the month. Besides financial reason, another major argument for having a Corporate-wife is, thanks to Ekta Kapoor, to have a life partner less involved (physically and mentally) in family or socially – which takes the pressure cooker off you as well.
The above two incidents of Chetan Bhagat and Narendra Modi, however, signals a larger problem. While we have started accepting women in a corporate role, the new India appears to be in a mode to detest house-wives. The definition of modern Indian women is becoming synonymous to a corporate women working in an MNC. Among the five most powerful Indian women in the Forbes list 2013, three are corporate women (Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar and Padmasree Warrior), one politician (Sonia Gandhi) and only one entrepreneur (Kiran Majumdar Shaw). Majority of the women in the most powerful Indian women in business surveys also include the ones who have moved up the corporate ladder and not the entrepreneurs. Examples of Amul and Jashuben never really gain that much media attention.
However, it will be immature to blame the media completely for this. We, as a society, have failed to recognize house work as real work. Yes, certainly, it is a duty but managing a house in limited finances is a task in itself. You can safely replace the house with a company and your salary with equity. The work is more complex than an entrepreneur. Meals have to be on time, all the appliances should be working properly, wardrobe should be maintained, groceries should be sufficient, no litter anywhere, the bills should be paid on time, prices of every single thing purchased should be checked and managed within budget, social relationships are managed and what not. All these and no days-off or weekends. And these are the responsibilities when there are no in-laws and no children.
The sad part is that our society has failed to recognize this and the indifference has resulted in women (may be not all) underrating themselves when they are housewives and looking elsewhere to make themselves recognized. Recently, the movie “English Vinglish” portrayed this mindset perfectly, when the family of Sridevi never realized her importance in the family and never valued the money she brought with the help of her snacks business (which, the family never considered a business). She received the much deserving respect and recognition in a foreign land among a bunch of foreigners, who did not even know her. With growing influence and media hype around confident 21st century working women has made it sexy to have a Corporate-wife and, to a certain extent, a status symbol.
But the fact remains that real India lives in its villages where there are millions of “working women”, ensuring that their men are able to work outside, rest assured that they would have their meal in the evening, without even entering kitchen. At the same time, during the day, they either teach at school or take tuition or prepare snacks for the orders they have received or work in farms or work at SSIs (Small Scale Industries).
While it is a burning topic these days, at the end of the day what matters is that you have a partner with whom you really think that you can talk throughout your life. Putting the corporate vs. house wife criteria on driver seat will only lead to mistakes and serious accidents!!