Women Vs Women: Not A Family Drama On TV
Here’s the story of Nina, a part-time employee and mother of two. Nina was struggling to keep her sanity, between the demands of the two worlds she was straddling. Sounds pretty much like many of our own stories. Then Nina had visitors, her in-laws, with plans to stay for a few months. She now had to deal with the third frontier of being the ideal daughter-in-law.
Once, she was returning from work late and, to add to her woes, was stuck in traffic. She went home after picking up groceries for the next day, only to find that the parents-in-law were sitting there, waiting for her to brew the perfect cup of tea; doesn’t it sound like a family drama on the TV?
Nina’s story unfolds in many households for many women. But watching it on the small screen, like the innumerable TV soaps, is lot different from tackling it on ground. The bottom line is, does this women vs women tension exist?
For Smita Rana, a programme officer with an NGO dealing with farmers, there is a lot of truth behind this notion. With a full-time job, it is difficult for her to monitor her two children once they are back from school. Her mother-in-law being at home proved to be futile because she left the children to their own devices, not even serving them food. Setting aside her heartache, Smita knew the only way to tackle this was to train her young children to look after each other. Over the years now, they have become self-reliant.
Ranjana Sarma is passionately involved with what she and her husband started long ago, river tourism. It was their first baby before her two biological ones arrived on the scene, and by far. taking the maximum attention to cruise to stability. Her children, and that includes their enterprise, are grown and ready to take wings.
But through all those years, it was clear that she would not entertain house-guests so as not to be diverted from all the detailed attention that their business would need.
It was not as if Ranjana had cut herself away from her or her husband’s family. She was always there to take care of their health issues, arrange for help whenever required, but never had people over at home.
“It was only practical since I was hardly at home. The first half of the day, I would be getting the administration streamlined, looking into the accounts, managing the staff. After lunch, I would be at the site, looking after the requirement of the guests which would continue till late evening. So where was the time to pander to other whims and fancies? Yes, it did help that my in-laws are in the same city, so one of us could drop by whenever they needed us. But having them stay with us would have been a different ball game altogether.” She adds with a smile, “Maybe this space keeps us in a live-and-let-live situation.”
Not all women are antagonists for though. Septuagenarian Bimla Devi totters around the house, putting the folded clothes in each family member’s room.
“I keep telling my daughter-in-law that she should make most of the time I am at home and kicking. She can continue with her higher studies or pick up a job without any afterthought. I am still able enough to manage a home and most importantly, the children will not be at the mercy of domestic help.”
While there are aberrations, many women are yet unable to circumvent the barrier raised by their own. The problem lies with entrenched patriarchal values that perpetrate women as submissive creatures, whose sole duty is towards the family, that she is a professional is of no consequence. While women like Bimla Devi have risen above pettiness, there are many others who are yet to step out of age-old social norms and be each other’s support. A frank discussion sometimes helps, but women need to figure out their own means to keep the boat from rocking.
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