Updated: May 5, 2020
It’s nearly inevitable to be travelling ‘alone’ in our country; we are always surrounded by people. Not too long ago, on a 4-hour train ride I found myself surrounded by a group of people in the train talking about a girl’s education and how things are massively changing in the country. Here’s how the conversation went:
Guy 1: Aaj-kal pata nahi ladkiyon ko kya laga hai? Degree pe degree ikatha kar rahi hain!
Guy 2: Woh hi. Bachelor kar liya… zaruri tha… masters kar liya thik tha… doctrate bhi karni hai research bhi karni hai.
Woman: Humari ladki ko hi dekhiye… abhi masters khatam hi kar rahi hai aur ab PhD ki tyaari kar rahi hai...
The conversation went on for a while, narrowing down to- what’s the point for girls to study so much, when eventually they would get married, have children and run the household. My instantaneous reaction to this in my head was- “ignorant, that’s why our country lags behind”. I started to dig a little deeper a few minutes later- what would be the reason for the girls to just study and not apply it? How many women do I know who have a full-time job?
When I graduated, my natural instinct was that I need to get a job and start earning; there was hardly a second thought in my head about going for masters immediately. I would work for a few years, get some job experience and then plan for masters. While this was natural to me, most of my friends (irrespective of gender) were planning for higher education before actually starting to work.
When looking at the student cohort gender diversity that would go for masters, I noticed that most of the students who actually did their masters right after graduation were girls. This led me to further thinking why don’t women follow the same pattern as men do?
While the government has tried to do a fair job of educating women through government schemes like the- “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” campaign, there is a fundamental gap of “what next?” Merely educating masses (men or women) does not cut it; we need to have sources to channelize that education and skill set as well.
We all have probably heard of the phrase- “behind every successful man there is a woman”; on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was made aware of a situation that would make this phrase undergo edits!
At my previous workplace, my profile in a cultural exchange non-profit organization enabled me to meet various kinds of families in order to give the students coming to India from abroad a place to live and judge their likelihood of hosting the students.
In that context, I was meeting a happy family of four- husband, wife and two daughters. During my work, I would find it extremely hard to talk to parents- especially the father, owing to his business or job responsibilities. Unlike most other times, this time the family was very welcoming and the parents were available to meet. Upon visiting, I talked to the couple and noticed that the husband was doing most of the talking, about the house and everything in relation; too soon to judge, I gave a patient ear. I spent the next hour at their place getting to know them more and talking to the children who were willing to have another ‘sister’ in their lives.
I soon realized that the man was actually taking care of all the household responsibilities. He works from home and in addition takes care of all household chores - from making meals to taking care of the children. This was a rather unknown term for me- a house-husband? I was pleasantly surprised.
One might think that this is just temporary or a transition phase in the couple was undergoing; surprisingly not- the couple have this arrangement for nearly half a decade now! The wife has a full-time job; she would leave early in the morning and not be home before 7 PM on most days; while the husband would work remotely and take care of everything in the house.
From my interactions, I could not notice even a minor ego-conflict or tension between the couple, but rather a calm loving bond between the two.
To the most millennial and Gen Y mindset, all of this might seem news and something that has never happened before. Today we are far from reaching equality, the current generation would say so, and most certainly true. But, today I also ask you this question- would you know of such a scenario 10 to 15 years ago?
While this ‘revelation’ of a house-husband was intriguing to me, speaking to many friends in Bangalore, I realized that this is not an exception or rarity. The figures of the number of men who are okay with their wife being the ‘bread-winner’ are changing at a large scale.
A successful marriage is one in which there is mutual trust, faith and understanding; which is not formed by what the opinions of what the society or people have to say. Happiness in a relationship can only be achieved when there is no dominance of one partner over the other.
In conclusion, I realized two things:
Education is not everything. Education would definitely give us a good head start, but realizing that education is not the destination, is important. We need to encourage our girls to also take steps to start working and feeling emotionally and financially independent. Only through the practical implementation of the knowledge inculcated while studying, do we start to develop a character and thus draw an actual learning out of it.
Wouldn’t you dislike hearing a conversation I heard in the train?
Conventional role reversals are okay!!! Men- such a situation does not challenge your masculinity; women- such a situation will not challenge your femininity; nor make the man useless, for not providing for his family. It’s okay for the society to be changing and questioning the age- old stereotypical ideas of work and act on it. It’s okay for the man to take care of the house. It’s okay for the woman to earn and come home late. It’s okay for the man to cook and serve his wife. It’s okay for the woman to take calls for work. It’s okay! We have surely come a long way since the initiation of the whole ‘march towards equality talks’, where it was all talk and no action, moving towards empowering our women, but work still needs to go in. A big thank you to all the men and the women, who constantly question the society’s beliefs and work towards the eradication of wrong ideas, dwelled in our society. People themselves have made this unimaginable scenario a possibility today, and it would be great to hear this more often - “Behind a successful woman, there is a considerate man!”