When one reminisces on the nostalgia of their ancestors, it alas dawns how fast time changes and flies. As yesterday’s toddler turns into tomorrow’s teenager, they become unrecognizable for more reasons than just those that surface. A praiseworthy young- today’s woman is likely to have been a defamed lady just a generation ago, while the expectations of a man from his family have since multiplied. Attribute it to feminism, liberalism, or modernism, one cannot deny the transformational, and seemingly permanent, changes in gender roles.
Seeking to now prioritize their own gratifications over others’, a today’s woman is more determined than ever to make a name and life for and by herself. As exemplified in Gauri Shinde’s popular directorial debut English Vinglish, the days now are such that mature Indian ladies are also keen to shift (read defy) the preconceived notions of a silent, submissive and self-sacrificing Indian wife and mother. Looking locally, many of our leading ladies even proudly aspire to enact previously-masculine roles, both professionally and personally. “A woman’s place is not only at home,” says Deepa Nainani, co-founder of Print Plus, as she cautions the males to cap their chauvinism. This is undoubtedly a drastic shift, especially for those men who idealized themselves coming home to husband a typical Indian housewife.
While most men are reluctant to have their ladies completely dependent on them – financially or otherwise – a loving man is more likely to encourage his wife to enjoy a luxuriously relaxing day than work at a job. This is largely driven from a man’s yearning to protect and please his damsel and to feel successful; when he sees his wife genuinely happy he instinctively perceives it as his achievement and takes credit for her joy, which thus boosts his own self-worth and confidence.
Unknownst to her husband’s unconscious needs to feel heroic, a typical today’s woman from generation Y may insist on realizing her own professional dreams and make better use of her rich education and modern ideas. With women in almost every professional field now, the results of their persistence are for all to see; “ambitious women contribute [just as] much to the economy and society,” reckons Neerja Sujanani, co-Founder of Print Plus. As a woman radiates herself professionally, her peers promptly cheer her on as they get inspired by the transformation of an invisible show-piece-like domestic lady to a respected, self-made, and contented woman. Soon enough, the husband adapts to respectfully surrender his egoistic heroism and maintain greater domestic equality as he alas realizes and appreciates her for who she really is.
Traditionally, and rather ironically, it was the mother-in-law most likely to object against this shift. Her suppressed emotions of jealousy, anger, fear and sadness for not having the liberty or conviction to do the same in her own time is likely to incline her daughter-in-law to be just as obligingly obedient – and miserable – as she was. In contrast, most of the modern mother-in-laws are able to resonate with, empathise and even see their own youthful aspirations reflected through their daughter-in-law’s sentiments. Illustrious local entrepreneur Ranoo Wasan credits her mother-in-law for being the impetus that encouraged and supported her throughout her shift. The continuing backing she receives till date helps reinforce her passion in her profession, and also leads her to be a happier and more self-expressed woman with her family too.
Rather than being overwhelmed, most women in fact revel in their various roles and relations. As internationally renowned novelist Shobha Nihalani reveals, a disciplined effort of planning and organization often sees a woman enjoy, and largely succeed at, multitasking their countless professional and personal duties. Further, with the aid of several gadgets and apps, in addition to hired help, a woman’s prowess at donning several hats is indeed now second to none. This being said though, one is rest assured that today’s women still have all their maternal instincts and feminine emotions well intact, and will not even think twice when personal circumstances request them to instantly sacrifice their professions for the priority of their family.
When one looks back, they may see this era as when the shift happened. In some places the changes may have been more stark, and they may have happened sooner on some shores than others, but in retrospect most men and women would thankful that it happened. Herein both genders have rid themselves of inertia and their old conditioning, and have finally opened themselves up to be present to the possibility of wholeheartedly expressing, being and doing what they truly are and desire, as well as allowing the same for all those dear to them. Unsurprisingly, the subsequent results have been largely positive and we welcome this change with open arms.