As a working woman who also raised a kid and kept home and hearth in relative good shape, I went through a gamut of experiences. There was guilt that I was not around enough to send out tasty, imaginative lunch for the daughter, or that I was not the home maker that I was expected to be, and because I felt I was not doing my best at work. There were judgements galore – I was not a good enough mother or a good family person; I have been called stridently feminist, bossy and ambitious as though these were a crime. I drove myself around the bend for years by trying to be the best at everything and failed miserably.
I wanted to find out if there were other women like me who were driven, passionate about their work and ambitious; and how they survived the toxic cocktail of judgement, societal expectations, years of social conditioning and continued to live their lives to the fullest. I spoke to some of the smartest, most accomplished women of our times and I asked them for the strategies they adopt to live the life they want. ‘Devi, Diva or She Devil’ is funny, real, thought-provoking, chockfull of anecdotes from the lives of these women and it has somehow evolved into a sort of survival guide for the career woman.
Thoughts about the pressure on the woman to excel in all fields: career, home, while there is no such pressure put on a man…
This is a tough one and there are as many views but I think social conditioning has a lot to do with the fact that a man has go to work and is free from other responsibilities back at home. This is changing slowly and a lot of men are now taking on responsibilities at home but I find it strange that we then celebrate these men as “evolved” men. How does taking your kid to the doctor or getting him to do his homework make a man evolved? He was part of the two people who made that baby and it should be the most natural thing for him to share responsibilities with his mate!
Women, largely, have had to struggle and fight for everything they have got including the right to an education that can take them to the career they want. They are also aware that workplaces are largely male dominated, especially the higher they go; they work doubly hard to prove themselves, to make sure they do not fail or let themselves down. Thanks to years of social conditioning women have internalised the message that no matter what else they do, they have to be the best mother, home maker and everything else rolled into one. I remember film director Farah Khan telling me one day that even when she is on outdoor location for extended periods of time, she calls the staff back home to make sure the kids get their snacks on time, do their lessons and follow a routine to the T.
Olympian Mary Kom spoke about the trauma of having to leave her newborn twins back home and live in training camps, as she prepared to become India’s pioneering female boxer. We women take on a lot of responsibility for ourselves and want to do play each of our roles perfectly. It is not the best way, it is not the only way but then, it is also what makes us who we are.
About the writing initiatives ‘Get Writing!’, ‘Writing with Women’ and ‘Telling Our Stories’
I often came across people who said they secretly hoped to write stories, but were clueless how to do it. With ‘Get Writing’ (workshop series, started five years ago) I hoped to be able to kick-start the writing journeys of such people.
‘Telling Our Stories’ came out of the stories that my grandmother and grandaunts told us. I wanted to know about how life was back in the days when the British ruled us. Over the years I have seen our senior citizens go silent as we got busy with our lives. Nobody has the time to listen to their stories because we are too busy reading about the lives of strangers who have become our FB “friends”. I worry that if we don’t listen to and document the stories of our ageing population, we will miss out on a precious chance to know about the times bygone, our own ancestors and the evolution of our cities.
WWW (Writing with Women) is a project for women who were not comfortable with talking or reading out their experiences in a mixed group class. When women write down their stories, it is not just about them. Through their stories we get a peek at social milieu of the times – family structures, gender equations. Unfortunately, far few women think of documenting their experiences.
(MOG Sunday will host bestselling author Sudha Menon on January 8 at 11 a.m. at MOG, Pilerne. She will speak on ‘The Voice Behind the Words: The Triumphs and Travails of Women.’ The event is open to all.)