Working hard, staying happy

Working hard, staying happy

They are married, but not mothers. They are alone, but not lonely. There are quite a few Indian women today determined to make their careers soar high, even if it means never getting married or having kids, observes Vimla Patil...

They head banks, companies, manufacturing units, event creating agencies, and IT companies. They are artists, creative heads of agencies, TV and film directors, technicians, writers, music directors, sound engineers, heads in the editing laboratories, heads of political parties, bikers, and gamers.

They are married, but not mothers. They are alone, but not lonely.Many industries no longer have fixed hours of work, thereby demanding all the energy and time of a professional. An ambitious woman needs her space to climb the ladder of success.

She needs to be able to relocate to cities around the world. She needs opportunities to know different people and cultures. She needs the  freedom to make such choices without worrying about who will be affected by it or who will look down upon her for it. A headstrong and determined woman may marry, but choose not to have kids. And there are still some other women who choose not to marry at all. For such women, it is a small price to pay for the high of success and fame.

Dr Isha Choksi is a thirty-five year old, happily married woman. She has no children, by choice. She is the chief of the head and neck cancer department of one of best hospitals in India and has worked hard to reach the top and make a name for herself as an expert in her chosen field. Isha works nearly 18 hours each day and has a one-to-one relationship with every patient and his or her family.

“I barely get a chance to see my husband. He is an eye surgeon and travels across the world to demonstrate new techniques in his branch of surgery. Both of us are so busy with our careers that when we meet, we celebrate the evening with an exotic dinner or a quick time-off for a weekend,” Isha says. “I married late by Indian standards and took time choosing my partner. Fortunately, I met Ashish Choksi at my workplace and he agreed that each of us should be free to pursue our dreams without any hindrance. So we have no children to tie-us down and we are not committed to any ‘daily duties’. We have love and trust for each other and the assurance that we will be there for each other when needed.”

Isha and Ashish may be counted among a small minority of Indian couples who are breaking the traditional ‘education, marriage, home, children and senior age’ cycle to create a new way of life for young men and women in India. Like Isha, there are a growing number of new-age professionals and entrepreneurs, who prefer to go DINK (Double Income, No Kids) or even stay single. Many women, these days, marry only when they find a partner whose views on marriage match theirs. They are subverting one of strongest traditions of Indian society – that women are born to be (and are almost worshipped as) home-makers and mothers.

Demanding family dynamicsMarriage is no longer an easy bond to maintain, when women are neck-to-neck on the professional front with men. Truth is: marriage and motherhood demand too much sacrifice on the part of the woman. If both husband and wife are  professionals or super successful, there is often an unseen, but latent, stressful one-upmanship because an Indian man is brought up to ‘be in control’ and not ‘under the thumb of his wife’. They hate to be known as ‘x’s husband’ and are not used to giving a helping hand in running a home or bringing up children. The result is that even though the wife is driven to exhaustion by her work and housekeeping pressures, no one is happy. She can never do it all.

“Happy marriages are becoming fewer and fewer,” says Vasanti Vaidya, a top IT executive. “And increasingly, women are refusing to accept the stress which comes from the ego hassles at home and at  workplace,” she maintains.

“Even a super high achiever like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson of Biocon Ltd, Bangalore, has said that she married John Shaw, a foreigner, because ‘Indian husbands do not look kindly upon an      extraordinarily successful wife’. Kiran has featured in the Forbes list of the world's 100 most powerful women for years and is a member of the board of governors of the Indian School of  Business and the Indian  Institute of  Technology, Hyderabad,” adds Vasanti.However much we progress, she believes, only a few men can accept and cheer on the success of their wives. “Most make the wife’s life miserable if she is more successful, more popular, or worse, if she earns more,” she asserts.

No crooning over husbands“Managing families is a huge responsibility. A co-operative husband, if found, is an asset. But he too can become bitter if the wife is busy and happy with her  profession,” says Lalita Bedi, an interior decorator. “Some husbands are suspicious and accuse wives of having fun at the workplace or going on official tours with colleagues. Increasingly, headstrong women are not willing to pamper such husbands. They dream of designing their own lives and careers. They want financial self-reliance and recognition for their skills and talents. Such recognition is the elixir of their life, because everyone, even the most severe critics and those who envy such women, have to admit that they have risen on their own merit.”

Society is changing to accept the new Indian woman – at least in urban India -and the world over, new business networks and societies accept that women will head important positions in several industries.

‘Personal space’ is the anthem of the current age. Live-in relationships or     having a male partner without marriage is now better understood in society than before. A woman does not have to label herself ‘married’ to fulfill her natural instincts. She can seek support, love,   respect, and sex from a man who understands her and is willing to have a relationship which suits them both.

Going DINK, being a couple without  commitments, or choosing live-in relationships are lately the in-thing with Indian women as such relationships come with minimal accent on housekeeping.

Once upon a time, women in India – and indeed the world over as media proves – were expected to be proud ‘housewives’. They were praised for being ‘excellent homemakers’ and ‘mothers’. In this decade, though, able and ambitious women believe nothing can stop them from achieving great heights, professionally, and go the extra mile to make it true.

As leading anthropologist and sociologist Irma Marla says, “Women in the 21st century want to lead their life on the same eye-level as men. They want to take up any workplace or career which suits their skills, expertise and ability. Only they have the right to decide what is "dignified" or “correct” and what is not.

Modern society cannot go back in centuries to restrict the ambitions of women anymore.” Being responsible for no one and being a burden to nobody has its perks as well as challenges; the new-age woman is learning to live with them.

Loneliness, motherhood instincts, and the feeling of being “incomplete without a man” are just a state of mind and can be got over by changing their lifestyle, they believe. And quite a few women in leading positions have already proven that. 

Comments (+)