Unconditional support

Unconditional support

Are we ready to examine the meaning of the word 'supportive' and figure out what actual support means, asks Krishna Kumari

Madam, hope you’ll be at home for the festival,” the household help asked. “Of course,” I said. “What with Coronavirus and all, we plan to be at home. Why are you asking,” I questioned? “I want to send across sweets for you as soon as I finish making them,” she said. “Oh, nice celebrations planned this time,” I asked.

“Yes, madam. Come what may, every year I will celebrate by making sweets for my family. I am so thankful my husband is supportive now. Don’t you remember how he was abusing me after getting drunk before I took him to the de-addiction centre? Now, at least once in a while, he goes for work and he is not drinking or abusing either. I am so thankful he is so supportive now.”

My thoughts went back to the interview I recorded with a podcast guest earlier in the week. She had said the exact same words. “I have a supportive family.” And then I remembered a few earlier episode recordings as well wherein the guests had said that. What exactly did they mean?

I went back to the raw recordings of these episodes and then did some quick analysis of interviews available on the internet. Yes, most often, this statement came from women. Maybe men don’t say this because they are anyway supposed to have supportive families, right? And, when women said this, they were referring to the family, i.e., mostly the men in the family, not opposing them. The statements go like this: “My family is very supportive. My in-laws are OK with my late working hours… He was quite OK with me deciding to do this course after office hours…. Or to pursue my dream of starting a small business unit…. Of course, that meant I had to get up early finish all work…or work late in the night… I made sure none of my responsibilities at home were affected.” What exactly does this mean? Where is the support here? When did “not opposing” something or “allowing” something become the same as “supporting”?  Right from the household help to highly educated women, we seem to have a common definition for supportive family. Maybe our definition is like this because of the memory and experiences of being opposed, not being allowed, being denied. When do we plan to understand the true meaning of the word “supportive” family? Yes, if we look out for them, we do see rare glimpses of supportive families. Am I referring to the instances where the “family” is pitching in to do the chores around the house, running the house or attending parent-teacher meetings? Do you actually think that qualifies as being supportive? Isn’t the family then just performing their share of the household responsibilities?

There are indeed those rare instances of the family encouraging her in her pursuit of dreams and sometimes even sharing those dreams. Are we ready to understand the true meaning of the word “supportive” and change our definitions so that these instances do not continue to remain rare?

(The author is the host of a podcast that examines challenges faced by today’s Indian woman & proposes actionable strategies set in the Indian context.)