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Himanshu Roy

IWB Blogger

This Is How Gruelling It Can Become For A Woman Breadwinner Living In A Patriarchal Family

  • IWB Post
  •  July 15, 2017


February 2017

Surprisingly, the auditorium was majorly filled with people whom one wouldn’t generally expect in a motivational talk.

Instead of the college going students for whom the session was meant, there were mostly middle-aged men and women, presumably their parents, at the venue.

There was a reason behind it. The speaker was known to many of them. Some knew him personally while others had read about him in business magazines.

His story was one that everyone wanted to be a part of, especially people from the middle-class who wished to establish themselves as entrepreneurs.

The speaker was at the backstage, signing copies of the book that he had co-authored with his wife. However, he felt that it was his wife who should be delivering the talk but despite insisting she made him take the spotlight.

The speaker did a quick revision of the things that he would say on the stage. The various rules of entrepreneurship and how one shouldn’t lose hope.

He clearly knew how most of the motivational talks these days were very similar, verging on the brink of getting boring.

A man in his early thirties walked towards him to get his book signed.

“Your story is riveting and very inspiring. It actually gives us the hope that we too can actually make something of our lives.”

“Thank you. But as my wife who is also my co-author would say, there’s no big deal in what we have managed to do. Ours is a simple story and we are grateful that the world gave us a chance to narrate it.”

For the next few minutes, he did small talk with other men and women who wanted to meet him. Many of them wanted to meet his wife and were disappointed to learn that she had to be at a business meeting.

Amidst all this, he couldn’t help but think about that day eight years ago, when their life took some unexpected turns and brought them where they are today.

He also pondered over the fact that how his father, who was almost always right about everything in life, was terribly wrong that single time.

October 2008

A letter rested on his desk, his colleagues chattered casually nearby.

Sameer blankly stared at the white envelope with his name typed over it. There was nothing special about it and looked identical with the countless official documents he would handle every day.

Global recession! He was not unfamiliar with the word and like most other players in the financial market, would often voraciously engage in discussing its impact during drawing room discussions.

Even in his current state of mind, Sameer couldn’t help but note the irony. He had discussed Goldman Sachs and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers but never quite thought that he would have to forsake his own job.

He didn’t know what he will say to Swati. A few years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to face his father, who was then alive.

“It’s a man’s duty to be the breadwinner of his family, as the woman looks after the house. There’s no excuse for not being able to fend for one’s family,” his father would often say.

A man of strong principles and a gentle heart, such was his father Rajesh Gupta. He was not conservative in the traditional sense of the word but his idea that women shouldn’t work didn’t change until the end of his life.

Sameer grew up in a house which was hunched under the iron clout of his father and didn’t really get a chance to develop his own beliefs.

His marriage to Swati was an arranged one, again by his father. A business graduate herself, Swati had to be content with managing the household chores while Sameer would toil as a financial analyst to climb up the ladder that would give the family a better living.

Now, it gradually started to sink in that his services, were no longer required in the company. He knew that his savings would be enough for them to sail smoothly for few months but then things would start to get difficult.

The chances of landing a job in another reputed company at the time of recession were slim and instead of hope, Sameer only felt a void that he didn’t know how to fill.

He was not among the best when it came to work. Of course, he was more than adept at the stuff that came in the usual course of everyday work, but more than once Sameer had heard his seniors say that he lacked the financial brain.

Of course, he knew the reason behind this. It’s because he took up the career as a financial analyst on the insistence of, again, his father. His self-interest lied in starting his own venture, which never quite materialized.

That day, Sameer went home not knowing how to face his wife, uncertain about their future and the fact that he, for the first time in his life couldn’t match his father’s idea of a man, the breadwinner of the family.

February 2016

It wasn’t until the middle of the talk that he noticed that unlike most other days, every person in the auditorium was completely engrossed in the words that he spoke.

He realized that it was because of his decision of not speaking about the usual stuff such as business goals and conventions but concentrating the talk around a personal anecdote.

“You’ve lost your job but think about the opportunities that this has opened up for you,” Swati had told him.

At first, he didn’t quite make anything from what she was saying. Sameer has just been terminated from his job, he wasn’t sure about the future and there was barely any opportunity in that which he could foresee.

But slowly, his wife had made Sameer understand that finally, he could start his own business, staying away from his half-hearted efforts of being a financial analyst.

“You know, I didn’t tell you but I had been applying at some places for the last few months as I knew it will get worse in the recession. I have got an offer too and now I should consider it.”

And thus, his wife had held on to the fort for the months when he didn’t have a job and was trying to set up his business. It was her income that had run the family for that time.

At the end of the talk, he noticed the audience clapping as they could relate to his narrative. They were successful entrepreneurs today, all because of the fact that he managed to shred over the inhibition that roles in the family are not decided on the basis of gender.

For the first time in his life, he felt happy to know that his father was wrong. He was grateful for that.

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