If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It?

As the door slammed shut, Arti slumped on the floor. Feeling defeated, she wept bitterly. Moksh’s voice echoed in her ears.

“Buying a flat now is out of the question! How can you even think of it? Who will pay the down payment and EMI? It’s not like you’re working and contributing anything!”

4 years ago when Pakhi was born, they unanimously decided that Arti would be a stay at home mom. His parents lived with them and were happy to help, but it wasn’t a good idea to depend on them to care for such a young child. Arti was keen to care for her child and readily agreed to quit her well-paying job.

When Pakhi was a year old, Arti started art & craft classes at home. She also went back to oil painting and making decorative items for friends and family. She sold some but most often, she would give them away.

She loved the feeling of getting her old life back. Even while in college, she sold her paintings and craft items to earn pocket money. She felt like she was going back in time. Life was good.

About a year back, Moksh’s company went through a major reshuffle. They offered to retain him in a different role. He wasn’t happy but with no option in sight, he accepted. Simultaneously, he began job hunting. That’s when he spoke to her daily about going back to work. Pakhi had started pre-school, was becoming independent and between his parents and Arti, was well looked after.

But every time this conversation came up, Arti would feel cornered and they would argue. She wasn’t ready and felt that she would find something suitable when Pakhi began secondary school.

Moksh was the sole breadwinner and although Arti had investments, most of her savings had almost depleted. Apart from monthly expenses, Moksh paid her extra for her personal expenses. She managed everything within that including buying stuff for her painting and art classes. While working, money didn’t really matter to her. She earned well and spent without a thought. Money was a means to an end only. Now when she was nowhere close to earning like before, the value and importance of money became pronounced.

She became prudent about spending – she budgeted her monthly expenses, stopped spending money on herself (unless absolutely necessary), began exercising at home instead of gymming etc.

She understood that Moksh needed reassurance that if anything untoward happened then she would be there to support the family. Sometimes she sorely regretted quitting her job after childbirth! Yet, she kept resisting and began to hustle like crazy, doing odd jobs that paid her meagerly but made her feel good about herself. She paid for some expenses but it wasn’t enough and she continued to dip into her savings. She would think of breaking her investments but feared that Moksh would find out and it would make matters worse.

She was torn between doing the right thing and doing what was right for her.

Every time they fought, Arti would decide to give up painting, the side hustles and find a job. Job satisfaction or career growth wasn’t the objective. She just needed a regular income. Yet, immediately after, the work she did from home would feel more appealing and empowering.

She felt guilty about understanding Moksh’s position but not doing anything about it!

A nearby apartment was up for sale. She wanted to tell Moksh because they were looking to invest. This morning when she did, he was livid. For the umpteenth time when he ridiculed her for not thinking about their wellbeing and making an effort to find a job, she was heartbroken. Her confidence took a beating and she felt gripped with self-doubt. Being dependent felt humiliating. She realized that earning money wasn’t only about money. It earned you respect and self-worth. But if she felt so strongly about it, then why wasn’t she taking up a regular job? Why was she unwilling to share his financial burden?

Then the penny dropped. In the past, professionally she had faced two huge losses. One time, she was doing extremely well and was being promoted. It meant a great deal to her yet her happiness was short lived because simultaneously, Moksh was offered an overseas posting. She quit and moved with him. Another time, after she’d rebuilt her reputation and credibility, Moksh changed his job and had to relocate. Again, she quit. Both times, his jobs were financially more beneficial than hers were.

Now when she felt alive doing something she loved, she was again being asked to quit. Standing at the crossroad having to choose between her happiness and the family’s happiness, she stubbornly refused to give it all up.

Was she punishing him?

(If Earning Money Would Bring Her Self-Respect, Then Why Wasn’t She Doing It? was first published on Women’s Web on March 7, 2018 / Images source: pixabay)

That Elusive Hug

Often, there are moments in life when all you really need is a ‘hug,’ not diamond earrings or the latest smartphone or a holiday or birthday bash. That tight hug which says “I love you…I won’t let you go…you matter…you’re the best thing to happen to me…I’m lost without you… you make me complete…I need you…”

She missed that hug and it made her feel so alone, helpless and unwanted. Quintessential housewife married into a well-to-do family, she had everything going for her. Yet she was carrying on with life running on emptiness.

Some days she felt emotionally bereft and had nothing more to give yet the expectation remained that she would because of the different roles she played. Often, she justified to herself, ‘they need you, your child needs you, without you the house would fall apart. You have to stand strong to make everything alright.’ But how? Where could she go for that dose of love and affection which was given without any expectation, a dose that was only meant for her well-being and sustenance, that which could keep the fire burning in her heart?

She knew he loved her. He was a good man, a good provider, father and husband. Yet often, he took out his frustrations on her saying things which made her feel as if she didn’t exist. He belittled her, spoke rudely or brushed her off without a thought. Sometimes she yelled back, she stood up for herself and yet there were times she stoically took it all in. In those moments, it wasn’t like she didn’t have anything to say but kept quiet because she cared too much and didn’t want to break their bond any further.

Her child was her lifeline and she did everything to make her comfortable. She knew her child loved her as much but even then, there were times she felt used and tired. Her in-laws were really nice which overwhelmed her, inadvertently forcing her to bend over backwards for them.

She was at a crossroads where everything seemed good yet there was something missing. Was she looking for an acknowledgement for all her hard work when in actuality she was simply playing her role as expected? If life seemed so balanced between the good and the bad, then why did she feel unsatisfied? And amidst it all, she was still surviving, wasn’t she, even though it was a day at a time? How?

Earlier, when the closeness was strong and the brief moments of togetherness aplenty, she could run a mile because she felt his love in her veins. Today, she missed them so badly. Instead she searched for those moments in every chick flick, television serial or book. She loved to read about people falling in love. She relived moments of attraction and bittersweet separation in the lives of star-crossed lovers. She would watch serials only till the lovers openly professed their love. After they did she would automatically lose interest. Sometimes she stopped watching the serials if the protagonists got married, simply because then their lives became dangerously close to her own. She didn’t want to deal with theirs when she was unable to find solace in her own.

Unfortunately, she felt alive only till she was engrossed in watching those movies or serials. Once they ended, the feelings slipped away and she could no longer find them. Soon they became her source of sustenance to continue living.

Sometimes she felt attracted to other men, both young and old. These were not good looking men (the typical Mills & Boons version of tall, dark and handsome that she had grown up reading) but most often they would have strong arms, or they towered over her making her feel protected. She would imagine being kissed, or making passionate love and then sometimes she could also see herself being pulled into their arms for that elusive hug!

Of course, she never acted upon any of these emotions. Did she lack the gumption to exhibit these feelings openly? Sometimes, she did feel similar vibes coming from them too. Was she just being naïve or had she imagined them? Or perhaps that wasn’t the point, at all. These were feelings to be felt not acted upon. They were not meant to be. She wanted those things done to her because she wanted to feel wanted and longed for. Perhaps that was all there was to it.

Suddenly she longed for that feeling of closeness, of being held, of feeling safe within the confines of strong arms. The longing slowly grew so strong that she quickly switched on an episode of a serial that she had seen a thousand times before. Her face broke into a smile as she watched the look of love and desire on their faces, and the momentary lapse of reason when he reached out to her and pulled her close, holding her tight and she reciprocated clinging on to him for dear life.

(That Elusive Hug was first published on Women’s Web on 16 November 2017 / Image source: Flickr, for representational purposes only)

Losing your home twice over!

A random conversation after lunch one afternoon amidst three daughters-in-law (DIL) revealed a startling truth. The youngest amongst the three stated, “mera ghar kahan hain?” (read where is my home?) She continued, “my parents tell me that my husband’s house is my home now while in different ways I’m made to feel like an outsider in that house. So, I really don’t have a home to call my own!”

There was much sadness in her voice. For a moment, there was silence as each one of them felt the same way.

Second DIL added, “I’ve been brought up in a home where girls are revered. We were loved, taken care of, educated and allowed to take up any job or travel on work. Our every whim and fancy was taken care of. That same house (in a way) wrote us off after marriage saying that the property will always have to stay within the family and so would only belong to the son. Even after marriage we would be taken care of, if needed but we would have no say in the family property.”

So, the third DIL, wondered aloud, ‘then what is home? What does it mean to us, as women? We all have daughters, what should we teach them?’

Home is defined as the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. But home is so much more than just a place to live in! It’s where you run to in your hour of need, fear, anxiety. It provides you solace and peace of mind. It protects you from the harshness of the world, allows you to be yourself, takes care of you. It also provides a sense of belongingness and identity.

The second DIL continued, ‘after a really long day at work, I returned home to take care of my cranky 2-year-old daughter. I was very tired and happened to leave my clothes in my mother-in-law’s (MIL) room and forgot to remove them. Instead of simply telling me to do so, she took a picture and forwarded it to her son on Whatsapp and said, “look at what I have to deal with. I have to take care of her clothes also. Does she think that it’s my responsibility to do her work?” One fleeting moment of tiredness led to an evening of unrest at home.’

The third DIL concurred, ‘I have to constantly remind my MIL (in different ways), that this isn’t only your son’s house, it’s mine too! Along with your son, I pay an equal amount of the EMI!’

There is a deeper power play that happens within a home. It’s about control, asserting one’s existence while negating the other’s. It’s also a way to keep women from becoming too comfortable. Being a guest in your own house ensures you’re always living in uncertainty.

One may opt to live separately after marriage instead of moving in with in-laws, but the fact remains that it’s not recognized as your own house. Most often when in-laws come travelling they tend to instil a semblance of their own value system and rules into your home as if they have the right of way and believe that their son wants the same. It’s not mandatory of course, to ask for permission.

It’s generally accepted that the MIL behaves the same way she was treated when she was a young bride. But isn’t this explanation too simple?

When bringing up daughters’ parents tend to do everything in their power to give them a happy childhood within a loving home. They empower them to create their haven there and yet these same parents when marrying off their daughter, retract from that logic saying your husband’s home is your home now! How does that help? And the icing on the cake is that they feel that their daughters are “lucky” to have a place of her own (read husband’s house). Really?!

Yes, there are men who strongly believe that their wives have equal right to their homes too. They’re life partners and as such building a life time of togetherness does call for sharing everything equally. But there are also men who listen and understand a wife’s lament, agree to her sentiments yet simultaneously listen to every word their mother’s say. Is it only because they don’t want to get caught up in the crossfire and don’t want to be seen taking sides? Isn’t that explanation equally simple too?

So, what’s the solution? Should girls be encouraged to become established in their careers, become financially independent, buy their own place (no matter how big or small, how far or near) with their own money before they marry? They might put it up on rent or sell or keep it locked up. But at least they’ll have a place to call their own.

Or should girls be taught to ask for their rights as they deem fit – either at their parental home or in-laws. Women are taught to be strong and independent, then why take away their basic right to a home?



Let’s Face It, men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives!

Most often, even though single women don’t make a concerted effort, they’re open to giving Mr Right a shot if he happens to come along. The Girl is an established professional, well-travelled and very independent. She is someone who can throw her head back and have a good laugh, believes life is an adventure and there are more things to learn and see than possible in one lifetime.


Pottsandpan (PP): Marriage has been on the cards for you for a while now, including subtle pressure from family. How do you deal with it?

The Girl (TG): Well, the questions are subtle as well as overt, specially when you are attending any family function. I start with a nice smile, and politely say “I’m still waiting for the right person.” And if that doesn’t cut it, I just counter it with another smile and say, “well seems like no one wants to marry me!” Both work, depending on which generation in the family I’m talking to.


PP: What are some of the questions people ask when they’re keen to know your marriage plans?

TG: Well they broadly range between…

  • Why aren’t you getting married, don’t you think it’s time?
  • When will you get married? We won’t be able to do any work during your marriage, we are getting old, so marry fast!
  • Well, have you decided you don’t want to get married?
  • If you want to get married, you should start thinking about it seriously!
  • Who are you waiting for? They are all handsome princes at the start and become Johnny Walker as life progresses (yes! Some of my close friends (and business heads) have actually told me this)
  • You look nice, earn well, you travel the world, how come you have not met anyone yet? (Duh! I think in my head, you asked me a question I haven’t been able to answer myself, maybe you can answer it for me!)


PP: What has been the inanest question someone’s asked you about marriage?

TG: I would say the one where someone looked me up from head to toe to determine that I wasn’t a “defective” piece and wondered why I was not married yet. I am sure some people think I am a closet case :-p


PP: What are the 3 key qualities you would want to look for in your future partner? Why do you think they’re important?

TG: In my mind it’s a simple ask. I’m looking for someone who is comfortable in his own skin and therefore is willing to let me be comfortable in mine, someone who is kind and humane and has a sense of humour.

One would think the ask is simple, but apparently, it does not come easy.


PP: In general, the usual expectations from a marriage have been buying a house together, a car, traveling to exotic locations – now you’ve already accomplished all that by yourself! If and when you do tie the knot what do you think your expectations will be?

TG: The expectation would be to spend the next 30+ years (known as rest of my life) with someone who wants to spend his life with me too. For companionship, for being there when its good and bad, for sharing experiences and actually working together to leave a legacy of sorts, together.


PP: Is marriage really needed today? What are your views?

TG: Marriage as it was known in yester years, where it was more for security, both financial and social is less of a requirement today. Marriage for companionship, for being supportive of each other, to share and to give space to each other seems more the necessity. As an institution, I guess it did build the society, but with women being well educated, supported by their parents, financially well off it is less a “need” and more a choice. The institution nevertheless I believe still needs to exist to give society a framework to go by. I think it gives an arena for one to think beyond oneself and for the larger cause called family, which therefore brings forward the good in people. Not saying that not marrying doesn’t make you good, but marriage does make you put others before yourself.


PP: There was a meme on a social media site recently where at a wedding, the priest is seen reprimanding the groom saying the answer is “I do” and not “I’ll try!” Do you think it reflects the reality of today’s life?

TG: A commitment is a commitment, which is what you exchange as you say your vows (doesn’t matter in what language or religion). The reality of today’s life is things are so abundant that one has a plethora of choices and can move from one to the other very easily. Relationships, marriage, friendships, family ties need to be nurtured and cared for. It’s not an expectation alone which both parties have to live up to but also somewhere they both need to drop the ego and find the middle path for a larger cause. At times, though one party has to walk all the way to the other instead of meeting in the middle. Often, one has to gulp the ego and move forward. This is easier said than done. However, if you are confident that both of you want the same larger cause it’s easier to do and if the cause isn’t common, then drifting apart and justifications become easier.


PP: How long have your parents been married? What do you think has been the secret to their success?

TG: 47 years! I think their ability to respect each other and let go when required was the key. It also underlies love, compassion and understanding each other, which some may call getting used to one another.


PP: What is the one advice they gave you for selecting a life partner? Are they in sync with your views?

TG: It is important for partners to be complimentary in nature, don’t choose someone with the exact same character traits as yourself. Initially I was surprised, but I realized they meant traits and not qualities. I’m strong willed and decision oriented, and need a patient partner to deal with me. Patience isn’t one of my strongest suits, though it may be stronger in comparison to some others.


PP: Have you been meeting prospective partners? What has been your experience? How do these men react and respond to a successful and independent woman like you?

TG: Yes, in spurts, I haven’t made a very concerted effort. The experience has been less than desirable, probably why the concerted effort hasn’t happened. Men like independent, successful women as long as they are not their wives.


PP: What are your views on financial equality in a marriage? Do you think you will be okay if your husband earns less than you?

TG: When I was starting my career, I wanted someone earning equal or more because of the needs one has, to build the basics in life. But at this stage of my life, my views on this is far more liberal since I’m not looking at anyone to take care of my financial needs. Yes, it is ok for my husband to earn less than me, but the “quantum” of less should be defined. I’m used to a certain lifestyle, giving it up almost entirely will not be easy. The same way I don’t fancy being anyone’s trophy wife nor do I suspect that I will ever choose a trophy husband (please remember, that’s not the same as being a house husband).


PP: What is the position that love holds in your life? Between love and respect, which do you think is the most important element in a successful marriage?

TG: I think it is important to have love in your life, to hold someone else dearer to you than yourself. I think love and respect are both equally important in a successful marriage. Respect allows you to be you, otherwise you will be looking for validation or taking out your wrath by being derogatory to others or worse, lose your self-confidence and become a victim. Love is something you feel, you give and you make happen – quite like respect, but a lot more ephemeral. You can see it in simple everyday things which you usually take for granted verses actually appreciating it. That’s because we all “expect” it from our partners, we don’t give them credit for being there all the time, if not physically but emotionally at least.




Should you adjust or compromise?

Life is dynamic with changes happening continuously. Unfortunately, no one likes changes. We may make peace with it, react to it with displeasure or cope with it to the best of our abilities. But it always leaves us feeling unsure, perhaps bitter or dissatisfied with an emptiness within of having lost a way of life.

Most relationships allow for two people to entwine their lives with each other while creating a space for themselves within that twosome. This process is facilitated by either adjustment or compromise. The words are used interchangeably and are considered to be the gospel truth (read advice) that most elders pass on.

Adjustment is the adaptation to a particular condition, position, or purpose while compromise is a settlement of differences by mutual concessions and reciprocal modification of demands.

Depending on one’s state of mind, listed below are a few everyday things that might call for an adjustment or compromise. In some instances, the differences aren’t given due importance because it is believed that they’re inconsequential no matter how much they annoy you. But for others they’re game changers leading to a break-up.

New set of parents – from having one set of parents (and your baggage of issues with them), suddenly you inherit another pair. Often your feelings get transferred or you may develop newer issues! Alternatively, if you’re making an effort to be extra nice, your parents might feel offended that you’re paying them more attention. Simultaneously, blinkered thinking like ‘my parents can do no wrong or they truly want what is good for us,’ can also lead to friction.

New House and a new way of living – in most Indian families it is still expected that after marriage, the girl will live with her in-laws. Being the newest member it is commonly believed that she should adjust and compromise. What isn’t acknowledged is that the other family members also find themselves suddenly having to accommodate a new person they may know nothing about. Thus, an instinctual survival mechanism kicks into gear for everyone. The girl believing that this is her new home (the operative word being ‘home’) tries to recreate her parental home while the others try to instil in her the unsaid rules and regulations of their lives. Clashes begin when there is a discrepancy between the two and each tries to manipulate the other into living their way.

Food – the most essential requirement for living and living well. Interestingly, both partners claim that their mother’s cooking is the best. No matter how well you cook, you can never measure up! Potentially the number one reason for discontentment, is it stupidity to even try? It often starts here and gradually moves on to feelings of intrusion in other areas. So, what whets your appetite? Fish head cooked with lentils, spicy food, experimenting with different kinds of meat, eating nearly raw food, too much sugar or bland food, ‘healthy’ eating. Are you irritated with coffee brewed incorrectly, whole garam masala in your food, inconsistency in the thickness of dal, tea not strong enough, or frying onions and potatoes together not separately? Life of course, gets even more interesting in a regional marriage!

Sleeping habitsThe early bird catches the worm or early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, may ring true for some people but not if you’re a night owl. Do you prefer to sleep hugging a pillow or on your stomach or tend to rotate or slide down the bed? Do you kick in your sleep or dream aloud or simply snore? Is your partner constantly reminding you of how much sleep you require? Do you like to read or surf the net or watch TV before going to bed?

After sex rituals are as stressful as the inability to reach orgasm or making love in certain positions. Do you rush to clean up immediately after? Do you light up a smoke? Do you turn around and start snoring? Does the sex act make you feel alive and awake, so you go watch more TV or read? Do you put a pillow between yourself and your partner after you’re done? Lying spent would you rather sleep in the buff or wear your clothes? Do you like to be hugged and fall asleep in your partner’s arms or would you rather sleep comfortably by yourself?

Bathroom habits – Do you like a clean and dry bathroom before every use? Do you finish reading the paper (physically or online) or play a mind game (perhaps Sudoku) while at it? Do you screw back the toothpaste top after use? Do you mess the entire basin area or mirror splashing water? Do you keep the shampoo and conditioner name facing front after use? Do you always forget to switch off the geyser or your towel before a bath? Do you suffer from constipation or irritable bowel syndrome or anything else ensuring that you’re always in the bathroom? Where do you hang the wet towel?

Shopping evokes different feelings. One might go shopping armed with a checklist while the other loves window shopping or buying whatever fancies them. Do you shop to relax and unwind? Do you love mindless walks through malls? Do you enjoy checking out newest gadgets as soon as they’re launched? Do you shop at full price or during sale season?

Your sense of style can vastly effect your interpersonal relationship. Do you dress for comfort, to be presentable or follow fashion religiously? How often do you groom yourself? Is your wardrobe styled to cater to different occasions or do you look the same wherever you go, no matter the occasion? Does your shoe and belt always match? Do you love bright floral prints while your partner likes subdued colours?

Entertaining patterns can be a bone of contention. Do you entertain regularly or only on weekends? Do you always entertain at home leaving you responsible for cleaning up? Or does your partner prefer the newest eateries in town? How often do you catch up with mutual friends, or office colleagues or family? Does it irk you to constantly spend time and money entertaining the same people?

Choice of relaxation – differs between partners. What’s your ideal holiday? Are you an indoor or outdoor person? Do you like adventurous sports or relaxing on a beach? Do you like a scheduled itinerary when travelling? Closer to home, do you like to laze with a book on weekends or catch up on the latest release? Does it bother your partner that you’re most happy ‘doing nothing?!’ Must you meet up with family and friends together or do you like to do your own thing?

Money matters and your attitude towards it impacts your financial health. The belief that your money is my money and my money is my money can be equally problematic as your money is your money, my money is my money. Some couples agree to mutually break up home and living expenses while some crib that they contribute more than the other. Money gives a sense of power, position, control and stability. Couples can hold differing opinions about how money is earned, what its spent on, the concept of saving and what it offers.

Religious rituals – Each family has its own way of praying, celebrating or making an offering. How tolerant are you of your partner’s religion? Do you have an altar or prayer room at home? Do you take a bath before praying? How often do you visit your place of worship?

A life of togetherness can be lots of fun when you see eye to eye on these matters or else, it becomes a constant battle. Sometimes humour helps dispel these differences. Instead of compromising or adjusting you may simply want your partner to stop or change the annoying behaviour.

The irony is that however you choose to handle the above or react to the problems arising from them determines the longevity and health of your relationship.