We are here again this week with a wonderful article from a young Computer Scientist from Orissa, Amitabh Mishra. Even though Amitabh is still an eligible bachelor, he dares to enter into a discussion on Women and their role in marriage and in a family, specifically in the context of Oriya women. He gives his view on this topic and you will realize that his observations are very true.
He touches upon the role of the husband in the family, the compromises that are expected of a man when the wife is also working. There are some questions which men should ask themselves. What if I am in a situation where my wife is working too? Will I be ready to make some compromise? Will I be prepared to take care of the family if she is busy? How do we divide the roles? Shouldn't I be cooking when she is taking care of the kids? How many men have asked themselves these questions? Men often take most things for granted when it comes to women. Remember, I said "often". It might not be true for everyone.
The review is by Suparna Behera.
Name: E-mail: AMISHRA@CS.TAMU.EDU Age: 24.5 Occupation: PhD student, Computer science, Texas A&M University Research area: Computer architecture, multi-threaded processing Likes: Classical and light music, cricket and football, P.G. Wodehouse novels. Activites: Play Hawaiian guitar, play tennis and racquetball Milestones: +2 at G. M. College, Sambalpur, 1987 B.E., Electronics & Telecomm Engg, U.C.E., Burla, 1991 Engineer, Tata Engg & Locomotive Co Ltd (TELCO), 1991-1993 Bonded laborer (I mean Graduate student), 1993 Fall onwards
Trying to live up to excellence is always a tough task. I am referring to Umakanta bhai's piece last weekend: a humorous, tongue-in-cheek look at happiness in life. It was my fondest desire to write a humorous piece myself; however, two light-hearted articles in succession, no matter however witty, might well test the patience of a group as socially conscious as ornet. Hence this solemn article.
I will try and discuss the role of the woman in the marriage: the expectations, the unwritten codes of behavior, the prejudices, and the implicit shackles. I know I'm far from being sufficiently qualified to discuss this matter: I'm neither a social scientist, nor married. I approach this issue, therefore, from an excited and enthusiastic layman's point of view. The most exciting book in physics in recent times, for example, comes from Gary Zukav, no physicist himself. He notes that in his child-like wonder, he doesn't need to "unlearn" the modalities of physics in order to subject it to an objective evaluation. My approach bears a significant similarity.
Again, much as I would love to, I can not discuss women in general. Customs and practices in the West are as different from their Indian counterparts as chalk is from cheese, and I would rather limit myself to the Oriya woman for the most part, allowing myself to digress to the Indian dimension once a while. I have a sinking feeling at times, when I know I am terribly out of my depths for the endeavor at hand. This is such a time. (The last time I had this same feeling was when I walked out timidly to bat in the inter-college cricket final, but that is a different, albeit funnier, story.)
Once upon a time, the nature of man's work made possible, and convenient, a vertical division of responsibilities and duties, between the husband and the wife. While winning the bread was man's primary responsibility, taking care of the household, the children, and other chores was the woman's. Many women saw this as the perfect arrangement; more so in affluent families. The wife would be the mistress of the house, having servants around in whom she could entrust duties such as taking care of the children and preparing food. She would be the indirect center of power in the family, and take part in social activities. In less affluent families, however, the woman suffered. There would seem to be no escape from the cruel, daily grind: feed the children, clean the house, see to the husband's needs, sleep, and then begin all over again. From a very tender age, a girl would resign herself to a life of drudgery and menial labor.
Presumably, on the outside, things have changed for the better. Women now go out to work, do not necessarily perform all the household work, and are in a better position to take decisions regarding their careers.
First, I would like to contend that the above state of affairs, although rosy, is not entirely accurate. Second, let us try and find an arrangement by which, the wife and the husband would be individually happy, and the marriage would be a happy one. One might contend that the spouses' individual happiness should naturally lead to the overall success of the marriage. This contention is not necessarily true, as we shall see.
(a) Myth: Women Have Attained Freedom
Not entirely true. Compared to the state of affairs half a century back, things have definitely taken a turn for the better: women have a voice regarding their career-related decisions, go out to work, and have a potentially more fulfilling life.
There are numerous issues, however, that are conveniently skirted. By convenient, I mean convenient to the man. For example, talk to a young, bright girl about what her aim in life is, and nine times out of ten, she will mention "marriage" during the course of her answer. The implicit meaning, of course, being that no matter which career she chooses, she realizes fully well that she might have to have a second look at her priorities once she is married. Most girls would be prepared to forsake their jobs if their husbands prefer it that way. On the flip side of this coin, it is preposterous to imagine men having such an outlook towards their careers.
Do husbands help out their wives with household chores? Social conditioning, I feel, plays a significant role in determining the answer to this question. We have been socially conditioned, since childhood, to expect the woman to shoulder most of the everyday chores. For most men, it seems "natural" that the woman takes care of the majority of daily chores. Do I have a feeling that we expect our wives to perform well at their full-time job in addition to household work? Is it because a man's job, his career, is considered more important than the woman's?
A reasonable guess would be that the man's career would not be half as important if the woman earned more than him. Yet, how many of us will find that scenario acceptable? Would we not think hundred times before marrying a girl who might earn more than us?
(b) It Doesn't Take Two Happy Individuals to Make a Happy Couple
It would be too voluminous to list here all the women who have undergone small sacrifices in their lives or careers, in order to keep the marriage going. Most do it because they feel that to be the most sensible thing to do. Some do it because they do not know any better! Suppose the husband gets a better-paying job in a different city, although the wife might probably have to take a cut in her salary. Do they stay back? No! They move on! The wife would mull over her misfortune for a few days, but will soon forget it and move on. The marriage will survive not because there are two happy human beings, but because one of them sacrificed some aspect of personal fulfillment. The scary thing is, the woman might be making the sacrifice in nine cases out of ten.
(c) Is There a Way to Make Both Happy?
I'm sure there is. It would be a violation of the basic tenets of nature if it were not possible to find out a way to make both partners happy in a relationship as fundamentally equitable as marriage. Possibly, the correct first step will have been taken if both realize that human beings are created equal. Under no circumstances should there be a feeling that one's career, or responsibilities, are more important than the other's. A relationship succeeds only if it is fair. We should be fair to our spouses; consequently, to ourselves. Only by being fair to our spouses can we ensure that there will be no lingering grudges preserved in the long run.
As expected, no earth-shattering revelation came out of my discussion. At the peril of sounding holier-than-thou, I posed some questions. Even if it benefits none else, it has been most beneficial to me, if you would care to believe me. A relationship can not survive in a sound and wholesome form unless we take care to see that it is fair to both partners at each and every stage. It is a difficult, albeit worthy, goal. We must realize that men and women are equal not only theoretically, but practically, too. The external manifestation of that equality may take differing forms; however, that basic truth must not be forgotten. The realization may safely be trusted to help maintain a strong, healthy and vibrant marriage.
The only way to survive modern marriage is by compromise and adjustments made by both partners. The sacrifices made can never be a perfect ratio of 50-50, but it should be as balanced as possible, once 40-60 and another time 70-30. The main criteria for successful marriage should be trust, good communication and appreciation of the adjustments the partner has made. It would be a good thing to teach the next generation not to be prejudiced about the male, female work division by setting an example and sharing all chores as equitably as possible. (The last comment is my own view).
The author has some very good views about how to make a marriage work vis a vis the role of women in it. I hope this will give rise to some introspection about harmony in marital life.
Your comments are always welcome...
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