She works at a booming media company. He’s writing a book. She works at an Indian IT giant. He’s quit his job to make films.
These are real-life examples of married couples who are changing the gender roles and stereotypes in urban Indian families. A large chunk of working wives are now breaking glass ceilings in top positions on the professional front, while their better halves are taking a back seat to follow their own dreams.
In a nation that is predominantly patriarchal, how does this role-reversal affect the marital relationship? Does it alter one’s social standing? Are we, as a nation, going to think twice before making sexist remarks?
Breaking Social Barriers
Author Chetan Bhagat, quit his high-flying banking job and moved back to India when his wife, Anusha, became the Chief Operating Officer of UBS Bank. “I was apprehensive about being dependent on my wife’s income. I had no idea that I could earn well from books.
Even though I never really took money from my wife, the idea was unsettling as it just isn’t the societal norm,” he says. So, how difficult is it to accept the role reversal? Sonali Gupta, a psychologist at Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a private practitioner says, “Understanding and respect for each other’s careers is the key while reversing roles.
This old order is visibly changing among the middle class and upper class couples who are in their early and mid-30s.”
With the rise of alpha women and beta men, it is the wife who is now acquiring financial muscle, giving rise to a new balance of power in the domestic arena. “I think people judge you. I think a man judges himself.
That is why so few men are able to do it. For a while, until people actually realised I am doing well financially, people asked me, ‘You mean your wife goes to office and you don’t?’ It is difficult to respond to such questions,” asserts Chetan.
Take the case of Subodh and Jhanvi Das from Kolkata. She buckles down at her hectic corporate job while Subodh pursues his dream of directing movies. “It is not very easy,” Jhanvi confesses. When Subodh decided to pursue film-making full-time, they faced the music from both families.
In addition to mounting expenses, moving away from the social stereotype brought with it curiosity from unexpected quarters. “From nosy neighbours to even our building security, everyone has just one thing to ask ‘Saab! Aaj (bhi) office nahi gaye?’ Now how do I explain what I do!” laughs Subodh.
Matter of Choice
As corporate jobs get more demanding with 12-hour shifts, the trend to follow the non-corporate path is redefining the way men look at creative pursuits. Chennai-based Ram Iyer is currently on a sabbatical from his high-paying IT job to pursue his passion for music. “I used to try and balance both, but beyond a point one cannot ride in two boats.
The music industry is very competitive by nature and you have to be available 24/7 to get anywhere,” explains Ram. For him, the decision worked in his favour because of his supportive wife, Kavya who works in an advertising agency. She strongly believes that equal opportunity is not only about allowing women to enter the corporate path as equals but to empower men as equals in non-traditional roles.
In a country, where women are occupying swanky CXO corner offices and men are taking a break, couples, in their early 30s, like Mumbai-based Gaurav and Mishti Thapar don’t let themselves be confined by social expectations and trappings.
“Half a decade ago, I had a high-profile retail sector job while Mishti was setting up her venture, innerkatha.com,” he says.
Gaurav decided to take the risk, quit his fat-paying job and set up his own mobile application venture once Mishti was in a comfortable economic space. Men, according to Gaurav, are not insecure anymore about being bankrolled by their wives.
For these young and raring-to-go couples, change and challenge seem to be the only constant. They are happy to thrive in uncertainties to carve out a better tomorrow. As they say, no guts, no glory! More power to this breed!