“Hey Mansi, Paneer Tikka is delicious. You are such a good cook. I can never get the flavors so perfect!”, I exclaimed genuinely after tasting the Paneer Tikka, from the cooking dish. Mansi was all set to plate it in a copper tray.
Mansi and Manav, my college friends had invited us for dinner, over the weekend. Their love story had started in college, Manav was our senior (Mansi’s and mine) and programming language workshops had brought them closer. It was one of the few love stories that lived even after college ended.
“Thanks! I will accept your compliment today as I, and not my cook, have cooked this Paneer Tikka”, she giggled.
I joined her in giggling and started adding coriander leaves on Paneer cubes. It was perfect, in taste and in look.
“Can I ask you something Mansi?” I looked at her, there was a question in my mind for a long time.
“Shoot! You of all people, do not need my permission”, she gave her consent, not even looking at me, giving her entire concentration on plating.
“I have always seen Manav supporting your professional life and he also understands that if you have to work full time, then things at home will have to be compromised. But don’t YOU ever feel like taking a break? I see you work so hard, and you have a good social circle. You are always in office, and also manage partying over weekends. I know you need your “me” time but do you think its worth it? You have always been a feminist, even in college, but does feminism means, competing with your partner? If you can have a happier life by giving up your career then why are you so hell bound to work? Some time back you told me how Manav’s relatives taunt at you because of you working status and I have seen you getting frustrated as well. Then why are you still putting up with everything, is ambition more important than a peaceful family life?”
Mansi was intently listening to me. I knew it was not the first time, that, she was questioned about her choices in life but it was definitely the first time from me. We had been best friends since college and I guess she didn’t expect such traitor-ship from her bestie.
“Hmm…..so you are saying that I am not a good wife, mother, and a good daughter-in-law, because I chose to work, and because I party with my friends for “me” time?” Mansi asked me with a raised eyebrow.
“No No Mansi, I did not mean to say that. And you know it. All I am trying to say is that what keeps you going after so many adversities?” I clarified, knowing too well that how much it must hurt her being questioned by me.
“Its just like this Paneer Tikka, Paneer cubes, spices, coriander and this copper tray depend on each other to make the prefect dish. Let me explain, do you remember our programming workshops? Where we first met Manav?”, Mansi asked, testing my memory.
“Off-course, how can I forget? You were totally smitten by his demeanor and intelligence in the first class itself. And I also remember how you had made the first move. I was so surprised then, had never expected that from an introvert like you”, I winked at Mansi.
“Yes, I was an introvert and still am. Manav is different, there is something about him that attracted me then and now. I had not realized it then, we were young, not mature enough. Love was just a rosy feeling, it was more about dates, gifts, kisses and making out I guess. After about an year of our dating, Manav and I had grown very comfortable with each other. Trust was building in our relationship and one day he let off his guard. He told me about his worst fear.”
I just nodded indicating Mansi to continue.
“Manav’s father had an almost fatal accident when Manav was 8. And from that tender age, he had lived in fear of loosing his father. He had lived an insecure life worrying about his and his mother’s future, god forbid, if something happened to his father. The day he told me about this incident, I think he just wanted to share it with someone. He probably thought that I would understand. But to be frank, I didn’t. I didn’t understand his fears that day, because I always had a comfortable life. My father has always been healthy with a good job and my mother has always been deft at taking care of home.”
Mansi paused for a moment, as if gathering her thoughts. I am sure, if someone other than me had asked her this question, then she would have given an outrageous reply.
“By the end of college we were sure that we wanted to take our relationship further and after 3 years we got married. Both of us were working and there was immense pressure on me to quit after marriage. I still remember when one of his aunties mentioned about how I should change my priorities since I was married now and Manav immediately came to my rescue saying he wanted me to continue with me job. At that moment I felt proud of him, for supporting me and my ambitions. Life was blissful other than regular bragging from his relatives about me not being a good wife. And then 2 years later, I conceived. When I broke the news to Manav, he was ecstatic!” Mansi was smiling, she was lost in the memories of that moment.
“But after a few days, I felt he was changing, he was tensed, he wouldn’t sleep properly. He worried about his job and would sit making excels on how our expenses are going to increase after our baby came to our life. I was getting impatient and one day, I was trying to introspect if any of my actions had caused the change in behavior. Slight jitters were natural but Manav’s behavior was not OK. It made me tense and I didn’t want to be. Finally it struck me that his childhood fears were coming true. He was worried that his unborn child would have the same fears about his dad, since I was planning to take a break from work. And break generally becomes permanent. We all know that.”
“So I casually mentioned to him once that I am planning to continue working after my extended maternity leave gets over. That was it. And here I am, Yes, I work and I also party. I know you are still not convinced. You might be thinking that Manav should have been stronger, its his duty to support his family, how can he expect his wife to work because he is insecure, not all men have fears like this, but still their wives chose to have a career. And for that I will tell you my dear friend, that its not about insecurity. Its about companionship. In a marriage, husband & wife depend on each other and there is nothing wrong in it. Years back, some norms were made, due to the circumstances then, that husband earns and wife manages the house. It was indeed a perfect setup. I have been brought up in such a setup and I have enjoyed every bit of my childhood. BUT, now when I look back, I have also seen my dad returning from office, tensed about his work, whether he will still have his job next day. And, I have also seen my mother, struggling to fulfill her household duties when she had high fever and her body cried with pain and fatigue. Not that they were not in love with each other or did not want to support each other. They were just helpless, due to the norms of the society. Due to an in-built belief that this is how life should be. For me, its not companionship, its compartmentalization.”
“The time we live in now, as a girl child, we had an opportunity to make a career for ourselves, and boys learnt the art of home making in hostels if not from their mothers. I can’t blame the mothers, I know how difficult it is for a mother to get her son into the kitchen when entire family is opposing her. Anyways, thankfully, both men and women of our generation are capable enough to fulfill all the duties, financial or household. So why not do it? Why still live in the age old belief system and blame feminism? There is no competition my dear, its just what others perceive it as. And some day, even they will reach that maturity level. Until God bestows the light of wisdom on those others, shall we give up on supporting the only person who will be there for us till our last breath? I have always believed that change is the only constant, we can not live in a capsule that existed 30 years back. Its high time we realize that the capsule is broken and partners are free to depend on each other and have their weak moments. Regarding Manav, supporting me, he is doing exactly what I am doing, letting me depend on him. I know he is there. That feeling is out of the world. Believe me!” Mansi clasped her hands together and touched her lips, letting out a silent prayer.
“Yes, we have a cook and necessary support system. And what’s wrong it? In olden days also, women used to have female cooks. All i think about it that I am giving a job to someone needy. About my parties, very important point, have you forgotten about the kitty parties that our moms used to eagerly wait for? What about our dads, going out with their friends? If it was justified then why do we raise fingers now? You can draw parallels to every action of ours today, with previous generations or even dynasties. Its just that we are not willing to accept the change. For sure its a drastic change and so called “feminists” portray it as a war between men and women. Well, I will speak only for myself, for me its just depending on someone I love and trust and also being a pillar of strength for him. If I leave this job, I will for sure put my heart and soul into something else to be there for Manav. One more thing, having “me” time, doesn’t mean that “we” time is lost. Essentially, when a husband and wife fight with each other, all they are looking out are for is some “me time”, Mansi laughed out loud.
“One more thing, I am not demeaning women who chose to be homemakers, they are also supporting their better halves and that should be respected. People who judge, need to come out of their cocoons and accept the change, there is no war. For sure, men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and some powerful celestial force have landed them both on Earth. The only option that we have is to support and depend on each other because there is noway to return to their respective planets…..for some more years at-least” Mansi ended her explanation with a wink. I was overwhelmed.
“Let’s go now, I can’t wait to see the look on Manav’s face when he eats this Paneer Tikka” Mansi picked up the copper tray, which held the perfectly marinated and baked Paneer Tikka, seasoned with coriander leaves!