It is Diwali and like every year, the husband and I are fighting. For some reason, festivals bring a feel of dread in my mind. I really dislike them. My ideal year is one with absolutely no festivals. For a really long time, I thought it was me.. that I was an evil person for not getting the festival mood. Evenings around Diwali would bring the smell of chakli being made – that typical smell of fried spice and dough, of sweet and delicious anarsa, and I would cringe. I would look at my kid and feel really distressed that there was nothing special cooking in the home. Add to it the fact that at least one Diwali day family dinner was some sort of non-veg and at least one other day it would be an order-in from the nearby pizza outlet. The thought that my dear, dear sensitive kid lived in my extremely dysfunctional family would break my heart 🙁
Then a couple years ago, I shared these thoughts with a friend and she confessed she too disliked festivals. All of them – Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Rakshabandhan, Gudi Padwa, and so on. That I was maybe not really evil made me talk about it to a couple other friends, and they too were not exactly ecstatic about the festive spirit.
Which was so different from what was being shown all over the place. Everybody from the TV, newspaper, Facebook, and Whatsapp had Diwali greetings and all sorts of gooey messages. TV ads especially showed these beautifully dressed women, all bedecked and mostly shopping expensive gifts for the family and friends like there was no care in the world, husbands gifting wives diamond jewelry, kids in traditional clothes looking oh-so-cute and huge joint families all full of sacchariny sweetness. And here was I, looking like a mangy street dog – my hair all messy, tattered kurta (most times minus the salwar!!!!), and the home looking no different than any other day of the year and that hunted look on my face everytime I saw the new Amazon.in ad with that beautiful perfect “Mrs. Verma” – curse her!
Then, the mind got working and I realized that all of us are nuclear families. Husband, wife, one kid. Smart, intelligent, perfectly functional people that disliked something that was being made such a big hullabaloo of. Also after the initial anger, I realized this was our own doing. While all year around all us nuclear family types go about enjoying our independence with no elders to ‘meddle’ in our business, festivals are when the joint family people get their day in the sun. The new middle class in India where both the husband and wife had careers, hell, they needed those careers – India is no longer a one income place for us normal people. We have traded traded one thing for another – traded the bliss of those 15 odd festival days the year for personal autonomy the rest of the time; traded a self sufficient lifestyle for the traditional “normal” Indian home. Maybe over time, Indian females will stop blaming themselves for not “providing” that as-seen-on-TV home and accept that their worth is not measured only by how the home is kept.
In that respect, I loved what Dr Wilson from House, MD, had to say to Cuddy when she tried to manage her new adoptive infant while also running the hospital and being distressed from all the multitasking. It goes like this:
James Wilson: Why do women do that?
Lisa Cuddy: What …. fail?
James Wilson: Create ridiculous standard that no human can meet. With your career, your kids. You’ve got to be more like us.
Lisa Cuddy: You mean lazy? Blame others?
James Wilson: Get help! Most men in your position have a deputy and two assistants at work. And a wife and two nannies at home. You’re not superwoman. Don’t be a martyr.
Well, we middle class types cannot afford those 2 nannies and most times, we are the assistants, but at the same time, we need not be superwomen always. That should be our new chant – “I am not a superwoman!”