Published: Verve Magazine, September 2012, Verve’s Got The Nerve
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife drawing a good ‘package’
My darling Jane Austen would turn in her grave at the unsightly events taking place in the high society of Mumbai. The patrons of SoBo who may be old or new money (after all today who’s checking how mosscovered your tijori may be?) apparently want the best for their sons. Sarva gun samparna and seva are all in their place, and dowry may be a bit antiquated even if you do expect the Beamer with polka-studded leather seats at your doorstep, at the very least, but what you do question is whether the girl is happening – career-wise or not.
There were days when girls were made to study home science, because that made them imminently eligible in their green-thumbsewing glory. They were promptly married off about the time they were to graduate – or even right before their exams, so that the timing was just suitable to learning and never applying their knowledge. As society became more egalitarian, girls were encouraged to be thought of as equal to boys – taking up the glorious path of law. It seemed so much nicer to say, ‘My daughter is ridiculously smart – she can ensure you know how to write your will even before you decide to make one.’
The few parents, who understood that their girls possessed rare talent, were encouraged to take up science and dare-to-be-different medicine. A new breed of doctors emerged who then juggled clinics and medical practice along with raising a family. The wonder women: whom the fathers and fathers-in-law were proud of. They stood apart from the designers. Every alternate house had a clothes or jewellery designer in their midst, as if the world’s artistic ability had concentrated itself in SoBo. But this made the in-laws happy, because their daughters-in-law were ‘busy’ and yet, always at their beck and call.
But all hell broke loose when the parents agreed to let their daughters into what was formerly a man’s domain: accounting, business administration, marketing, banking and commerce – they didn’t know that they were unleashing a new wave of talent. As the Indian economy exploded and the multinationals came into the fray, the girls in finance (particularly those with a ‘foreign education’) became the ‘it’ girls of high society. Drawing massive salaries, often unheard of in polite company – it is rude to even mention those figures – the in-laws realised that it’s not just what you drive or what you wear that defines you as a person. It’s where you work and how much you earn. It’s the package. A school teacher stands no chance in the society meat market – even if she makes the best chocolates and candles – amongst the brainiacs that know their money and can bet on it. Happy is a father-in-law who can carelessly slide into a conversation, ‘She draws a six figure salary… every month,’ observing the jaws drop and then sitting back with a satisfied air.
As women struggle to become men’s equals, the men have decided to accept it. In fact, they find it deeply favourable. Fathers encourage their sons to ensure a suitable match – it will ensure a comfortable life forevermore, whether he works or not. Househusbands may become the new male of Indian society. The ideal scenario would be to produce three lazy sons. Get them married to a doctor, a lawyer and a banker respectively. You are so sorted. Just avoid the writer who can spill the beans.