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The pleasures and pitfalls of role reversal


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The pleasures and pitfalls of role reversalOkay, if you are a die-hard traditionalist and you lack the guts needed to break moulds, just don’t read on. Or go pick up ‘Gone with the Wind’ where men stalk the earth like giants and women keep house, tend wounds, attend deliveries and well, you know what I mean!!

When Reena fell in love with a gentle, unambitious musician, little did she realise how her life, her value systems and her finances were all in for a major shake-up. With a typical Type A father- achiever, leader, decision maker, etc, she had taken that side of men for granted. But here was Chotu, not comfortable with being assertive, and really not earning enough to take them places. Initially she thought ‘yikes, I’d better get out of this one’, but she realised how special the man had become to her. Did money and success really matter so much? She would ponder this, while watching him pat a street dog, fix her a delicious meal or spoil her when she was sick?.there was so much to him, what did the traditional labels matter?

So they ended up married. And that’s when she realised she was going to be really different from other women. she became the achiever, the one who wielded the cheque book, while he took care of the everyday routine things-the repairs, the shopping, dealing with the servants. Only when she found time, in the midst of her frenzied career, to meet her other women friends, did she understand to what extent she and Chotu had redefined their roles. As her friends compared jewellery bought by their husbands, she thought of the paperback book of poetry he had gifted her. Feeling odd and out of place, she started to avoid her buddies? get-togethers because she knew they had shifted to another planet in many ways.

And what of Chotu? He had always dreamed of a soft, sweet woman who would live at whatever level he could achieve, without complaint. A woman whose only connection with the word ‘ambition’ was in dreaming up futures for her children. But Reena was like a punch in the solar plexus. She was beautiful, witty, fought men on the corporate battlefield and never used her sex as a weapon. She was amazingly comfortable with taking the lead, planning investments, paying the big bills, even getting the car checked up. Slowly the pull he felt for her became stronger and stronger and he found himself comparing her with all the sweet soft leaning girls he had ever dated and he knew that this was the woman for him.

One day, one of Reena’s friends asked her ‘Don’t you despise him, he earns less than you?’ and Reena thought long and hard about her answer. ‘No’ she replied, surprising herself, ‘I admire him for what he is. He works really hard in the studio and earns the most he can. He gives me most of his earnings and buys almost nothing for himself. He fills in for me at home, when I’m too tired, and he cares?’ Reena’s friend put on as contemptuous a look as possible, but was there a teeny green spark in her eyes?

Two years down the line, the same friend came crying to Reena about her philandering husband, whom she was too insecure to leave, because she was so dependent on him, his status, his gifts and the material trappings of their lives. That same year, Reena and Chotu had saved up enough for their first holiday in a game sanctuary, where they had the time of their lives. As usual she did the planning, he did the packing?!

One of the toughest things couples like Reena and Chotu face is people’s reactions. They gape at women paying the restaurant bill. They are uncomfortable with the man of the house making tea. The men crack typically chauvinistic jokes, and sneer at a woman who knows as much about business as they do. The women try to make a career look like a criminally neglectful act of abuse against the family. And as for the n-laws?.Reena’s father took 5 years to look Chotu in the eye; he thought him a wimp, until the day his darling daughter fell really ill and her husband painstakingly nursed her back to health. That’s when he started seeing Chotu as an unusual man and not an aberration.

As the years went by, Reena and Chotu collected a group of friends who were all non-conformist in some way. Deep and Natasha were from different religions and had run away to get married. Malavi and Nikhil were both naturalists who lived out of tents and caravans and still didn’t have a proper home. Rajesh and Sonny were gay?well, after that, Reena and Chotu started feeling terribly square! But the real surprise came when Reena’s unhappy friend finally plucked up courage to leave her rich husband. Dropping in for a cup of tea (made, of course, by Chotu) she said ‘Reena, how happy I would have been if I had found someone like your Chotu?.

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Responses to The pleasures and pitfalls of role reversal

  1. 1 Ram Prasad

    I definitely believe that a man has to be the leader instead of a woman. People like Chotu are very rare. Look at this : Reena’s father took 5 years to look Chotu in the eye; he thought him a wimp, until the day his darling daughter fell really ill and her husband painstakingly nursed her back to health. That’s when he started seeing Chotu as an unusual man and not an aberration. So, this means that unless and until his daughter fell really ill, the father in law thought him to be a complete wimp and good for nothing till Chotu had looked after her daughter and brought her health back to a state of normalcy.It definitely means that a man who has got lesser education and less salary than the woman he had got married to would be humiliated by everyone around him. Why don’t people understand that people like Chotu had married Reena coz he loved her for what she is and not for what she is earning or what she had studied? As for myself,I have got married to a Magistrate. She earns more than me and she is more educated than me but the problem with her is her attitude. She is a sadist to the core and would not feel happy if she would not have humiliated me atleast once in a day. She is adamant. She owns a car and humiliates me for not having a one. The stories are endless.

  2. 2 Anju

    I really like this article.

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