The Quintessential Indian WomanMay 1, 2010
I was exasperated. What a project! The topic – Awareness among the Middle class Indian female. It’s a group project and my part was to identify a female who can be termed as the quintessential Indian female and do a sort of interview where I have to gauze her awareness and how educated she is. No wonder I was flummoxed. How do I search for the so called quintessential Indian female. Mother India? Ekta Kapoor Bahus?
Who? Then suddenly I remembered her. Our neighbour – Saraswati Aunty
Age around late forties. Mother of three children. Husband working as an UDC in Pay and Accounts Office. She fitted the bill perfectly. Ma fixed the appointment with a little bit of coaxing and then in a blink I was there in front of her door armed with a notepad and pencil.
What happens next is put forward as a script. With my remarks in bold
Me- Hello Aunty. Ma must have ..
SA- Oh come in, come in. Yes, yes,..you are here for a survey isn’t it?
(survey? Damn! Did Ma say that?)
Me- Umm sort of, or rather a chit chat.
SA- Accha accha . Come in beta.
Me- (in a business like manner )
Lets start then.See I will be asking u a few questions or rather opinion. It will be about Politics , Education, ..
SA- Wait let me get you some water( and runs of to get a glass of water)
Me – Yes as I was saying . your opinion on money matters , Social issues.
SA – Wait! Will you have tea or coffee ?
Me- Aunty just answers please. (helplessly) as I was saying on global issues.. Environmental..
SA- Wait! You must have something. I will fetch u some sherbet.
Remarks- Quintessential Indian woman has very less attention span and think that making your guests comfortable guests is more important than an intellectual discussion.
SA- (Returning with her sherbet) Yes, so what were u saying?
SA- He he he! You must be angry. Arre, you are here to visit me after so many days. How can I let go of the opportunity to entertain you.
Me – Atithi Devo Bhaba! Hmm?
SA- Whats that?
Me- That’s the tag line of tourism. Ok tell me, what do you think of India’s tourism scene?
SA- Yes, yes there are good nice places. Bittu is going to Manali for his honeymoon. We never had a proper honeymoon. But the children should. We are planning for Badrinath sometime in the future.
Me- Of course Aunty, but what do you think is India’s position in the world tourism scene? The issues that are affecting it.
SA- (nodding her head.) Expenditure. Money. Leaves from office. If Govt will not grant vacation , then how are we expected to go for travelling?
(I looked at her incredulous perspective)
Ek min let me bring some chips and biscuits and some tea too. It will perk us up..
Me – (Trying to Protest but fails)
Remarks- (Quintessential Indian Woman is not concerned with the so called greater issues of Indian tourism, but their concerns are more practical and down to earth. And of course although she does not know the meaning of Atithi Devo Bhava she practices it fully).
Me –Nice munchies .
SA- Yes and they are easy to make. Economical and healthy.
Me- Good ! Speaking of Economics , what do you think of the recent recession?
SA- Recession? Hmmm!…Wait! Let me bring some onions to peel to pickle them
SA- (Aunty returns with onions and bitter gourd.) Have u tried pickling them/ it stays put for many days and serves as sabzi. It is a good time saving and money saving things for the purpose of sabzi, Do you like aam ka panna? I have prepared some. All my kids swear by it.
Me-Ok! and what do you do with the money saved? Shares ? mutual funds? ULIPs?
SA- Eh what are those? Aree I save in gold and post office and fixed deposits. It will help my kids to settle down in future.
Remarks- Quintessential Indian Women doesn’t know about the Indian stocks and shares scene, but yes they didnt lose any money during recession,and they are damn good at applying economics in their kitchen).
Me- So Aunty. You are planning to marry off Bittu?
Me- Well, what do u think of the dowry system?
SA- (sobering up) Means? Ok… see beta. Every body has expectations. Every body likes gifts, isn’t it? Birth day gifts. Gifts from parents , from lovers? You get my point na? see I m not saying its good. But basically it is about expectations. Every mother has expectations for their son. Nothing wrong with it if you let the thought be just a thought. Basically majority of mothers want a good daughter in law only.. .someone who can properly take care of our sons, with love and happiness , , of course . But they say na!- where there will be two females there’s bound to be conflict. That is a different matter.… but yes some females are to be blamed, but beta don’t generalise your opinion on it. Expecting good things for your son is totally different from the whole issue of the evils of dowry.
Remarks- A totally different perspective about the dowry system by the quintessential Indian woman. Yes a different take.
Me- Ok , what do you think of Shashi Tharoor?
Aunti- Who? New actor? ( I am about to choke)( seeing my expression. Smiles sheepishly. ) Just give me 5 mins .Mind if I iron clothes and speak to you simultaneously?
Me –( shaking my head). So which political party do you favour?(after she comes back )
Sa- What does it matter? It is not about parties. It is about persons. I favour the one who can provide us with better facilities , listen to us at our times of need. The party doesn’t matter. It is the person. If he is good, then he can turn everything in his favour . like? Gandhiji.
Remarks –Quintessential Indian woman has no idea about the current political scenario but yes! She has a practical and direct approach of what she wants.
Me- What do you think of career and education?
SA- aha! Yes education.wait! Give me few mins. I need to just finish the lunch preparation.
(Coming back)- Yes. Hmm it is very essential. It is the children’s choice. What can I say? They know more. And career? Arre, I m only a tenth pass. I know only to cook and manage home. And that I do with total sincerity and honesty. No half measures for that. My home, my family is the world to me. And today’s kids? Well they are so advanced , they try to encompass the world as their family.( I looked around her modest two bedroom flat. It was spic and span. Tidy. Orderly and everything at hand)
Remarks – Quintessential Indian woman has no idea about the current career options but they know that whatever you do should be done with total sincerity and honesty. No half measures about it.
Me-Ok aunti ji I had lots to ask but I am running late. One last question for you. Do you watch TV?
Me- And what do you like watching? News?
SA- Of course, I do watch news to find out about price hikes, but other than that I watch those daily soaps
Me- Ok you don’t watch those panel discussions and cover stories and all?
SA- see beta! Whole day we slog hard to keep home .the cooking, washing, utensils. Kids. By evening I am dead tired. The mind is completely blank. i will not understand a thing at that stage if I watch those news story and panel discussions. But yes those soaps – you don’t need any serious thinking to watch them. Sometimes they even lull me to sleep.. So!
Remarks- If a Quintisential Indian female watches television soaps, it does not mean that she loves them – By god this was very heartening to know.
Well I came back from the interview. Not much of material I guess. But it set me thinking. I mean the quintissential Indian female- who can be anyone- my Mom, your Mom, Granny , Aunty…… In Indian tradition, all of them have been brought up with one common diktat. That is- Your family and home is your whole world, and they dedicate their lives to uphold that principle strongly. They may not be educated but they have a practical and educated approach to life. They may not be aware of the greater and global issues of the world, but yes they are very much aware of even minutest needs of their family. They are aware of how to be a good human . They are experts at how to make your home, a better place for you.
Today’s generation indeed tries to globalize the whole of world into one whole unit, into a one big family. Thanks to technology, of course. I wish, hope we too thought that the world is one big family and our family, the world. Wish we too worked sincerely and honestly with no half measures for its upkeep. Wish we too knew how to be good human. And make the world a better place to live.
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