THE PERILS OF BEING FREE

I left my IT job, moved to a village. That’s the part I have dedicated most of my previous blogs to. This is the next part. I completed my fellowship in October last year, got back to my IT job in Bangalore in November, resigned as soon as I got there  and spent the next two months travelling to attend a couple of weddings and then some. I finally landed at home for good on the 1st of January, ready to start the new year on a new note.

I had left the year-long pleasant weather of Bangalore behind to land in the freezing winters of North India. I had a hectic year of constant travel behind me. I was looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. For at least one month.  The dream plan was to alternate between lying in bed snuggled under a thick blanket, eating, and watching a lot of TV. I wanted to sleep late, wake up late. The New Year almost coincides with my birthday. I dreamt of being pampered the whole month long.

My mom had other ideas. The very first morning back home, she was beside my bed, waking me up. Bleary-eyed, I looked up at her and then at the clock. It was six. She was already talking before I could mourn the lost sleep. “You have left your job but that doesn’t mean you are going to sleep your day away. This is not your village, where you do whatever you want. No one sleeps past six in this house. You are going to wake up, go for a walk and help with the household chores. You will be making  dinner for the family from now on. You have to follow the rules of the house. Nikamme ho jana hai tune. (Otherwise you will become dumb.) An empty mind is a devil’s workshop. I won’t let you be free.” There were more rules, but I was too sleepy to remember. I mumbled back, “You are not my saas (mother-in-law). Use this attitude on your future bahu (daughter-in-law). I am going to do as I please.” That said I promptly dozed off. End of story. Or so I thought. What I didn’t know then was that it was just the beginning of the saga called “How your being free gives people around you all sorts of ideas”.

My grandma was worried sick that I was going to become “homely”. So was my mother.  While I was implementing my plan of doing nothing, my mom would, by hook or crook, take me out shopping every evening. All I wanted to do was lie in bed. My mother wouldn’t have it. According to her, “If you don’t go out, you will become gharelu (domesticated).” That baffled me. I shot back, “Is that a bad thing??” I had been based out-of-town for nine plus years of which the last one involved a lot of travelling. How my mom thought I would become domesticated after spending a few days lying in bed needs research.

My mom took me so for granted that I banned her from using the word “vehli” (jobless) to describe me. I am like, “I am not vehli. I have a lot of plans.” My mom would scoff going, “Pff. What plans? You have no plans. A jobless person who doesn’t want to be called that!”

She was pushing me to get a job with her barbs, but I see right through them. Na, not happening Ma.

My grandma developed some new lines on her already age worn face, worrying about why I was choosing to be jobless. She thought of all the reasons of why this would be. This ranged from depression to being harassed at work. She asked me directly multiple times and after my assurances having failed to convince her, she passed the word along to my Dad, so he could ask me.

She lovingly tried to convince me “Putt, tu ghar rehan wali kudi nahi haigi. Tu barbad ho jana hai ghar reh ke. Naukri kar lai. Transfer le laini c Chandigarh. Chhad ke nahi aana c. Rishtedaara nu ki dasange.”(You are not the type of girl who sits home doing nothing. You will be ruined. Take up a job. You should have taken a transfer nearby instead of leaving your job. What will we say to our relatives?) I am thinking, “I am here to spend some time with you Grandma. I am here to be at home. I have been away too long. There is a lifetime ahead to work. This is important.”

All her questions took me by surprise. I thought she would be happy with my being back. I was having this old-fashioned notion that it’s easier being a girl without a job in India. To my surprise, the world had changed behind my back. It seems now it is equally taboo for a girl being jobless. Especially the one who previously had a job. There goes my advantage of being a girl in India!

My Dad was also onboard this bandwagon. He was more relaxed that my mom and grandma but just so.

He went, “Ok. You didn’t like the job. You left it. Find a new one”.

Me: Nop. I am going to sit right here at home. Thank you.

I had an opportunity to interview for an enticing job opening in Bombay. But I wanted to stay at home. So interviewing for the job was never on my mind. The decision puzzled my family.

Family: Just go for the interview.

Me: What if I get selected?

Family: Cross that bridge when you reach there.

Me: There is no crossing of bridges happening! I am here and not going anywhere. Get used to it.

Then my Dad came up with another idea – applying for a job at local newspapers. Since I wanted to pursue writing more seriously, he thought that would be a good gig for me. He thought right but on further introspection I went “Na. Not only do I want to stay at home, I also don’t want a formal job. I want to be free.” So out went that idea.

My presence at home, doing nothing, was such an oddity that my family would rather I work, even if it’s again someplace far.

My brother wasn’t far behind in puzzling over why he was suddenly finding me sleeping everyday while he was all ready to go for work.

Brother to my mother: Why is she here? Has she decided to waste her life now? I have a free pass for a one month gym membership. Tell her to at least go there.

Me: Is this real life? My younger brother pities me now! No, thank you. I would rather spend my mornings stubbornly sleeping than venturing out in the cold to go somewhere (This conversation happened in January which is bitterly cold here. I did start working out by March). You please exercise your limbs, mine are doing just fine. I am ok with a few extra pounds of weight on me. Better to keep me warm with.

IMG-20180105-WA0000
There was no way I was leaving this cosy setup to go outside.

My grandma was way of the mark when she thought that relatives would wonder, now that I am sitting at home. There was no wondering. They were very clear in their minds. They all thought that my family had called me back so as to get me married. That was incorrect.. by a huge margin.  I had decided to leave the job and spend some time at home despite my parents protestations and grandma’s reservations and doubts about such a move. At least, I thought, “What the relatives think” dilemma is sorted!

It wasn’t just family. It seems everyone who came in contact with me wanted to help me out of my “free”ness.

One day I had to go to Dad’s financial portfolio manager for some minor work he had asked me to get done. The portfolio manager got into overdrive when he came to know I was free. He made me download their app and impromptu started teaching me the principles of trading. After that he said, “Let’s start trading from next week. You can take care of finances now that you are free.” I was taken by surprise. I told him I needed time to make up my mind and was not jumping in just like that. Such is the effect of the word free. I was still figuring out what direction I wanted my life to go in but people around me felt eager to pitch in.

As my reputation for being free spread, more people pitched in with job offers. One day my mom came back from her morning walk and told me one of her friends had offered me a teaching post at an NGO. The friend figured it would suit me considering that I was doing something on similar lines last year. Another time, another of her friends told her that I am welcome to teach at her IELTS institute. I appreciate people thinking about me and find it fascinating how just taking a break is a very alien concept. I do feel flattered by the diverse jobs people feel I am suitable for. If nothing else, it massages my ego pretty well!

Being free also means my family plugs my name into whatever jobs they don’t have time for or they don’t want to do.

  • Badima (grandma) wants to visit my aunt who lives in a nearby town. Who will accompany her in the train journey and drop her safely there?
  • Mehak!
  • A relative needs company to visit some family out-of-town. She is afraid to travel alone. Who does she call?
  • Mehak.
  • Mom has kept something on the stove. Who will check it at regular intervals so it doesn’t get burned?
  • Mehak.
  • Mom has to go to a kitty party. Who will supervise the maids?
  • Mehak!
  • All the times my mom doesn’t want to fulfill her “daughter”ly duties of visiting her parents in Patiala (a town nearby) because she is busy, who does she turn to?
  • Mehak.

Make no mistake, I am happy to do these jobs. The only point is I get all these gigs because I am free. No one asks a person with a job to do any of the above.

I have spent a lot of time and energy looking at potential matches this year. That is a whole another, long story. I won’t go deep into that today. It will need its own blog.

There was a time where a girl sitting at home wasn’t such a big deal. Just meant she was waiting till she gets married off. But times have changed so much. It’s heartening. Even though the change is causing all the perils for me!

 

 

 

 

6 comments

  1. After my bachelor’s I was at my home for sometime (3-4 ) months before I could get a job. I faced some of the things you faced. Also I would have the same questions that your family has: why leave all of a sudden .. They are family and wish well for you and hence they want to know about your thought process.

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