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Vidya is from a traditional south Indian family. Her father works with an Indian Corporate company as an accountant, while her mother is a homemaker and a part-time tuition teacher. Vidya has an elder brother, Prasad and a younger brother, Surya. Vidya’s father shares responsibility in looking after their paternal grandparents, who lives with them. Her father’s elder brother migrated to London in his 30’s, returned to India, got married and took his wife along. Their family visits India every other year. Although, they do not live together geographically and in the same ‘home’ physically, the concept of a ‘joint Hindu family’ as held in the mind is strongly exhibited by the family bonds that tie them together and these relationships are important to the family. Loyalty to each other and filial bonding is crucial to them as values. Vidya’s dad’s income is moderate and while the family lives with reasonable comforts, they are careful while spending on luxuries. The home is simple, tidy with most things functional. The family lives with a certain frugality as a considerable amount of the family income went towards Prasad’s education and saved for Vidya’s marriage.

Right from school, Vidya’s elder brother Prasad was encouraged to take up a professional career. He applied for the competitive engineering entrance exam, but could not secure admission to the IITs, which was his goal. Instead he was admitted to REC, the next best on the list of prestigious engineering colleges. Prasad was academically bright and went on to secure good grades in his engineering courses, passing out four years later with a high GPA. On campus placement, he was selected by a multinational organisation as a Graduate Engineer Trainee for one of their factories. Three years later, Prasad applied for admission to the IIMs, and was delighted to be admitted to IIM, Bangalore. Today, he works in the marketing function of one of the leading FMCGs in India.

Vidya’s interest was in humanities and she too was encouraged to study so that she could also aspire to be a working adult. The family considered this wise: a sound qualification for spouse eligibility, and preference for women who work. . In any case, it was seen as an insurance against any possible contingency that may incur down the road. ’You should choose a safe career option’ advised her teacher at college. Unlike Prasad, she experienced her family putting less pressure on her academic success. In fact, she was encouraged to learn skills, such as cooking, sewing etc. that would serve her well in her role as a spouse and mother.

Early in her upbringing, Vidya experienced a differentiation, in the way she and Prasad were treated, even though both her parents were broad minded, and with liberal attitudes. Prasad was not involved with housework. At best, he was needed to keep his room tidy. However, in the case of Vidya, she was expected to help with family chores at home. Her duties included laying out the table and helping her mother in the kitchen. Although this seemed discriminatory to Vidya at times, she accepted these roles at home, as she saw other girlfriends at school and in the neighbourhood serve similar roles in their homes. Although not explicit, she gathered the impression that part of her duties was to be useful to the household and to serve the men folk. Vidya soon learned to adjust, adapt, and accommodate others, making sacrifices, and being patient, even as she allowed herself to have choices made for her (done quite subtly). Often at times, when she found herself rebelling, she received indulgent patronage. Resources provided to her were lesser and she experienced subtle non-inclusion. ‘You are too loud for a girl’ someone would counsel her when she was having one of her outburst.

Vidya remembers being indulged, treated as a loving member, but often reminded that eventually she would get married and be part of her husband’s home and his family. The question of not marrying was never in doubt – that is what all young women do, get married and have children. ‘Beta, shaadi kab karoge?’ (Child, when will you marry?) her indulgent aunt would ask. She had heard whispers behind her back, “she will need to be lucky, as she has dark complexion. However, the consolation was, “Ladki padhi likhi hai, first class English bolti hai’. Till then, she was being prepared for her eventual home. In the case of Prasad, it was expected that he would eventually take over from running the household from his father, once he retired. Also, unlike Prasad, she experienced more curbs on her movements outside the home. ‘What are you wearing? Your in-laws would wonder how your parents brought you up’., her mother would remark. Now it was shortened to, ‘you are wearing that?’ She once heard a relative whisper to her mother, ’Vidya is a grown-up girl. You ought to be more careful now. She might get into trouble and bad company’. The friends she visited and who she always went out with seemed to be carefully considered.

Many years later……(to be continued)

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