At the cost of sounding like a nerd, I must confess that I have always loved academics. After completing my second post-graduation, I started working as a Branch Head with ICICI Bank in Mysore. In 2015, when Tuneer was born, I was working as a Senior Manager / Branch Head with HDFC Bank in Bangalore. I took a sabbatical in 2016 only to return as a writer in 2017. For me, writing had become a profession for me, not just a passion anymore. This was the time when I had also started toying with the idea of my third post graduation in creative writing (certified nerd now!).
It took very little time for this bubble to burst. In our country, creative fields are great as hobbies but never as career choices. One of the primary reasons for such an attitude is also because of the lack of support and financial prospects in this profession. A Banker can gain accolades as a writer but if one decides to become a ‘writer only’, it is often met with caustic or sarcastic comments.
I realized how much Bollywood had affected my thinking when I went around proclaiming that I was going to change this perception by proving how writers could make it big. But man or rather woman proposes, God disposes. I had a few life-changing experiences that got me thinking if it was time for me to update the CV and start applying for ‘real’ jobs.
One such incident happened when my father-in-law had applied for a personal loan from an NBFC. Because of his age, he wasn’t eligible for the same. So I suggested that I take it on my name instead. In no time, the executive dutifully made us realize how they don’t give loans to ‘Housewives’. When I handed over my visiting card to him that had ‘solopreneur /writer’ written in bold letters, he rang up his regional office to check what ‘solopreneur’ actually meant. Well, I couldn’t really blame him because, for him, his thirteen-year-old was also a writer.
I was already getting accustomed to such jibes when Tuneer’s school admission forms started coming out. The box against mothers’ profession started making me jittery. I kept thinking about the right word to describe what I actually did. My thoughts ranged from ‘An ex-Banker turned Writer’ to ‘Blogger’, ‘Published Author’, ‘Writer’ or ‘Solopreneur’. I finally decided to keep it to the point and put ‘Writer’ there. The box against his father’s profession seemed to be beaming with pride as I wrote ‘Doctor.’
As the interviews proceeded with time, we had this realization that almost every school had similar questions related to parents’ career choices and parenting techniques. My husband was asked, “You are in an extremely demanding profession and also posted outside the city. How do you balance your work and personal life so that the kid gets to spend enough time with his father?”. But for me, the first question was invariably “Do you also work?” or “Are you working?” despite the details clearly mentioned on the form. On receiving an answer in affirmation, the next question would steer to “So what do you do?”. Sometimes there would be an add-on question of “And where do you work?”.
Barring a single school, not one interviewer was interested in knowing about my way of balancing work and time for the kid. In their minds, I was free enough to give the kid ample time. By the time, we reached our third school interview, my mind would start nudging me to say, “Writing is just a time pass because it looks good on my CV. I don’t do any work. I hate cooking, so I have hired a cook. I also don’t do household work, I have a maid for that. Forget the fact that I am bringing up a child almost single-handedly and have to work at insane hours to meet my commitments. And of course, you don’t need to know how my daily struggles of churning out ideas, writing assignments, and taking care of a family because that is definitely not as difficult as selling insurance or projecting the profitability of a branch.” It took a lot of will power not to give in to this temptation. Instead, I sat with a face devoid of any emotion.
I had become so accustomed to this kind of stereotyping that when the Principal of a certain school asked me for details about my debut book ‘Deal of Death’, I was tongue-tied for a few mins for this ‘out of syllabus’ interaction. Because in my mind, I had also started stereotyping school interviews and their set expectations.
Before I could shower myself with some self-pity, two different incidents proved that as mothers, we are all in the same situation. A stay-at-home mum friend of mine was judged for choosing not to work despite having a masters degree in sociology. At a different school, a working mother was questioned on her decision to leave her child at a day-care while she went out to work. Truth is that the society will always put a mother’s life and her choices under a scanner, whether it be a homemaker mother or a working mum.
I hope you enjoyed reading today’s post though I do realize that this had more thought-provoking content than the humor quotient. Please come back tomorrow for a hilarious post on E. You might enjoy reading the previous three posts here.