I should have asked the husband before posting this, but – well, he’s at work and I am taking a break between writing articles, so here goes.
I was a young investment banker and he was a young consultant. Thrust, nay, thrown, flung into the hurly burly that is Bombay.
Anyone who has been young in Bombay knows the drill. The train. The mess. The exhaustion. Anyone who has just started a corporate career knows how demanding it can be. Food – who has time to cook food everyday? Eat out? Young people are on a budget – cannot be done everyday.
So the husband and I had a deal. Whosoever gets home first starts the cooking. Nothing fancy – just get it started. The other person would join in when they could. Seemed fair to both of us.
(Not sure if his aunt, who lived right opposite us, a few floors up liked it. Did not help that our kitchen window faced her windows. Bombay is rather close like that. But that was us. Many years later I heard that each time the husband entered the kitchen, the cry would go out in their house – “O look, he has entered the kitchen again!” To their credit, they did not let me hear of their distress, or discomfort with our way of doing things at all. It would have been fine even if they did – they were a different generation with a whole other paradigm of finding their balance. That was theirs, this was ours.)
What shocked me was a colleague at the trading desk. When he heard of this arrangement he laughed mockingly (yes, he was a delhi, engineer-MBA boy alone in big bad bombay) and said, “Then both of you must be competing to reach home last!”
No, we did not. We were a team. He obviously was someone who could not get that. He had no idea how much fun it was to surprise each other, to cook for each other, to cook together – in tandem, building that rhythm of togetherness.
The non-troversy over the Airtel ad reminded me of that.
Do I like the ad? No. Do I expect Airtel to evangelise for equality? Well, the’ve done what they thought they could. (The boss is the wife, innit. Not good enough for you feministas? Gah, nothing is good enough for you – I can imagine a conversation with the ad guys).
I’m glad they did what they could. Could they have done more? Sure – they could have shown them both going home together, cooking together and then working on their laptops after dinner. As many of us do – we share lives. Do I have a right to say what is right for that couple? If they were a real couple – clearly none of my business.
But they are an ad – they are not just fiction. They are more than that – they are a professional production designed to influence the mass. Am I disappointed that they did not do more? Yes, I am.
There is an opportunity here for men to step up to recognise their multitasking, multidisciplinary abilities. It is okay for men to be as competent as women – why shy away from it? Why deny them the joys of dusting and cooking and garnering praise in advertisements. They deserve that glow too. Many men cook in real life and get their due appreciation. Then why are advertisements denying them their due? And glorifying the super-mom. But unfair to both. Burdensome to the aspiring supermom/superwoman, patronising to the competent yet infantilised man.
Remember that ad in which a mommy asks her family what they would like to eat? Each family member wants something different. A dosa, an idli, an uthappam etc. The mom whips it up to great delight and praise. You can almost see the rings of her various halos in the advertisement. Now, I’d like you to re-imagine this ad – when the question arises – what shall we have for breakfast, imagine the whole family pitching in. Teaming up, playing, laughing, measuring, sharing…would it not have been nicer for everybody. I can still hear the echoes of the laughter from this imagined scenario. As I have seen it in many happy households.
This is why I have a problem with the Airtel ad. It missed a chance for the couple to have fun together. For such a cute couple, itna to banta hai 🙂