Marriage and the theory of comparative advantage

magojada

Just watched this movie called Kalyanam Samayal Saadham. In a nutshell, it’s about a guy who is about to be arranged married and few days before the wedding, realises along with his fiancé that he is suffering from some form of erectile dysfunction. There was one line in the movie that caught my attention. The hero says marrying someone based on their caste, creed and pay package is not marriage, it’s merely a business transition. But marrying someone knowing that they have a “problem” and standing by them to sort it out is “a real marriage”. To be fair, in a traditional arranged marriage, you aren’t necessarily expected to discover the “problem” before getting married, so in that sense, all marriages are meant to be business transactions.

Marriage has always been a contract between two entities. Earlier this entity used to be a large family, today it’s at best a nuclear family with parents/ in-laws if not two individuals. For many many years, the terms of the contract was pretty straight forward – the man went out to work and the woman stayed home to run the household. Women always married “up-wards” or a man with a well paying job/ showing potential to earn as they’d have to be financially dependent on a man other than their father. There are several biological and social arguments for how we evolved into this model, but it seemed to be working just fine for several generations until women started leaving the shackles of their homes to earn a living independently.

Wait, before you get all feminazi on me, let me clarify. Women going out to work wasn’t the problem, but the institution of marriage not being prepared for this change (financial independence of women) was the problem. For starters, there was disruption in partner selection. Our society mostly cared about women being able to cook, clean, do tailoring/ crochet to entertain themselves, rear children and manage the general shebangs around the house. Suddenly, there was a new element to this – women who brought in an additional income to the household, but potentially at the cost of other things.

For about a generation or so, our society was caught in the dichotomy of wanting additional income and running a peaceful household where women continued to manage things at home. That’s why the women who joined workforce in the late 70s and 80s seemed to treat employment as a privilege and the additional workload of fully managing a household as their sacred duty because our wedding mantras didn’t quite evolve. They still said things like a woman has to feed a man, get fucked when he wanted and such anda-kalatil things. That’s why most men never learnt to share household work and ended up becoming big-time free-loaders.

Over the next generation (90s – 00s), due to double income households and lower number of children in each family, general affordability improved within the middle class. With the boom in IT, which guaranteed very respectable salaries for both men and women, there was enough incentive for women to be as educated and interested in a career as men. This was also around the time Indian engineers started getting exported to the US, resulting in increasing the marriage age of men and in turn, of women too.

The financial independence among women in this generation was unprecedented and there was little reason for a woman to be married off to a man except to procreate respectfully in a society. But still, we continued to use our age old selection parameters where we wanted the boy to have a good job and woman to be “cultured”, and possibly making lesser money than the guy. For instance, if boy was B.E., girl should be B.com/ B.Sc. And if girl was B.E., then boy should atleast be M.S. in U.S. et all. The women in this generation were cultured enough to wait till they flew off to U.S. with the husbands on site before settings things straight (read making the husband do the dishes and laundry).

Now take the millennials, who’ve seen the world and know it all, thanks to the internet. They are suckers for equality and they will not have India be left behind in terms of how relationships/ marriages work world wide. Despite this, our partner selection has hardly evolved. Men still want pretty chicks and women want successful (read well-paid) men until they are married only to realize that none of this matters in the long term. After a long day of work, you want to come home to watch that episode of Mad Men knowing that your wife won’t bug you to watch Modern family.

You don’t care how well your husband did in college if can’t change your child’s diapers. What you eat matters, what you do the weekend matters, how you travel matters and what chores you loathe matters. In a marriage, you need to learn to trade – I’ll make dinner, you do the dishes. I’ll plan our trips, you do the packing. You do the laundry and I’ll fold the clothes and so on. Things that you never optimise for start to consume your daily lives and before you know it, poof! the marriage is over. So, whether you discover the “problem” pre-marriage or not, make sure you figure out your comparative advantages so you can trade effectively in the relationship. Happy transacting!

Advertisements

Letters to my Berry#21

IMG_9718

You might grow up to either love me or hate me, but you are 21 months old now and you can identify all the continents, and name a few countries within them!!! If you ask me, I’d say I’m damn proud of both of us for having gotten past this milestone. Basically, I am bored to read your silly storybooks and so I figured I’ll buy us a book that makes for an interesting read for me, and so I took you to the book store and bought an atlas that you picked. Simple no?

To give you some practical classes in geography, we also took you on some trips. Okay no, we just took you along like luggage because appa and I had to travel. Haha. We were at Isle for wight for my birthday, and this was your first time at the beach. You absolutely enjoyed playing with the sand by throwing it over your head, but you were damn scared of the sea. You bawled until we pulled you out of water, and I wonder if it was because the water was too cold for you.

The best part of this trip has to be you walking upto me with two glasses in your hand, handing one over to me, saying cheers and pretending to drink some imaginary drink and then singing “happy tirday” to me on my birthday, just as I was waking up. You did something similar the previous day when we’d ordered a dessert that came to our table and you started singing happy tirday. Although it wasn’t intentional (I’m guessing?), I was really touched. 🙂

You also went to Munich last week as I’d to travel on work. You and appa spent the two days exploring Munich by yourselves and appa has written a wonderful journal of your adventures. You make for a better travel partner for appa than I do, so thanks for saving me the bother. The highlight of the Munich trip for me was you crying about me leaving to work on the second day. I’d never felt so bad about leaving you and going off to work. I felt so guilty, and wish I could stay home with you all day and everyday. But I’ve heard from appa that it can be very annoying, so I’ll try not to ever do that. But no promises.

You’ve found this new fascination for planes, and I hear it comes from the nursery. We can see most take-offs and landings from/ into Heathrow and so you’ve this game where you do “tata” to every plane that you see outside the window. You also sometimes wonder if that plane is going to ajji thatha’s house, which is when you remember “bhatta” as well. Currently, “bhatta” is this massive stuffed german shepherd that you have but this is actually inspired by the stray dog that came to thatha’s house everyday. Thatha would take you out to make you feed the dog he lovingly called “bhatta”. So, I think playing with your British “bhatta” is some way of remembering thatha everyday?

Your face just lights up every time we video call him and he says his usual “onaNNa, Berry aNNa”. In fact, you are very excited to see ajji too, ever since we came back to London. I think you really miss everyone back home and this evident from how you keep saying everyone’s names and also get damn excited when you see some Indian faces while friends visit us. I sometimes wish I could raise you back home, but then I think about how hard it will be to do this along-side a full-time job, I quickly let that thought go.

The good thing about raising you here is that you have a nice little routine that works well for all of us. When you come back home at 6pm from the nursery, you take off your shoes and put them away, promptly bring a bowl/ plate asking for some kind of a snack and go away to play with your toys. You then remind us to bathe you, then eat a good hearty meal and get ready to read a story and go to bed. Now, some days this whole ordeal takes longer than an hour or two but on good days, you are in bed by 8ish. I was miserably unsuccessful in keeping this routine in Bangalore, maybe because it was a vacation?

When I watch you do a lot of things quite independently now, I feel so proud of you and I hope to preserve that sense of awe as you grow older and discover new things for yourself. You’ll promise to tell me every random new thing you discover no? I am damn excited to rediscover life through your eyes, even though you might feel otherwise sometimes (talking about the times when I make you binge watch netflix with me!). Happy 1.75 my love, and thank you for filling our lives with so much joy and madness (ok less thankful about this bit though!).

P.S – Your favourite god is Ganesha and you keep calling all statues as maamis, and I have no idea who taught you all this because appa is atheist and I am at best agnostic. Actually, I don’t mind you knowing about all gods and goddesses, which is why we bought you an Amar Chitra Katha book while we were in Bangalore (although you don’t like the book!).

Turning 31.. Urrgh

old-lady-woman-senior-with-cat-sleeping-in-her-lap-vector-9804467.jpg

It’s been 10 days since I turned 31, and now, I finally have the time to get started on this post I’ve been meaning to write for what feels like ages. If you read my birthday posts from the last couple of years, you will see that there is a similar theme around adulating and caring less about the “day” itself. I have gone from omg! no one’s bothered that its my birthday to I’m not even bothered myself anymore. It’s just another day, or let’s say a day that just makes you confirms you are ageing. I am definitely not my maternal grandmother, who likes to think otherwise. To be honest, I envy that about her.

How do people make peace with strands of hair getting mysteriously grey? How do people make peace with their body desperately trying to hide fat? How does one make peace with less than 8 hours of sleep everyday? How does one lose 20 years of their life in just few months of being a parent? How does a spouse turn into a logistics partner with whom there is little else to discuss but the amount your child pooped that day? Actually, I’ve made varying degrees of peace with most of them over the years, or months? Okay, I am losing track of time.

The one thing I am struggling to make peace with is my diminishing social circle. I remember celebrating my birthday every year for many many years. This always involved a cake, snacks and some friends. The last time I celebrated my birthday with friends was when the husband threw me a surprise the year we got married. But soon after, all of those friends moved to other cities, including myself. I still talk to my friends but it’s all over texts. I miss the warmth of hanging out with people whose company I genuinely enjoy and vice-versa. It’s so much harder to find this, the older you get and I haven’t quite figured out why.

I miss that constant shoulder to lean on, that ever open ear to whisper secrets into (I still do have a few!) and someone who would conspire with me to conquer the world, or atleast that’s what it felt like when I was younger. I think this craving for constancy, reliability, etc. is surely a sign of adulting. I find myself wanting this consistency even in other parts of my life like what I eat, when I sleep, etc. I have begun to value routine so much more, I no longer feel that urge to be random or spontaneous. I feel like my paternal grandfather, and just like him, I feel strangely content with my limited daily choices.

The husband calls me an old lady with a cat. I have a really good friend at work who thinks the same about himself. This somehow gives me some solace knowing that I am not alone. Something about women and wanting to do hold hands and do things together, including drowning, no?

Anyway, so, in my attempt to bring more discipline and routine into my life, I have decided to spend Wednesday evenings, writing. I literally just made this decision. Okay, I guess I am not as non-random as I thought I have become. But if I don’t keep up my word, believe me, it’s adulting and the responsibilities that come with it. For instance, I spent an hour trying to put my daughter to sleep and failed so miserably. After such a fail, it’s really hard to push yourself to do anything else with life the same evening, hence, this post is a desperate attempt to fight adulting and not meant to be a fine piece of literature.

Now I feel like this awkward person who is trying to leave but has spent so much time saying bye to people around that they’ve missed the bus to leave. So i’ll just go. Bye.

 

City and Hammersmith via Paddington

I board the City and Hammersmith line at Farringdon around 5pm or the beginning of rush hour in the evenings. I walk straight to the pole next to the door and stand next to it, as usual. A woman looks at me and then she looks at the young black man seated on the reserved seat right next to the pole. He doesn’t seem to notice her. He was probably sleepy or as my friend says, pretending to be sleepy so you wouldn’t be top choice for giving up one’s seat for an old or disabled or pregnant person. The woman continued looking at this man, now in disgust. She looked at me hoping to share the disgust, but I looked unperturbed. I quickly wondered if for the woman’s sake, I should spend my energy worrying about the man giving up his seat for me as I was carrying my baby and two bags (one with my laptop and another with my daughter’s nursery stuff), and I decided I’d let the woman enjoy the disgust herself.

We arrived at King’s cross, then Euston square, then Great Portland street but the man still didn’t offer me his seat. By then, another seat became empty else where and this woman ushered me to this seat and I sat down. As always, sitting down makes my daughter quite uncomfortable and so she starts howling really loudly unless someone distracts her my communicating with her, which thankfully some lady sitting across started to do. While the baby was distracted, I decided to reduce the number of things I was carrying my putting one bag into another before we could reach Edgeware Road where I’d have to start getting ready to get off.

Although it is a fairly interesting walk to the Farringdon station from the baby’s nursery (unlike the walk to St.Paul’s), the City and Hammersmith line always has a constant stream of people coming into the station almost all through the day. But off all the lines that come to the Farringdon station, City and Hammersmith line is almost the last priority at every intersection making it a very slow option. I usually like to trade this downside with more space on the tube compared to the central line, where you just have to let a few trains pass to be able to even get into one during rush hour, especially with a baby.

The central line during rush hour tends to have a greater number of working professionals who’re more willing to offer their seat to someone who is less able to stand, except most of the time you never manage to get anywhere near the seats because you are busy trying to just make it into the door. Given that this is the fag end of a working day and I am usually hungry and completely out of any energy when I manage to squeeze myself into a train, it is very easy to give up and lose myself in my own world, except the tube ride makes for such an interesting experience and I can’t help but look at people around from my lens — that of a girl on the tube with a baby.

From my perspective, there are two types of people on the tube — the ones that see me and the ones that don’t. The former make for a very interest subject for people watching because they can be classified even further — the ones that offer a seat out of generosity, the ones that offer a seat out of curiousity, the ones that sit and show compassion, thes ones that look through me, the ones that pretend to not see me and the ones that are still contemplating which of the above kind they want to be.

I see all these people because my hands are full (holding a pole and my baby) and my eyes are free (not looking into a phone). So, this will be a series on all the people I see and pretend not to see on the London Underground.

Marginal revolutions

I love ads on the train. They are so creative, because it takes a lot to get people to even notice them. But once you do, you don’t stop. Like this one that I saw on the national rail from Paddington to Ealing Broadway –

1*Gbjq3iQ3XQtcQg1yq_ZMkg

This is so accurate about London. Everyone is so engrossed in their phones, you’d hardly ever make eye contact with anyone unless you were carrying a baby and that made someone smile.

I’ve notice that most ads on the tube are wordy, and less about pictures because they know people have the time to read through them between stations while they are standing and have no signal to scroll down their Facebook/ Linkedin feed. I’d seen this one greenish ad for some food related thing, but I only ever read it today, simply because I was trying to distract myself from my screaming baby…

1*7EG15skgfBglUP617tYd4w

…and I thought it was hilarious. I was a raised a vegetarian, but over time, I became a flexitarian. I eat what I get now. Back home, I know a lot of people who have been raised eating meat, but have restrictions around animals they eat due to religious faith, which I have never really understood. If you can eat sheep, why not pigs? If you can eat on Sunday, why not monday? My maid used to say that it’s their way of controlling the amount of meat they consume since it is so much more expensive compared to fresh vegetables.

So, this ad above seems like a first world problem. For fuck’s sake, you’re killing the goddamn chicken to eat it, how does it matter how it lived or when you kill it — like you care!! Is this healthier? Maybe. Is it tastier? Maybe. But why sugar coat this with ethics? How could we possibly justify our selfishness with such marginal generosity?!

Letters to my Berry#20

IMG_9618

When you turned 20 months, we were in Bangalore. As you can imagine, going to Bangalore means camp life, which also means I hardly ever get time to write because I am either busy socialising or trying to seem momly than I’d like. One of your biggest milestones from this month was you addressing me as “Amma”. Okay, I am being a little biased when I say “biggest”, I know. You had called me Amma before but I don’t think you had fully made that association. This month, you’d keep saying “amma, amma, amma, hffdbfksdnflsbdfnsdhfb” or that’s what it sounded like to me. But to your credit, when I’d ask you to repeat, you’d say hffdbfksdnflsbdfnsdhfb again, which made me feel so guilty for not understanding you. But you see, that shows how little we try to listen as adults.

Another big milestone was you being able to climb out of your crib independently, which was scary at first, but we realised that you wouldn’t do that on your own in the night, which meant that we would get to sleep in peace for a few more days. You also did your first ride on a musical car, which we found near the mall. I used to love them as a kid myself and it was nice to see you enjoy too.

You know what, this month has been pretty significant in terms of milestones now that I think of it. This was the last month at Smithfield Nursery for you. I am not sure if you even understood this was happening, it was surely a big change for appa and me. It was bittersweet to be honest. Although moving you from the nursery would make our lives far easier, reducing our commute times, etc. I personally found it harder to pull you out than when I put you in there. It has been the best environment for you to grow up. You have been showered with so much love and care, everyone in the nursery loved you and is going to miss you and I think that’s a great sign of how good the place has been for you. I am going to deeply miss dropping you off there. *teary eyed*

Having spent half the month in London, we landed in Bangalore and you went straight to ajji thatha as if you always lived with them. You cried as soon as you saw Barbie, which was a bit surprising as you normally love talking to Barbie on the phone. As expected, you suddenly had a new wardrobe, given that Shreya mama’s wedding was round the corner. You happily did fashion show and insisted that we pair your clothes with matching shoes. In fact, I tired pretty quickly and let Barbie take over. She made you put on all the clothes she had brought for you and you were overjoyed. You’d start taking off the dress you were wearing the moment you saw a new one some distance. You definitely didn’t get this from me. Disclaimer – I might annoy you some day in life by saying, I don’t know how you turned out like this, being my daughter as if you are supposed to be my replica.

You had a blast at the wedding itself, hanging out with so many people from all sides of the family. You were as usual the star of the wedding being the only little one on ajji’s side of the family. The highlight of the wedding was you getting your own “baLeyele” for all meals. You belted like a pro. Drank off non-bisleri water like a boss. But you suffered from mild NRItis with tonnes of scary looking mosquito bites. Although you adapted to Bangalore very quickly, I realised you did show some signs of being a little Brit. When your favourite stray dog “Bhatta” came home one day and you fed him some french fries, you called it “chips”. Ahem.

Talking about adapting to Bangalore, you were saying things like “bussu, pantu, dogu” by the end of the trip. Also, you did this funny thing, where you would sleep off the foot mats in the house or randomly sit in front of the desktop, type fastly, pick up the mouse and say “Hello, hi, kathakathakatha, ok bye, see you” like one telephone operator. You also drew all over the walls in your room with crayons. While we enjoyed watching you destroy that wall, some part of me was also scared that you might replicate this here in London where we live in a rented house.

As always, you loved spending time with ajji thatha, going on hourly walks with thatha, being very well fed by ajji and then playing with Barbie the little time that she was around. She tried to help me wean you off, but in vain. Although, she likes to believe she might have scarred you. Haha. I think you loved the back and forth between our house and ajji thatha’s. You loved that you could scream and run around in our house or chase “sha” while she worked. Shivamma would try her best to tell you that her name is not “Sha” but you wouldn’t give up. Finally, I think she gave up and let you bug her everyday. You’d get damn excited everyday when she came home and also get damn upset when she left.

In terms of socialising, you had managed to not only make everyone fall in love with you as always, but also tell everyone’s names and randomly remember them even while they weren’t around. You also enjoyed hanging out with all your cousins, both on amma’s side and appa’s side. By the end of the trip, you had convinced Putti atte that you were more “cheste” than her two boys, which warrants some credit to us for managing the little terror without any domestic help.

You also had a nice photoshoot by Anuroop in Krishna Rao park, which you posed quite happily for, although you got distracted by the swing and then refused to cooperate. You did lots of style with your sun glasses and wouldn’t let anyone take them away from you. Ajji gave you a little purse to put your stuff in and every time you heard someone say “bubba”, you would run to wear your purse and shoes and go off with them. In fact, even when we were leaving home to head to the airport in Bangalore at 4am, the first thing you asked me was if our bags were ready. When I showed you the suitcases, you felt very happy.

We were very worried about returning back to London and you missing everyone back home too much, but you were quite happy when we came out of the Heathrow airport, because you saw the rain outside and said “wow!!”. But i am sure you are missing everyone and also the mangoes. We’ve still got facetime and WhatsApp, until next time!

 

The marital whisper network and why men don’t have it

whisper netork.jpg

Disclaimer – While I am principally not opposed to the idea of gender as a spectrum, I must confess I am fairly illiterate. So, as always, this blogpost will cover only the two ends of this spectrum. My sincere apologies to anyone else in-between for not having enough to say.

I was talking to a good friend from school earlier this morning and we were exchanging notes on our respective married lives and she said atleast we women folk have a whisper network where we are able to vent/ share experiences, although we are shamed about it as being disloyal to the husband/ family, whereas men don’t talk about these things. Anecdotally, this seemed very true, but I wondered why men and women behaved differently despite sharing the same experience – marriage.

The three questions that I set out to answer are – (1) why do women share their personal stories, unlike men? (2) Why are they then shamed about it? (3) Why don’t men share their marital stories?

Men are structurally stronger, they went out to work, hunted/ gathered to feed the family and subsequently had access to education that resulted in superior jobs. Women on the other hand were the child bearers and rearers, and then when we started leading more settled lives, women’s responsibilities extended to managing all responsibilities within the house. This natural division of labour resulted in men becoming the financiers and women feeling indebted to the income for running the house. In this way, for hundreds of years, men have dominated women, and especially in marriages.

Given this social structure that has been nurtured by our patriarchal society, women opposing this dominance is never a pleasant thing. From a man’s perspective, shaming this rebellion is the most natural thing to do. Whether this is right or not is a completely different question, but all I am saying is that given our social conditioning, this is not unexpected. From a woman’s perspective, it is a matter of pride if you do stand up to this dominance, and like anything else we are proud of, this deserves to be shared to. However, given that women have to balance this pride with the shaming, they resort to whisper networks.

Does this make a woman disloyal to the husband/ the family? This question is best left to individual judgement as everyone’s circumstance is different and this depends on who you are sharing what information with and how that would affect the person being discussed. But you are being bloody disloyal to our patriarchy I tell you, for which our forefathers would never forgive you. But I’m okay with that, are you? Now, what about men? Why don’t they talk about their marriage with others? Ideally, I would have liked to ask men this question, but given that they don’t talk about it, I’ll try answering on their behalf although I’d be thrilled to have a man challenge me on this, though.

If our society is structured for men to dominate, then it is socially unacceptable for a man to declare loss of control. If a man talks about a disagreement with his wife, he is implicitly admitting to loss of control. What man can’t keep his woman in her rightful place? It is a matter of shame for the man, so he’d rather not talk about it. Today, as more and more women gain control in relationships, more and more men are comfortable breaking free from social conditioning to allow greater balance in power in a marriage. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is confined to the walls of their household.

Men are yet to talk declare loss of control more openly, and this is all down to social conditioning and how little incentive they have to break free from it. Why should they be more vocal about their problems? Who is going to champion this change? While gender equality is a great thing, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I have access to more opportunities than my grandmother did, I think we must encourage our men to speak up. It’s okay to not be in control. It’s okay to grow a pair and talk about your marital problems, because you are not alone!