The moment I say ‘Indian housewife’, what comes to your mind?
Here, let me guess:
Sanskaari (the Indian serial one not the Alok Nath one)
All these adjectives immediately come to mind when I say: Indian housewife. Indian serials especially have twisted this image so terrifically, that you just think that a housewife is supposed to be this extremely saccharine, super sweet woman, super forgiving, someone of a goddess status or even more. But one who can also go from docile to daku in a split second. In one scene she is crying a river and then next in a massive role reversal has a revolver in her hand and is shooting someone.
But of course, she has her reasons for doing so which are perfectly valid and only elevate her godly status.
Or say if you are on the other end of the spectrum, then Indian housewife = Savita Bhabhi for many of you.
Why So Many Stereotypes Around Housewives?
There have also been many negative stereotypes as to how housewives are bored and have nothing to do since they do not actually ‘work’ anywhere, or are kitty part obsessed wherein they do nothing more just sit pretty and gossip about everything under the sun, especially lives of other people.
Housewives are still considered to not really be doing any real work (while I personally do consider house management and raising kids a very legit full-time thankless job), and in light of misplaced feminism are even condemned for choosing this role and settling below themselves.
It seems our TV serials have reduced the Indian housewife to having absolutely no life outside of the 4 walls of their house, even if in the start some might be shown as ambitious and working women, eventually they all end up staying inside their house and arranging parties, being saved by men and wearing heavy jewellery.
One such example I would like to recount is this serial I had the misfortune to catch called Ishqbaaz, where a new character was introduced, a woman cop who would be the love interest of one of the male lead.
While it intrigued me as to how they would show such a powerful character and truly genuinely I was interested in having an unconventional profession for the female role, but as always, Indian serials managed to disappoint me yet again.
The character had perhaps 2-3 scenes where she actually did any cop work, and soon I caught a scene some few weeks later where I saw her still at her supposed ‘boyfriend’s’ house, decked up in heavy jewellery and I thought… does she not have any police work? Doesn’t she have to go to the station, anything where she is doing something not gharelu kaam?
The other end of this see-saw are those who think of every housewife as Savita Bhabhi (remember the sick rape-y song Bol Na Aunty Aau Kya?) a housewife who is freely available and behind her husband’s back has many sexual exploits. Let me stress that there is nothing wrong in a woman having sexual desires, but this character instead of bringing about a sexual liberation for women has reduced them to being mere sexual objects to men whose no means yes.
Even in cinema, I believe we are mentally way past the portrayal of a typical bahu, typical ma, aka Hum Saath Saath Hai type perfect characters.
Movies That Seem To Be Breaking These Stereotypes
There have been a few movies made in recent times that have tried their hand at breaking the stereotype around an Indian housewife.
Films like The Lunchbox, English Vinglish, Life in A Metro, Taare Zameen Pe, Astitva and Tumhari Sulu; the upcoming family comedy are perhaps doing right by bursting our old and preconceived notions of how we want to see our dear Indian housewives.
The Lunchbox and Astitva both showed that a woman is not bound to her husband and family, that they are not bound by the restrictions around her ankles and that if things get too out-of-hand she will get the strength to break free. Both these films focused on the liberation of the woman, both emotionally and physically.
Tumhari Sulu while keeping it light, fun and quirky, is trying to show a woman who is content with her life, her sexuality, her job preferences. It presents a woman who has no qualms about being rough around the edges, is happy cutting bhindi as well as doing an unconventional job like a night radio show jockey.
This is the kind of content that millennials of today will relate to, the idea of how appealing it is to come across the concept of a sari wali bhabhi doing a late night radio show, which we all know is synonymous with naughtiness, relationships, breakups, love guru kind of gyaan and more.
Even Shilpa Shetty’s character in Life in A Metro showed a new facet of an Indian housewife’s personality. Her character first left her job due to her marriage, then took it back when financial crisis came in, and when she was not satisfied with her marital relationship even had the courage to think of other prospects.
I am not encouraging extramarital affairs here, so no judging please, but it just brought to the forefront that housewives are not some emotion-less zombies that are meant to be kept as hidden things in our house.
So truly waiting for the day when housewives too will be shown having various different kind of colours to their personality like how it is in reality and perhaps slowly the way we perceive them will change too.
Image Credits: Google Images