I’m sitting at my brand new laptop in my almost new home wondering where to start. (Dispel any desi Carrie Bradshaw notions from your head. The Manolos have yet to find their way to my feet and the closest I have to designer is a Chanel No 5.)
But this isn’t about my fashion fixations or an unhealthy shoe obsession, it’s about the problem I face when asked the question “What do you do?”
Now it’s not a very difficult question to answer. One usually says, “ I am a __________ (fill in the blank with neurosurgeon, spirit medium, free loading parasite,etc). But I can’t bring myself to tell people what I do. Let me see if typing it is easier on my fragile soul. I’m a temporary housewife. (Excuse me while I reach for the prozac)
Let me take you back 5 months. I had a successful career in advertising and had just accepted an offer from the best agency in town. I was all set to start a fabulous new chapter in my life. Enter husband. With a job offer in London in hand. And out went all notions of career, awards and my name in lights. Who cared about national TV commercials when Knightsbridge and Oxford Circus beckoned? And I could always get a job in London. (Abbot Mead Vickers Raman BBDO. Nice ring to it don’t you think?)
But I hadn’t bargained for the in-between months of doing nothing until David Abbott discovered my genius. At first I was too in love with city, the architecture and the men in Burberry to really notice. We soon moved in to the semi-detached dream. Kitchen, hall/dining, 2.5 bedrooms, one bathroom and a lovely garden. There was only one thing missing. A maid. A privilege only the privileged can afford. I then realised what it was I would be doing till that great job came along. I would be temping. As a housewife.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those crazed career women who think being a housewife is demeaning, it’s just not something I would choose for myself. But then God finds humour in the strangest things. And soon I became one of the ‘young, educated, SEC A housewives’ that I had not so long ago been trying to sell pickle to.
Now back to the burning question at hand. How does one in my position answer “And what do you do?”
There are some women who have perfected their answer. I give you the example of a gorgeous, B-school grad who had just quit L’Oreal Paris to spend more time with her daughter. Sitting next to her handsome French husband, she made it sound like she was being paid to sit on her Pilate-honed butt and make baby talk with her 1 year old. When she asked me what I did, I made a joke about being unpaid house help. During the uncomfortable silence that ensued, I waited for an earthquake or a talking raccoon to take the focus away from me and my failed attempt at self-deprecating humour.
The sad thing is that no on else can see what’s wrong with my situation. Friends and peers envy me and my so called break. Break? Since when did cleaning the toilet incite envy in others?
But then one day – realisation dawned. (And I wasn’t even sitting under a tree.) It was seven in the evening and I was chatting with a friend back home. She was still at work proof-reading a manual on health insurance (sample – “In the event of loss of / damage to one eye or both…”). It was close to one a.m India time and the poor girl was fated to an evening of gruesome limb mutilations and cold takeout. I on the other hand had run myself a bubble bath and was about to relax with a Cabernet and Cosmo’s ‘Are you a vixen or a violet?’ quiz. As I sank in to the tub I realised that 6 months ago I was doing the exact same thing. And hating every moment of it. Maybe being a temp wasn’t so bad. The hours were flexible, I worked out of home and the perks included bubble baths in the boss’s tub.
I looked across at the gleaming toilet bowl and felt a stab of pride. Perhaps my friends had something to be envious of after all.