Opinion: Why we need to keep this conversation going

When a woman is her husband’s boss at work, comes back home earlier, cooks, and waits for him, is it progressive?

Mar 11, 2016 03:07:00 PM | Article | Gokul Krishnamoorthy

A current colleague and a former colleague of mine are getting married this March. Not to each other, but to their chosen life partners. One of them, Jagadeesh Krishnamurthy, is getting married to a girl he met for the first time on dating app Tinder. It turns out that she is half-Tamilian half-Maharashtrian, and teaches architecture. He’s not doing too badly either. I’m happy they found each other.

The other, Raahil Chopra, is getting married to his girlfriend, a Sadh (North Indian from UP), whom he has known for the last seven years – a relationship slightly longer (touchwood) than his tenure at Campaign India.
Now, when I brought up the subject of two juniors I have worked with closely getting hitched, it made for interesting conversation with another friend. One I will not name, but have known closely for many years, and have seen go through phases from a live-in relationship to a rocky marriage to a-weekend-a-month in Bangkok (or Dahisar, or Madh Island…). You would assume s/he has seen the world and hence wouldn’t be judgmental.
The assumption, when I say one couple got together on Tinder, and the other through a more conventional route, for many, seems to be that the ‘Madrasi’ must have taken the more traditional route, and the ‘Chopra’ must have taken the Tinder path. If I hadn’t pronounced who did what upfront in this article, what would you have thought?
It’s unfortunate that at the back of our minds, there’s still a colouring cloud that conditions our thoughts. It might be in the subconscious, but it seems to be working. And it might be based on past experiences, not just impressions. We’re all a sum of our experiences.
The other side of this is, many people today would say you can’t judge who met how by their names or origins anymore. And thank God for them.
That’s the beauty of conversation today, if and when it is allowed in the right spirit. We have more perspectives to share than we ever had. It’s just that we have to do it with subtlety, civility and poise because there is an increased amount of sensitivity.
The ‘gender sensitivity in advertising’ subject, which forms the crux of this issue of Campaign India (4 March 2016), is also an area where the same ad or situation is most often judged completely differently by two different people.
Was an Airtel ad that portrayed a woman who happened to be her husband’s boss at work, coming back home earlier, cooking, and waiting for him, progressive or stereotyped? There are clearly two perspectives that emerge and neither is right or wrong. You may choose to take sides on that debate, but you will do well to listen to both sides of the story to expand your own mind.
Elsewhere, there’s another point of view – a very valid one at that. Do women have to exhibit power at the workplace to be seen as progressive? Do they have to be at a workplace at all? Is professional success inevitable to be seen as progressive? Can’t the caring mother or homemaker be successful too? Or are all homemakers ‘failures’? Is it right on the part of advertising to project the picture that being a homemaker is second to being a working professional? 
Many of us would go up in arms – our mothers were and are second to none. It’s about having the choice to be what one wants to be, and being respected for being whoever they are.
For us to move up the sensitivity chain, these conversations must never end. And for that, we need to ensure we listen as much as we speak.
That applies to all of us, but perhaps more to the newly married entering a special and equal partnership like none other – irrespective of how they met. Here’s wishing my friends Jagadeesh and Raahil the very best.
(This article first appeared in the 4 March 2016 issue of Campaign India)