I called a colleague in India for some work and this being the first time we spoke; he first expressed shock over the fact that I work in “China” and then asked me if I got married to shift here!! This is not the first time such a conversation took place and almost every time people assume that I moved outside my own city (Bombay) as I must have got married. Indian men are most likely assume that if a woman is not living in the city where her parents live or the city she is originally from; it must be because she is married and her husband is working in the new city.
The other day I called a junior of mine from b-school who like me is from Bombay and now lives and works in Bangalore and she was talking about these “narrow minded” men as well who assume that she must have got married and hence shifted to Bangalore. The sad part is when men from your business school; who may/may not have done as well as you academically and are doing a job similar to yours ASSUME that they can move cities for “better career prospects” but women would move only for husband’s better career prospects.
Talking about being “narrow minded”, one cant forget to mention some of the NRIs. Most Indian social gatherings (here in Shanghai) end up having the women together in one corner and all the men huddled up in another. During the couple of such gatherings I attended by mistake (once bitten, twice shy – now I just keep myself away); this is the kind of individual conversation I had with a handful of women:
Fellow desi nari: Haan ji, toh kahaa kaam karte hai aapke husband?
Me: Sorry; I am not married – yet.
Fellow desi nari: (in a surprised tone) Toh tum yehaa pe kya karti ho?
Me: (!!! thinking WTF) I work here; excuse me! (and move on with a smile to have a repeat of the same conversation with another desi nari.
So rampant is this assumption that now I actually feel like punching the next person who assumes that I shifted to Shanghai because I must have got married! GIVE ME A BREAK! I know how to live my life and don’t need a guy for that!
Thankfully there are some exceptions to the above rule (whom I count among friends and rightly so) wherein these people don’t assume stuff about others. I also know Indian men who have moved geographies to be where their wife is working. Unfortunately these constitute only a very small minority of Indian men! I have a theory that for a lot of Indian women; their own dreams, aspirations take a backseat when they get married (more so if the marriage is on insistence of parents, or for image in samaj etc) and these dreams are reborn as dreams for their children when the children are born – but more on this theory later.
In their new book; Superfreakonomics; Levitt and Dubner look at rates of women dropping out of work compared to men from a prestigious university and not surprisingly women drop out more and for more family related reasons then men do. This is true; no doubt. But does this make it the rule? Don’t ambitious women exist? And is it nice to assume that every woman who moves to a new city is doing so because of her husband/ family? I aspire to live and work in different cities around the world and I know many other women who do too. Problem is that men STILL expect women who are as smart; as qualified as them to not follow their dreams but go after their husband’s dreams instead – too bad it doesn’t cut ice with a lot of us!
p.s. I am not saying that only men should follow women; but they should not expect women to be the only ones to follow at all times! It’s a two way street, darling.