Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy Women's Day To the Women in My Life!

(This article first appeared on Daily O here)

For a good part of my life, I'd say from the age of ten to the age of 30, I maintained that I had a tough time making friends with other women. Most of my friends from school to college to IIM Bangalore to the corporate world were all male.
I mean, let's face it. Women are complex creatures. We're emotional, we're difficult, and oftentimes we're just plain competing with each other. There was my arch-enemy in school who read my secret diary around to the whole class, and then in college, the girl who sneakily took over my lead part in the play, the senior who casually threatened to drop out of our pathetic five-member basketball team unless I stepped aside to let her be team captain. It just became easier to avoid women, and barring a few exceptions, I found my male pals just so much more steady and reliable.
It was especially mystifying for my husband Vijay. "But why do you have so many male friends?" He'd say. "I can't keep up!"
Even when it came to his oldest friends' wives, there'd be a problem. "It's not my fault!" I'd exclaim. "Did you hear what she said to me?" I'd break into a high-pitched whiny imitation "I never thought Lambu would marry a girl like you. I mean…he's so…sweet!" I'd let the implication sink in although Vijay would pretend he didn't get it. It didn't matter. We couldn't possibly hang out in a group with women like that around.
But then - over the last few years, I noticed that things changed, particularly after motherhood and my sabbatical. So much so that now, when I look around, at the age of 35, I see things differently when it comes to the women in my life. And there are suddenly rather many.
My Zumba students. About nine ladies, most of them working women, and all determined to make the most of their weekends when it comes to fitness. An enthu schoolteacher, a television show producer, two writers and publishers, a lawyer. On my birthday, they worked out a surprise choreo to "Happy Birthday" that had me in splits. It was awesome.
Then there's my Buddhist-and-Reiki-healer-and-therapist Anupama and my yoga teacher Apoorva. Over the last couple of years, they both played an instrumental role in my health and well-being and now they've become my friends. Rather different from each other in age and approach, they're both similar in terms of their basic philosophies and unfailing desire to help others and follow their own path. In my opinion, they're shining examples of what the best of the female of the species can be.
Which reminds me - Anupama also introduced me years ago to Kamal Capoor, who runs the Happy School for underprivileged kids in Gurgaon, a fantastic institution changing the future of hundreds of kids through education and love. I cannot tell you how much that kindly, sprightly, white-haired woman inspires and humbles me.
The mommy bloggers. It doesn't even matter that only a few of us blog anymore, but we were there for each other in the days before Facebook, when commenting on blogposts was not only the polite thing to do, but also kinda cool. Today, we're still connected thanks to social media. There are corporate types, stay-at-home-moms, writers, social activists and so on. A sweet bunch and I'll always remember that we once actually held a huge surprise online baby shower together for about four of us, probably the only one I'll ever be a part of.
Gurgaon moms. This is probably one of the most vibrant communities on Facebook, and I'm just so happy to be a part of it. I've asked all sorts of inane questions about furniture, ENT specialists, how to fix a crack in a bathtub, how to get an Aadhar card made, and there's usually a helpful response within minutes. It's become an automatic reaction to post a question here. Move over, Google. Now that's powerful!
The readers of my books. I hate to say it, but the men are few and far between when it comes to reading books by women authors - even though my first book (Just Married, Please Excuse) was about marriage, an institution usually involves some men; and my second book (Sorting Out Sid) was about a man. The women readers keep me going - they often write to me with heart-warming emails, some of them really funny, such as the recent one that read:
"I recently discovered your blog and I had this urge to contact you! SO I put all my stalker qualities to use and sent you a message on FB. But obviously you wouldn't have seen it as the message would have gone under the heading of "Others" (the folder in which you get messages from creepy unknown ppl - like me.) I am not doing a good job of introducing myself."
Also, I love the fact that Indian humour seems to be coming of age, and there are so many women writers out there with their own brand of funny! I'm proud and happy to be amongst them.
And finally, there's my help, all of whom are female. I often feel embarrassed about the number of part-timers and full-timers that I have, although there are three small kids in the house constantly bouncing off the walls. I still wouldn't want to disclose the number, except to say that my brother-in-law Ajay has suggested we get them all uniforms and hold a morning assembly. Without these women to help manage different aspects of my home, I would definitely not have been able to do all the things that I love to do.
All of this isn't even counting my mom, my sister, my sisters-in-law, and my precious few soul sisters. Not to mention, the women at HarperCollins from editorial and marketing and design, who help make and sell better books.
So, Happy Women's Day to all the women in my life, and those many others out there. You must know on this special occasion (and every other day) that you're amazing, an inspiration, and basically, utterly rock this planet. And hey - the fact that I'm finally beginning to appreciate my own kind can mean only one thing - I'm no longer a girl, I'm a grown woman. Yayyy! *Skips around the room excitedly*
PS - In the meantime, most of my men-friends have recently gone and got married and disappeared for a few years into their version of domestic bliss or whatever it is that happens to us when we are first married. I'll check in on them when we're all about 40.


  1. Hey Yashodhara, I often read your blog and usually with a lot of pleasure. So it's a bit of a disappointment to find an egregiously sexist statement so near the top of this post -- 'I mean, let's face it, women are complex creatures. We're emotional, we're difficult, and often we're just plain competing with each other'.

    To me, this smacks of an easy-to-produce-because-its-already-embedded-in-our-psyches advertising jargon (women need x product because they're picky, and y because they're special). Surely both men and women are complex, difficult, and often compete with each other (within and across the boundaries of sex). If you're trying to say that competition between people of the same sex is different from competition between the sexes, I would agree (with some important reservations). Moreover, if you mean that to be the rationale behind saying 'I found my male pals so much more steady and reliable', well ok (except that you're then saying that male-female friendships will inevitably work better than same-sex ones).

    But that's my reasoning. What you seem to be saying upfront is that girls are jealous, bitchy and disloyal, boys are steady and reliable. Then you make a volte face and laud all the amazing women in your life, because you're finally beginning to grow up and appreciate your own kind (I'm citing the end of your post).

    So, at the end, I'm left asking what all this means, because you offer no retraction of the insinuation that girls are bitchy (at least to girls) and boys nice (at least to girls), you don't say it was all in your head (well, was it?), you just seem to be saying that women can't be friends till they've crossed a certain age. My own experience screams that they can, but I'm trying to keep this a friendly post as a way of proving that point, so no screaming.

    I realise you're speaking from personal experience, but let me suggest gently that on a public platform, and a public occasion like Women's Day, personal experiences marshalled for the purposes of constructing a feminist statement require more careful review and rationalization.

  2. Dear Aparna
    Thank you for your comment. Am glad you're a reader and sorry this article disappointed you. Wrote it breezily as a celebration of the women in my life, and yes, it's based totally on personal opinion - but I take your point that since it's on a public platform, it's open to interpretation.
    To clarify, yes I am saying that in my personal experience, I have found friendships with women more complex and ridden with misunderstandings till a certain age - for which I also take responsibility, given that I am also a woman and therefore equal party in each of those equations. However, I do say in the same breath that as I've grown older, I've discovered so much more that is wonderful in women - and maybe that is a function of everyone growing older and wiser. I don't think that's a contradiction or a volte face - it's growth and change in perspective.
    I disagree that I said girls are jealous, bitchy and disloyal as a sweeping statement, that's something you're reading into it. I said we're complex, emotional and often compete with each other, which is true, and yes, as you pointed out, probably also true for male-male friendships.
    Finally, given that I have ended the article saying I've finally grown up, I didn't think it was necessary to also spell out that any misgivings about these relationships was probably in my head. (Girls are bitchy and Boys are Nice is not something I feel the need to 'retract' because I didn't say it, nor mean it).

    Hope this clarifies :). If not, we can gently let it go. I wasn't going for a deep analysis of the prevailing-psyches-regarding-womenhood, else I might have written very differently. But I wasn't. Thanks for pointing this out, though and I'm really glad you expressed yourself here!

  3. Also, Aparna - I think the line you've pointed out could have been better worded as - ''In my experience, women were complex, emotional creatures, and we were often competing with each other.'' Not that I'm saying that the original wording is wrong, but it does sound more like a generalisation as well as my present firm opinion. So I might just make that one particular edit. Thanks again for pointing this out :)

  4. That almost always happens with male friends. It is our 'kind' that stays together through weddings, in-laws problems, tight job schedules, kids, school, etc etc etc!!

  5. When I read the first part of your post, I was sure you will get some comments like above..:) However, i echo your thoughts fully in the first half. The 2nd half..equally true! A lovely post.... and wish you too a very happy women's day! many helps do you have??..#justasking..:)


Hi there. Go on, say it. Well? WELL?