An Ode to Women Taking Financial Decisions

Photo by Bich Tran

This is a topic close to my heart. As a single woman in her 30s, I often find myself having to deal with people second-guessing my financial decisions. I am always told to consult a man before taking things further. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely okay with consulting experts. The keyword being “experts.” This is a gender-neutral term not limited to men. If they had told me to consult an expert instead of a specific gender, I would have been fine. But that’s not the case. They pinpoint the gender – it should be a “he.”

In my experience, people in India are skeptical about a woman’s money-managing skills. There’s an absolutely valid reason for such cynicism. Over generations, men have been handling money, and women have been doing household chores. This mentality is deeply ingrained in us. It is only now that the roles are shifting, more women are joining the workforce, and men are learning to handle the kitchen by themselves. In the past, this role-shifting was unheard of, which might explain why breaking away from it now takes some conscious effort. It does not come naturally. People tend to look at you with distrust if you take up a role that goes against the gender stereotype.  

“I rather my husband not cook. He might make a mess.”

“I rather my wife not handle finances. She might make a mess.”

These dialogues are not fictional. They very much exist – especially in Indian households. True, some women may not be good at finance, but that applies to men too.

Here’s an actual conversation with my mother:

Me: “I have decided to invest in Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs).”

Mom: “Oh! Why don’t you consult XYZ uncle about this?”

Me: “But what would he know? He’s a mid-50s person who distrusts new investment schemes.”

“Okay. But are you sure?”

“Yes! I have done my research, and I understand this product well.”

That was the end of the discussion. My mother looked at me with doubt etched all over her face. I had to convince her that I was making an informed decision.

To date, I have not made a poor investment choice. I read both the pros and cons of all investment schemes before selecting. I stay away from products I do not understand. I avoid systems that are too risky. I only invest in government-regulated schemes, not impulsively, but after going through much examination. However, all this research is still insufficient for society to stop doubting my capability to handle finances. Because I am a woman. Instead, a man who has done half the study is trusted more because of his gender.

Women are encouraged to be financially savvy and aware. But my question is – when we do become financially literate, are there people who would trust us to efficiently handle our money?

An Ode to Rewatching Movies

A still from Wake Up Sid

It was an irregular day in my life. I had not watched any new movies or tv series in the last 4-5 days on any of the OTT platforms I had religiously subscribed to. This is huge, considering I never went a day without new content.

I realized the moment you subscribe to something, your mentality shifts in that direction of wanting to make the most out of it. You want to get your money’s worth. And once things turn into a habit, there’s no looking back. OTT platforms had become a habit. Not watching new movies or series in the last few days didn’t stop me from zealously adding new items to my watchlist, but I wasn’t tempted to start any. Was it saturation? Was I tired of the new?

Out of the blue last night, I felt like rewatching a 2009 Hindi movie – Wake Up Sid. I remember loving it the first time I watched it. I did not remember any of the dialogues. I only vaguely remembered the feeling it gave me back then – the mushy, soft, warm kind. I was curious whether I would feel the same way again. So rewatch the movie, I did.

It’s a rarity nowadays to watch a movie twice, mainly because you are subjected to many choices. Why go for the old when you can make way for the new? With the rise of OTT platforms, we have more on our platter. We add items to our watchlist, just like a shopping cart. We start multiple movies or tv shows and taste a bit of each, just like a buffet. Movie watching is no longer an immersive experience. It feels like a chore we need to finish quickly because we are already eyeing another.

There was a time when we used to watch and rewatch our favorite stories. By the time we were done, we were able to crack dialogues in the movie as effortlessly as the actors themselves. I do not remember lyrics or movie dialogues nowadays, but that’s understandable. Things stick only when there’s repetition.

I feel when we have more choices, we tend to become confused. Human nature is such that we are tempted to try everything readily available. Nowadays, surrendering yourself to one experience has become rare. There’s a mishmash of multiple experiences that you are driven to partake in simultaneously.

I couldn’t stop smiling while watching Wake Up Sid. The emotions are all contemporary, very now. It has aged like fine wine. Everything in the movie from 13 years back is still relevant today – the angst of a man who’s disinterested in regular office work, his journey to understand himself and his goals, and gradually falling in love with a passionate, ambitious woman. A woman who says with conviction that she’s not interested in him but her actions and expressions prove otherwise. Sid is very relatable, and so is Aisha. When the characters fall in love, you end up falling for them too. Their charm is such. The magic of good storytelling is such.

We don’t make such movies anymore. Is it because love stories are nowadays made with the male gaze in mind, or is the female gaze less fashionable? I doubt it’s the latter.

Would I get back to any of the movies released nowadays ten years or maybe twenty years from now? Would I sit and rewatch with a smile or cringe at the corniness of it all? Only time can tell. I think it’s about time our Hindi filmmakers resumed making feel-good movies again — so that the romantics, like me, have a decent movie to cuddle up to on a dreary, overworked weekday night.

The Unseen, The Unheard

Anthem
Photo by Jatin Baghel

An anthem that exudes unity,

Of being one,

Brothers and sisters of the same soil.

But the words are empty,

As meaningless as a liar’s embrace.

As hurtful as a kin’s animosity.

As rancid as a forgotten fruit.

The unseen, the unheard,

Took over humanity,

Over love, compassion, empathy,

Burning them to dust.

Any wonder why hope is lost each day?

Why hearts break so easily?

Why fires light up hastily?

Why words tremble feebly?

We see more harm than good,

More violence than peace,

More hatred than love,

More you than ours.

More “you” than “ours.”

Eyes burn with hope,

Waiting wistfully for the day,

Humanity wins,

Love wins,

We win.

Over the unseen, unheard.

Dealing with Annoying Questions When You’re Single

Photo by Karolina Grabowska

It’s not easy being a single woman in India.

Everyone is out to advise you on how you should live your life. One hot topic is marriage. The marriage “advisors” (could range from your parents to your friendly neighborhood milk delivery guy) might fight every day with their partners but will not skip a beat to lecture the singles about the benefits of holy matrimony and how much happiness it brings. Outside of their public rants and frustrations involving their better half, there might be a peaceful paradise that they guard secretly, so I would give them the benefit of the doubt and take their word for it. But marriage is not for everyone. I had to get in one to realize it was not for me.

Many in India succumb to arranged marriages because of pressure from family, friends, neighbors, colleagues – almost everyone. I had once faced it. I couldn’t take the pressure and ended up getting married. The relationship suffered from incompatibility issues, and divorce was the best option.

It is a hopeless place – being the epicenter of parental pressure. It can break even those with nerves of steel. It’s not wrong to say that not every Indian gets the chance to experience intimate love because they are forced into marriage before they are ready. It becomes a compromise of sorts where each partner partakes in responsibilities and demands that society expects them to fulfill in the name of love. In between all the cacophony of the daily routine, intimacy loses its way. Life in itself becomes time-tabled because you have things to do and mouths to feed. Where is the time for love in an Indian household?

So how can someone get past this pressure and live peacefully in India as a single person? How to say no to marriage?

Here are some ways you can deal with insufferable questions:

  1. Whenever someone starts with their unsolicited advice, don’t take it with a smile. It is imperative to make your point clear – that you are not looking for unwanted advice.
  2. If no one understands you, move out and reduce contact. This is a harsh step, but if your freedom is important to you, unfortunately, it is the only way. Not everyone can step away as it requires some emotional and financial stability.
  3. Make peace with the idea that you will be emotionally blackmailed by everyone around you. It will never stop, even if you relocate because you can still be contacted via phone calls or WhatsApp. You can only hope they will get used to your way of life one day. In my case, people got fed up with talking to me about topics I am not interested in – like marriage. No one irritates me anymore with the “when are you getting married?” questions. However, it took a divorce for people to leave me alone.

In India, regrettably, most people give in to pressure. They do not wish to offend or disappoint their loved ones. This is understandable, but it also means giving away your freedom of choice to someone. You cannot have it all in India. You’ll have to choose one – your freedom or keeping your loved ones happy.

As a single woman, it was not easy to reach the “other side.” It was like a bumpy adventure with its own blocks and complications. It takes mental strength to go against the norm and stick with it. It is not easy but definitely not impossible.