Monday, February 22, 2010

The Tale of Two Women

I was tagged by Dipali to participate in the Indusladies International Women's Day Blog Contest. This is my entry, though I am yet to make up my mind if it should be tagged under 'Women's Education' or 'Relationship Issues' - I think the former.
Though the name has been changed to protect privacy, I know both these women, and the stories are my interpretation of their life story....


The Tale of Two Women

This is the story of two women. Two women who share the same name, but have little else in common.

Vasanti and I were in school together. We lost touch soon after we graduated, but a series of coincidences got us back in touch. Vasanti is 38-year old mother of two. A former relationship manager with a commercial bank, she married a b-school classmate, but chose to stay at home when she had a child 8 years back. She’s pretty, articulate, and has a figure that any woman would kill for. Her husband dotes on her, and she has two maids and a chauffeur to take care of her every need.

The situation of the other Vasanti couldn’t be more different. The third of five daughters of illiterate construction workers, her childhood was spent baby sitting her sisters, and the children of her sisters. She grew up on the rubble heaps piled outside construction sites, and hadn’t held a pencil or a piece of chalk till an NGO persuaded her parents to let them enroll her in a municipal school at the age of 9. She caught up very fast, and ten years later, is enrolled in a B.Com. course, and dreams of becoming a lawyer.

When people talk about Obama as having triumphed against all odds, I mentally picture Vasanti. She may not have made it to the White House, but her victory is no less significant than that of the American President. From a legacy of illiteracy to working towards a college degree. From being the daughter of a daily wage earner to having dreams of a professional career. Resisting marriage, taking on social norms, working towards a dream that only she could see- if that is not triumph against odds, what is?

If the second Vasanti’s story can serve as an inspiration for all women, the story of the first Vasanti is the polar opposite. She had it all – a privileged background, a good technical education, a career people aspire to- and she threw it all up to stay at home. Now, I don’t have anything against stay-at-home mothers – I have been one myself for three years, and respect any woman who can make the rather difficult choice - but I do believe that the decision should be one you take yourself, not one that is forced on you. My classmate, Vasanti, quit her job because her husband informed her that only one of them could work, and since his career was more important, she should leave hers.
She has all the material comforts that any woman could want, and yet is tremendously unhappy because she was forced into a situation that she never liked.

Two Vasantis. Two women from very different backgrounds. Two people who would have been expected to have very different futures.
Two people in different situations- one is in control of her destiny, the other is merely existing from day to day. Which is what one would have expected given how they started out.
Except, the one who should have been in control is not, and the one who should have been merely surviving is living.

They may share the same name. But what is different is their attitude towards determining their destiny. And in the ultimate analysis, that is the only thing that really matters.
-x-

To be eligible to participate, I have to tag three women. There seems to be nothing in the rules that specifies that the women should all be Indian, so I am tagging three women who I am sure can give their own perspective on things - Ron, Manasi and my dear blogging buddy Jan who though not from India will definitely have something interesting to say.

24 comments:

Ann Elle Altman said...

Those are cool stories. I've never even heard of this contest but you've done a good job. I will check out the other links.

ann

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Natasha - thanks for tagging me! This is the sort of thing I adore.
Your story is wonderful. Some people can make a hell of any heaven or a heaven of any hell and your story certainly speaks to that.
I just went through the process of registering with Indusladies - I will get to work on my story and fulfill all requirements! I took time to read some of the other stories - they are fantastic. Now to work!

dipali said...

Great stories! yes, you have to register at Indus Ladies. I spent the better part of the afternoon struggling with it too:)

ladyfi said...

Fascinating observations. And your conclusion is so right.. just goes to show that outward appearances and material comforts do not always tell us the full story of people's inner lives.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Ann - thank you

@ Jan - reminds me of what Radhakrishnan said - "Life is a game of bridge. You haven't dealt the cards or framed the rules. But you can play the game well, or play it badly."

@ Dipali - it was a pain, wasn't it? And thank you so much for tagging me - I loved writing that post.

@ Fiona - thank you. Life, I guess, is what you make of it, and only that.

Manasi said...

Thanks Rayna for the thoughtful tag... I am working on it ! Just the push i needed to get out of my shell :-)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Manasi - if I could get you started, I am happy ;-)

Induslady said...

Hey Rayna,

Congratulations! This entry of yours for the International Women's Day Contest @ IndusLadies, has made it to the Top 10!

We have sent you an email regarding the same. Please check and revert.

Regards,
IndusLadies.com

starry eyed said...

Very well written! Very inspiring and food for thought. Congrats!

Meira said...

How true.
Congratulations. Came from indusladies.

Aaarti said...

What contrast in lives.. yep, the 2nd Vasanti is def an inspiration to many..

Congrats on the win!!!

Ugich Konitari said...

Rayna,

This story of the two Vasantis is so well told. And one sees so many folks like the first Vasanti. Like you said, she needed to have left because she wanted to and not because someone gave her an ultimatum .....

And yes, congraulations on the top ten selection....

deepa said...

i really likd the story as i am facing since 13yrs of struggling life till today totally agrre wd the line that all that matters is not only destiny but ur possesivness and willpower to get wht u want

Hip Grandma said...

Congratulations on being among the top ten in the IWD contest.Top 3 actually since the results of the other 7 haven't been announced. your stories are inspiring. the first Vasanti is bound to be unhappy despite all material comfort. The importance of having the freedom of choice in a decision such as hers cannot be more effectively emphasized.

wordsndreamz said...

That was beautifully written. Congratulations!

Joanna said...

hey congrats on making it to the top 10...would like to speak to you for a story I am doing...can u mail me, plz? my id is lobo.joanna@gmail.com...thanks :)

Lakshmi said...

Came here through indusladies top 10 pick. Congratulations; this is a great post. You put it so clearly, the striking contrast between the two women, one with choice and one without. Beautiful!

Swaram said...

Here from IndusLadies. Very well written. Wud rather live my life than just survive! Hats off to the 2nd V .. she is an inspiration for sure!

Swaram said...

Congrats on making it to the top 10 :)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Thank you everyone for dropping by and for your kind remarks. Our life is what me choose to make of it is the guiding principle of my life, and I am glad it resonates with so many of you.

@ starry, meira, aaarti, hip grandma, wordzandreams, lakshmi, swaram - thank you so much. The will 'to do', is worth more money than the entire stock exchange put together

@ ugich - precisely. Had she chosen to leave, she would perhaps be much happier today

@ Deepa - you are an inspiration!

Joanna - will do right now.

ssstoryteller said...

Hi I just came across this on FB and landed on yr blog page...
Must share with yu that I have written a very similar story...based on my life...
check it out
http://ssstoryteller.blogspot.com/search/label/choices

I am quiet amazed that we share a similar thought process

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Sstoryteller - nice to meet you. And I will definitely check your story out.

Indian Home Maker said...

Terribly sad, but not unheard of... most women grow up hearing how they must sacrifice and adjust, I think that becomes the right thing to do after a while for most women.

Hats off to the bolder, smarter Vasanti.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Indian Home Maker - the saddest part is that the first story is so common :-(

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