In a fairly patronizing move, one of the leading Hindi movie channels decided to show the Gauri Shinde hit English Vinglish – to celebrate Mother’s Day. For those who may not be familiar, the story is that of a cotton sari-clad Puneri mum who “embarrasses” her children for her discomfort with the English language, goes on to join an English-speaking class, while on a trip to New York. Her children however, an adoring son of about 8 or 9 and an angsty tween daughter, remain to be her priority and biggest source of pride. Her only other claim to fame in life, is her ability to make mouth-watering ladoos, that she cooks at home and sells in small batches. The story goes on to show how during her month away from family in New York, the protagonist enjoys re-discovering herself, her individuality and realizes that to the eyes of the outside world, she is in fact, an entrepreneur, a word that was new, uplifting and empowering.
A line from the movie that stuck with me, loosely translates to “I’m not in search of love, all I wanted was a little respect”. How many unknown woman entrepreneurs do we just take for granted around us? From the aunty that makes dabbas and sends them to your office in Mumbai, to the wrinkled old lady bent under an umbrella by the roadside selling jasmine garlands or even the woman in a village weaving straw into mats, that you purchase at a high end “organic” store. It’s not only the Kiran Mazumdar Shaws of the country that deserve recognition for taking a leap of faith and for their business acumen, but all these unsung heroes as well. In a poignant scene of the movie, the protagonist’s husband introduces her to someone with the description that she “only makes ladoos” and was “born to make ladoos” – in one piercing shot, crumbling all her pride and confidence. Haven’t we heard a familiar, similar description being given to the strong women who “only teach because it’s easy to take care of the kids”? The ones you love the most, can clearly, either bolster your confidence and self-esteem or be the death of even the slightest source of pride.
In another scene that almost angered me with its realism, our heroine breaks down having “failed” her first job when she missed a child’s fall (and a few stiches) during an English class! When will women stop beating themselves up for not “being” there for their children 24X7, and share the responsibility with their partners? How often do you hear a male colleague whispering on the phone in a corner of an office asking for an update on homework or instructing a child to bathe? I suppose only when we start to hear these conversations, will more women have the space to stretch their wings and explore their true potentials. As for now, in the words of the inspirational Aretha Franklin, maybe all we need is a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”.
Chatterbox as a child to communications professional now; Anahita is passionate about exploring new places, meeting new people, sharing her perspectives with the world, jogging in the outdoors and drinking good coffee. Give her a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org