Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Behenji Cometh

Some friends and I were joking around the other day and I called myself a behenji. To a non-Indian, that means a housewife whose life is pretty much caught up in tv soaps and boring cooking and usually such a woman chooses not to think beyond the kids and the daily chores. Oh and such a woman would probably be fat and frumpy to boot.

So, not unexpectedly, there were some jeers at that, the idea of me being a behenji.

But I am, I think. When I think of the fun career I had planned, all the travelling, all the mad hours, the interesting people I was to meet, well, minding a household wasn't really the highlight of those plans. On the other hand, what do I do now? I don't like filling in "Housewife" in the forms so I call myself a writer (actress sounds pretentious somehow), but honestly, my days are filled with the household chores and my life is centred around my husband and son. My worries are to do with catching up on the mending, making sure we're stocked up on groceries and figuring out the best way to cut another corner somewhere. I may not watch a lot of TV but I do a lot of mindless surfing.

So in my own way, I think I am a behenji, compared to what I planned to be.

On the other hand, I'm making behenjiism look cool like never before. Behenjis like me wear Next jeans and sexy tops and occasionally down a shot at Roxy. We drive (to use the term loosely) and we write and we keep up with what's happening around the world (or at least as much as interests us, anyhow). When we plan a party we are quite likely to order out or at least not cook all day to prepare one meal. Oh and some of us even buy our spices as pastes.

We carry our kids on our hips the way Indian women have carried their children for millennia but the lullabies we sing may be in languages from across the world. Our husbands do like a well-run home and food when hungry but they take equal pride in our college degrees and our ability to carry off a strategically cut minidress. Best yet, our parents and parents-in-law take pride in our esoteric career choices, even though they really do not understand them.

It's not so easy some days, when you're the one running after a toddler and you've got marks on your best silk saree that'll probably never come out and you see the gang of pretty girls giggling amongst themselves and checking out the men and you suddenly realise they are the same age as you and you could be standing there, with immaculate hair and an expensive saree you could afford to splurge on. You could spend several thousands on a pair of sunglasses and not count the number of diapers the same sum would buy.

And then you smile to yourself. You're the one who gets all the help when she walks into a store with her arms full of Bhablet. You don't worry about your saree getting messed up because you've been wearing sarees long enough to know that you've worn yours very prettily in the first place, and in the second, so long as you're halfway presentable everybody will admire you for managing to look presentable while coping with Bhablets. You don't have to play long distance games with unknown men because you're happily out of the race.

It's a great time to be a behenji right now, getting the best of both worlds. Freelancing is opening up as are work-from-home career opportunities. The money may not be much but it's an option my mother never had so I'm not about to diss it. If you're young and in love with life, there's very little you cannot do, if, like me, you have a husband who understands your need for a little time off now and then to do your own thing.

Am I saying there are no frustrated Indian home-makers any more? Hardly. What I am saying is that staying at home -- the quintessential mark of a behenji -- is no longer as limiting as it used to be. With any luck, the next generation will never know how small the world used to be. With any luck at all, they'll be able to choose for themselves what they want to be and be more comfortable with their choices. And when that happens, you'll know that the Indian behenji is the coolest critter going.

While you think that over, you may like to check this out and ask yourself where the roots of your prejudices lie.


aargee said...

so true! Nice post! Loved it.... You and me kind of sail on a similar boat :)

Anonymous said...

Wow - this is a comforting post for Bhenjis-in-waiting like me! :)

And great blog Sue - I usually have great fun lurking around here.

aargee said... didn't send me the collection of snaps you have, yet. Can you please mail me? And what about the snaps Nisha had? did she send you ? :) Would love to see those too :)

Mona said...

great post, babe. you just made me proud to be a behenji!

Anonymous said...

This is so true

Anonymous said...

This is so true

Anonymous said...

"When I think of the fun career I had planned, all the travelling, all the mad hours, the interesting people I was to meet, well, minding a household wasn't really the highlight of those plans."

:) You have it so much better than so many who do have all that - yes? Two sides to every situation, like in MM's post.

Three cheers for behenjis! :)

dipali said...

You are too much of a thinking person to ever achieve true 'behenjiness', Sue! Though your definition makes it seem most appealing:)

karmickids said...

Yup, from one behenji to another, an award. On karmickids.

SUR NOTES said...

hey sue, i generally lurk around here and leave with a smile.

but had to comment on this post.

to the new age behanji- you rock baby!

and when that stellar performance will be reviewed in the papers, you can say i prepared for the role with a baby at my hip and a shopping bag on my shoulder, and my brain buzzing away.

and just reiterate- a baby on the hip and groceries on the shoulder does not mean that the brain is not buzzing with many many brilliant thoughts.


and hapy birthday to your little boy- in advance.

Mystic Margarita said...

Is an intellectual behenji an oxymoron? Thought so before I read about you being a behenji! Well, then - here's to a highly creative, intelligent, and wise-beyond-her-years behenji I have ever had the pleasure to know! :)

PS: Yes - that pic in google in mine - 3 years back. Note though that the auburn hair has turned darker - blogged about it sometime back- and keep in mind the added weight, too! Sigh!

umarah said...

i guess at the end of the day how you feel about yourself is what is important.if the indain(or for that matter pakistnai)SAHM or behenji is happy with watching tv and cooking,more power to her.but,yes,i do agree that we have much more power and choices as compared to past.and also as you termed it in the end,who know being a home maker will become the coolest thing ever.and i guess it already is in my heart:)

upsilamba said...

a well written post, Sue.
Liked it. Loved it.

Sue said...

Aargee -- My pics are on V's login and I always forget and log in to my own. Will send, will send!

Jottings -- Actually, I was tracking you while you surfed. I hope that doesn't psyche you out. I didn't know who it was until you delurked (and thank you for delurking!)

Mona -- More behenjis like you is what this world needs. Said in all seriousness, too!

Ritu -- No? You're one of the pioneers, I suppose. More power to you.

ThreeDrinks -- Yeah, I guess that's why I wrote it. Some days it's not easy remembering how much we actually have.

Dipali -- Don't worry, I can be bimbo with the best of them. There's a whole bunch of ppl out there who'd be shocked to find out I can think! ;)

Milady -- Thank you!

Sur -- Hey, thanks. For the thought and the wish. Oh and for de-lurking. :)

Mystic -- Arre, I'm 26, I'll have you know. Might seem like a baby to you, but hello. Other side of twenty and all that?

Anyway, let's all be behenjis together and turn them green. ;) And I think you're looking pretty hot these days, now that I think of it!

Umarah -- Most of us behenjis have self esteem issues; I think I wrote this post to bolster mine. It's not that we aren't aware of the pros of our choices, but we do forget the positives to our lives sometimes. And when are you starting your blog, eh?

Upsi -- Thank you. Glad you did.

Itchingtowrite said...

lovely post!!!& so true when yummy looking men come and help u (read jet airways staff) becoz u hav hyperactive toddlers with u- lovely to be treated like the lady!

yay to behenjism

the mad momma said...

damn i am late iwth my behenji post!

Mama - Mia said...


behenji or not, as long as we are happy doing what we are, we are doing good!

though if we throw such philo outta window, your post says it the best!

and i know i would love to be a cool behenji comme toi some day!!



DotThoughts said...

you are one uber-smart, talented behenji, i can tell you that! These lines made my jaw drop.
What I am saying is that staying at home -- the quintessential mark of a behenji -- is no longer as limiting as it used to be. With any luck, the next generation will never know how small the world used to be.

Sue said...

Itchy -- LOL! Yeah, exactly what I'm talking about.

MM -- :) So where is it?

Abha -- Yo babe, you stay at home and watch your career stagnate and end, and we'll talk.

Actually, don't do that. Nothing's worth that.

Dottie -- But it's true, na?

Rohini said...

You a behenji? Not a chance. This is what behenjis are and none of these descriptions apply to you...

Sue said...

Ro -- Arre, don't do this to me. Although, sigh, now I'm a full-time working mother.

Am thinking of quitting, tmrw morning.

Poppins said...

loved this post. Am so happy to read this - wonder how I missed this earlier!

I'm all set to become the kind of behenji you've written about here!

Sue said...

*hands Poppy the martini and the blouse piece (and sindoor and turmeric)*

What, I'm Gult, we give out funny stuff to all comers.