Thursday, February 25, 2010

On Women and Financial Freedom

When Chandni tagged me for the IndusLadies International Women's Day Contest, I wondered whether I should write about "relationship issues", of which I have written in the past, or about "workplace inequality", which I haven't faced a great deal of but (of course!) have an opinion of. But when I looked at the list again just now, another topic leaped out at me: "financial freedom".

It won't be news to long-time readers that money is important to me. I remember reading some advice when I was a child, that a woman should always have some money of her own. I recognised the wisdom of that advice then, and it hit home as I grew up. When I wasn't happy living with my parents, living under their rules, it would strike me again and again that I couldn't really live my own life until I was financially independent. Once I made my own money, I could make my own rules. I could live where I wanted. Being financially independent would make me an actual adult.

And with all of my rules about relationships and life - rules about not being in any relationship (and I'm not just referring to romantic relationships here) where you aren't valued or respected, about being alone - and even desperately lonely - rather than in a bad relationship - all of these rules cannot be followed unless you have the financial freedom to follow them through. You can't walk out of the house - at least, it would be way more difficult to gather the courage to - if your parents or your partner is financially supporting you. If you are financially independent, the problem becomes much smaller: you might have to face some censure and loneliness and heartbreak - but you will live, and hopefully have a better life at the end of it.

And yet, this is a rule I have broken myself. Broken over the past year, when I quit a job that was draining me and stayed home for a few months for no other reason than that I wanted to. It is not something I regret or am ashamed of: on the other hand, I am proud that I could trust the Guy enough, our relationship enough, to take such a step; proud that our relationship has survived - and bloomed - through periodic outbreaks of insecurity wherein I questioned my worth when my time seemed to have no tangible value.

I do not mean to say that this is a step that was right for me and isn't for others. I did it for a while, for less than a year. But it is over now, and I go back to work next week. And I look forward to money in my bank account; I look forward to being able to buy a frivolity without feeling guilty; I look forward to being able to get into a fight with the Guy without feeling bitter and frustrated that I can't leave him because I don't have any money.

No, I don't want to leave him: not when I am sane. But I have my crazy moments when I'm afraid things between us have got worse and it would be better if we part, before I realise I am just tired or sleepy or something and he hasn't really done anything wrong. But even in those crazy moments, I would like to feel that the door is open, that I can leave if I want to, that I am here, in this relationship, in this house with him, because this is where I would rather be.

And this is in a relationship which I consider near-perfect, which seems to get better every year. Not all relationships are - I should know, this is by far the best I have ever had, and I'm not just including romantic relationships.

Financial freedom. The freedom to earn your money, to decide what to spend it on, to decide where to invest it. To buy property in your name, to sell it when you want to. To do all of this, like men do. How are we equal, if we do not have the same?*

I am posting this very late, so I can't fairly tag anyone else. The deadline is in an hour.
*By the same I do not mean the equal amount of money, but the equal amount of freedom.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Relationship Advice

The worst relationship advice I ever got was when I first got together with the Guy, and a friend hinted that I should find someone better-looking, someone whose arm I'd be proud to walk into a room on. Understanding doesn't matter so much with time, she told me, making me wonder about her relationship with her long-time boyfriend and soon to be husband.

What did I do? Oh, I smiled and nodded and called the Guy at my first chance to laugh over it. And we both exclaimed over how weird people are - a topic of conversation that has remained most enduring and entertaining for us.

And it's been over four years and believe me, I'm proud to be with the Guy. Not proud of how he looks - though I'm not displeased with that, and we seem to be growing more and more alike there, given how more nicely rounded we grow every month - but of how he is. And I feel so incredibly lucky that he wants to be with me.And I'm glad, every day, for the one fact that brings us together: that we are so similar, that we can understand each other so well.

The best relationship advice I ever got? It was delivered by my friend Vroom, back when we first became friends and I was telling him about my first boyfriend. It was pithy: "If you ask me, that guy's a jerk. Dump him."

Of course, I blew up at him for talking about my boyfriend like that. But it's been almost seven years, and Vroom and I still speak our minds to each other.

How about you? What was the best relationship advice you've ever got? The worst? Make a post of it, write it in the comments. I want to know.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Blog Isn't Dead

And no, nor am I. Yes, I know it's been the longest time between posts in nearly ever.

I went to Bombay last weekend, hung around at the Kala Ghoda festival and hung around with one of my best friends. I had gone alone, because the Guy had gone off on a separate little trip of his own, and somehow that made it all the more fun, realising that I could have fun without him. We spend so much time together that that sometimes seems in question.

I had thought about spending a couple of more days there, but at the end of two days I was feeling tired and strangely homesick, and just wanted to come back to my own home again, even though the Guy wasn't in it.

The internet connection hadn't been working since Saturday, and we thought it was a routine BSNL glitch. Then we discovered that we had been cut off because apparently a bill hadn't made it to our address, and so we hadn't realised that it was due. It's not back up yet: I'm using a kind friend's wireless card.

But the icing on the cake was a couple of days ago, when the power went off in the afternoon. I shrugged and went to sleep. When I woke up, there was still no power. When dark fell, I realised other flats had lights on. I tried to find out what was wrong, and failing, I lit three candles and settled down with a book.

The next morning, the Guy found an electrician to get it fixed. We also discovered that the electricity people had cut off our power because there is some accelerator thingy (or something) that needs to be connected to the meter and wasn't - I suppose the builders decided it would be easier to do without it in certain random flats, and guess who got lucky? And after over a year, the electricity people decided to cut it off without notice this week.

Anyway, it's all good now. And what would I do without all these service providers to add excitement into my life?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Finding a Friend Again

I said you would never grow up. I said to call me when you did.

And when you called, I refused to believe that you had grown up.

But then I visited your city, and I couldn't leave without meeting you, without giving our friendship yet another chance.

And so we met. And I was floored. At how much you had grown up.

You were the nicest version of the boy I had known.

I even missed, a little, my stupid blundering but oh-so-endearing friend. But I was so proud.

Even though I wondered if you needed me any more. You seemed so sure, so complete.

But it was so pleasant being with you. So comfortable. The kind of comfort you only get with old friends who know you too well to be shocked at anything you might say or do.

And then, last night, I called you. And you talked to me.

And it felt like the years fell away. Four years, maybe six. And after so long, I found my friend again.

A friend who still does stupid things. Who makes things worse when he's trying to help.

Just like I used to. He relates to that part of me, the part that's stupid, and a little insane. The part that loves unconditionally, wildly. The part that makes mistakes, over and over again. And seeks forgiveness each time.

I may turn around tomorrow and get furious at something you said. And vow to not let you in my life again.

But I know I will. I may shut the door, but soon I'll open it again and call to you.

Because you were there when no one else was. You cared when no one else did. And even when I was in darkness, and I couldn't call to you, knowing that you existed lit a little lamp inside of me.

And I'm so glad I have found you again.