Archu From The Archive, Personal

You might want to read this before you congratulate me!

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MBAThat’s it! I’ve got an official acceptance into the Full-time MBA program, from Queen’s School of Business, Canada, commencing in January 2016. I should be all ecstatic now. I should ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ and ‘yippee’ about it. I am happy and excited, I really am but somehow I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I don’t feel on top of the world. I don’t feel anything more than regular happiness, probably because I know I deserved this a long time ago. Friends who’ve known me for quite a while know pretty well how I felt about the college where I did my under-graduation. With no offense to the college, my perennial unhappiness came from not being able to make it into the college that I aspired to, simply because caste, quota and reservations came in the way. The brutal blow to the teenage ego sowed the first seeds of searing ambition.

I convinced myself back then that I’d do my post-graduate business education in one of the global top universities, where reservations or any non-sense stand no chance. And those universities ask not only for CGPA and GMAT but also for work experience and more importantly life experience. And what experiences I’ve had over the last decade since I completed my engineering! After all that, after all the exams and the long MBA application process with essays and interviews that kept me occupied for the last few months, I finally get an admit and I still am not so yippee about it. It’s been nearly a month since the acceptance and for a person who splashes her joy on her blog and Facebook the very next moment, this silence is strange.

When family and friends heard the news, they heartily congratulated me, which is nice. However, many congratulations came with a subtext that, though had a positive intent, made me get slightly irked. I rolled my eyes inside my head and sported a polite smile on my lips. Some said, “That’s great! After family and kids, you are still pursuing your dreams. Congrats!” Another few said, “Well done! Congrats! You have a really supportive husband who has allowed you to chase your dreams!” Some even went to the extent of calling it ‘Revolutionary!” (As if). Now, what’s wrong with those wishes? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I see a number of red-colored into marks all over the place. I’ll tell you why. You might not want to hear about it, but I’ll tell you anyway because I don’t want to hear that subtext one more time.

I am my person. Just because I am married and have kids, my role as a wife and mother doesn’t make me any more or less of Archana that I already am. Just because I happily enjoy those roles, it doesn’t mean that I cannot have career aspirations. My dreams haven’t died and my IQ hasn’t lowered. Listen up! I can cook, clean, feed, change diapers, read, write, trade, study and thoroughly enjoy doing all of those things. Home and career should not be mutually exclusive. Sometimes, it is difficult to manage, agreed. But if we really want to balance, we can. The question is not about the cans and couldn’ts. It’s about the wants and wouldn’ts. And I am speaking that for all the men and women of the world. So when I am told “after family and kids….” it’s not an inspite thing. It is more of a ‘because of’ thing.

My husband has been very supportive all the time. No denying that. But it’s not like he has been supportive because he is my husband. He has been so supportive because he is my best friend. Even if I were married to someone else, we would still have been as good friends as ever and he would have supported me nevertheless (maybe a little less but still). That’s because we love, understand and respect each other’s wishes as friends and more as spouses, and not because anyone has to allow anyone to do anything. Every person’s dream and wishes don’t need freedom or permission from anyone else but his or her own free will. I am really thankful for all the support that he has been giving me and I’ve appreciated him for it many many times in many ways. But I am not going to thank him for ‘allowing me to’, no sir. I am confident that he feels the same way as I on that.

And the ‘Revolutionary’ thing is absurd. It’s the whole patriarchy deal talking. I mean, is a married Indian woman with two children getting admitted for post-graduation education abroad revolutionary? It is if the emphasis is on the ‘married women with two children’ part because our society has different roles for that designation and higher education is not among those. Look at it this way. Had I been single now and had I announced the same news, I would have been told “Hey, you want to study when you should be getting married?” Pardon my language, but “What the….!”

Seriously, why am I getting annoyed when I should be gloating over the attention? I would have been so much happier with a simple “Congratulations girl!” In fact, I had a reunion with my school mates a few weeks ago and when I told them the news, they were like “Congratulations girl!” and that’s about it. How wonderful that felt! These were the girls I grew up with and they still see one another as the same little girls. They see me as the Archana I was before I became a wife and a mommy. Higher education to them is as congratulatory as moving on from school to college. The right amount that appreciates the effort and subtly acknowledges the potential without going all society about it. I have to say it on my blog, “Thank you girls! By far, the best wishes I received, excluding the hugs and kisses from my husband and kids.”

For those who ask, “Why now? Why not before family-making?”, what did I tell you about life experience? I chose this route because I always knew that I’d want to take time-off or at least have a relatively relaxed time career-wise when I had my children so that I could spend quality time raising them during their early developmental years. I was not sure if I would have been able to afford that after completing my post-graduation. I might have been, I might not have been, I don’t know. I didn’t want to have all the bases covered and spoil my children with a silver platter when they arrived. I rather wanted them to witness their parents working their way to that silver platter so that they would also do it one day when it’s their turn. This route is like intra-day trading. The alternative is like fixed deposit and I am a hungry day trader. Besides, how many parents get the privilege to go to school along with their children and do assignments together?

For the other curious folks who want to know about my what next plans for the family, we are still working on it. I’ll tell you when we get there. I am really sorry if I have sounded offensive. It’s just that, after everything that I had to do to get to this moment, I should at least have the liberty to speak my mind and be congratulated for the right reasons. I might not become a superstar in one song like our movie leading men do, but in one year, I know I would at least be headed somewhere and hopefully in the direction that I want to. So for all that and for the befores and afters of that, I certainly need your wishes. But let’s keep that simple. A simple “Congratulations girl!” will do. Thank you very much!

Read this related post that I wrote on MBA Crystal Ball on ‘Why should an Indian mom with kids drop her MBA plans?

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