Why I am a Ka waiting for a Ki

One can't wholly be defined by gender. Hopefully, the Kareena Kapoor-Arjun Kapoor starrer will change attitudes.

 |  5-minute read |   10-04-2016
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I have always wanted to be a house husband. I have suggested this to all my girlfriends. I'll do my writing and look after the house. You go and work. Look where it got me: I'm 40 and single. But that doesn't stop me from behaving like a house husband. Today, I woke up and did all the household chores.

I put dirty laundry into the washing machine - an old-fashioned twin-tub with no fuzzy logic. There was a dust storm yesterday, so I picked up a broom and swept the back and front verandas. I vacuumed the rooms.

I was out of groceries, so I bicycled down to Big Bazaar and loaded up on milk, toor dal and Mother Dairy cheese slices. I got two pens free with the cheese. Very thoughtful of Mother Dairy. A writer can always do with an extra pen. I also went and watched Ki & Ka.

Also read - Why Ki is anti-feminist and it's a good thing

It's a nice enough film. Kabir wants to be like his departed mother. Kia is a corporate go-getter. They meet on a flight, their love blossoms over Digene and whisky, and then they get married in a courthouse. Kabir, an IIM graduate, doesn't want to be a "corporate robot". His aim in life is to stay away from "faltu mehnat".

This doesn't mean he's lazy - he fixes breakfast for his wife and mother-in-law; he fixes the bai - who puts on the AC and calls her boyfriend over as soon as Kia leaves for work, not realising that there is another person in the house.

Kia hasn't told the folks in office the truth about Kabir. She's told them that he's writing a book, which is why he stays at home. There you are - a writer/house husband combo is sort-of socially acceptable. I heave a sigh of relief.

Kabir's character gets to flaunt his masculinity. He beats up "eve-teasers" and wears his mother's mangalsutra wrapped around his macho wrist. When the family needs extra cash to buy a flat, he becomes a trainer, helping aunties lose weight.

2-ka_041016111120.jpg One can't wholly be defined by gender. 

Kabir is so unique in his life-choice that he becomes an unlikely social media star. He appears on the cover of Grahshobha and Femina, delivers a TED talk. Kia gets jealous. She tells Kabir that he's a fraud. For one who is against corporate slavery, he is, ironically, marketing his own life.

This is a film about breaking gender stereotypes, but it's also a film about temperament. One can't wholly be defined by gender. Beyond gender lies the temperament of an individual.

The premise of the film is that usually boys want to be like their fathers but they might also want to be like their homemaking mothers. I grew up watching my father pottering around our Allahabad apartment, towel wrapped around his waist, wielding a broom and dustpan. I wanted to be like my father. Though if you ask my mother, she'd say his cleaning was mostly superficial; he never reached for the difficult corners.

Society is funny that way. Working moms are made to feel guilty for not caring for their kids enough. Stay-at-home mums are looked at as losers for not doing anything with their lives. At social gatherings, most strangers want to talk with my father- they often don't know what to say to my mother, other than polite nothings. Talk to her. She's a painter. She reads Henry Roth and Michael Houellebecq. She has opinions.

Also read - How educated urban working women risk losing empowerment

Once I was in a panel discussion with Anuja Chauhan at the National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. When I spoke of men being stay-at-home dads, she disagreed with me. She felt that when men don't go to office, they drink beer all day and pig out in front of the TV. But, Anuja, TV isn't that bad. Housewives watch soaps. Men watch cricket. In fact, Test match cricket is a game custom-made for house husbands. You keep an eye on the score, while performing your household duties - helping the kids with their homework, mopping and cleaning, buying Shakti Bhog atta. Five days go by, the pitch crumbles and turns square, wickets tumble, and, in the meanwhile, all the chores are done.

Most women still like the idea of a man being a man. That they go out to work doesn't mean the man stays home and does the dishes. The man has to work and do the dishes. When I asked my father what in his opinion could be the reason for my not being married, he said straight up - to start with, you never had a regular job.

Pop song lyrics are the best social commentary one can read. In a song called "Dishes", Jarvis Cocker sings: "I am not Jesus though I have the same initials/ I am the man who stays home and does the dishes./ I'd like to make this water wine but it's impossible-/ I've got to get these dishes dry".

Paula Cole, on the other hand, yearns for a "real" man: "I will raise the children/ If you pay all the bills/ I will wash the dishes/ While you go have a beer/ Where is my John Wayne/ Where is my Marlboro man/ Where is my happy ending/ Where have all the cowboys gone?"

For the moment, I continue to be a sort-of-house husband. The other half is missing. Hopefully, this film will change attitudes. Maybe, one day soon, I will find my Kia.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Writer

Palash Krishna Mehrotra Palash Krishna Mehrotra @palashmehrotra

Freelance journalist and author of The Butterfly Generation.

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