City Life – Lakshman Rekha, Gurgaon
Her line of “prudence.”
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In life, each one is obliged to navigate through a maze of liberties and restraints. “One learns to strike a balance between the things one can do and the things one does not do out of prudence,” says Pari Singh, who works in a design firm in Noida. A Gurgaon native, she shows her kitchen slab, pointing to a white line circling around a few bowls containing the day’s lunch (mixed veggies and parathas) and milk. “This chalk keeps the ants away. You get it from any general store for 30 rupees, and it is called Lakshman Rekha.”
The name is inspired from an episode in Ramayan. While not mentioned by Adikavi Valmiki, some retellings of his epic say that Lakshman drew a mystic circle around the hermitage in Panchavati, on the Godavari, after first Shri Rama and then his brother were lured away by the demon Marich. Devi Sita’s stepping over, to give alms to the disguised Ravan, had disastrous consequences, making ‘Lakshman Rekha’ a metaphor for a line that should not be crossed.
Pari Singh tells of the Lakshman Rekhas she has crossed and not crossed. In her late 40s, she lives with daughter and husband in a multi-storey apartment.
“If I say I’m among the first in my family to be a working woman, then it will be unfair to the women who came before me. My mother works, her mother worked, and my mother’s mother worked. Not outside in the world, but at home. The fact that I was able get higher education, find a career and build my place in office life owes a great deal to these women. I have to also recognise the women of my father’s side, and the women belonging to my husband’s family, who helped shape the sensibilities of my father and husband respectively. These two men have supported me greatly in my professional pursuits.
“In an ideal household, both man and woman share the home chores equally. While we both work, it is only me who makes breakfast and lunch for all of us in the morning. After returning from office, I prepare the entire dinner. Perhaps I underestimate my husband, but I wish to stay at peace with some of our status quos.
“One great decision I took in the peak of my career was to step back from it for a few years, to be there more fully for my daughter. I could have done both things, maybe, but I felt an urge to restrain my professional ambitions to be more of a full-time mother.
“I hope when my daughter reaches my age, her Lakshman Rekha will comprise of obligations that are universal to all humans, regardless of the gender.”