Diary of a Kenyan girl in India

Home Spender

Indian men live to make money. Their wives spend their lives figuring ways of how to spend it. What an outrageous statement to make! But hear me out.

Over the weekend I was visiting my friend Archana. She is a homemaker (In  India this is the term used to refer to housewives…and I love it!). We spent the afternoon discussing where to buy certain types of bags, lentils and toys for our kids. Literally, there was nothing else we talked about beyond those key things- for three hours.  I was basically guiding Archana,who is new in town, on where to go and spend the money her husband makes (for them).

This is a scene that plays out all the time while with Indian women. They LOVE to shop. They shop till they drop. I am well aware that I am mostly acquainted with upper middle class Indian women. But I know that even the ones who are not high society spend a huge amount of what they earn shopping –mostly for fabrics, clothes and jewellery. And they talk about where to shop for this or that with the seriousness and focus of a surgeon about to cut open the chest of a patient. No jokes.

I used to be shocked by the materialistic nature of India. Now, I do not bat an eyelid. My mother-in-law gets giddy with excitement when planning to go out and shop. My sister-in-law too. They unfortunately do not know how indifferent I am to the process and the act.

My husband is one lucky man (in this sense at least). I HATE shopping. My sisters say I shop like a dude. I only buy what is needed. In and out of the shops before you can say pronto. I remember one Christmas it was decided I would be the one to shop for the food items. Everyone went silent and due to their crestfallen faces the decision was immediately vetoed and it was agreed that my mom and sister would be the ones to shop. They spent a whole afternoon at the mall. I could have done a maximum of 30 minutes. Of course they came with more goodies than were on the shopping list. But this is what Christmas is about right? So, yes. I acknowledge that many women around the world do love to shop.

All Indian women in my family work. In fact my mother-in-law is a doctor. But I am yet to see her pay for a meal whenever we go out. Same goes for my sister-in-law. Very brilliant and smart women. But they both have said in more ways than one- husband, you know my work is to spend your money right? And my father-in-law and my brother-in-law smile and say of course, do I have a choice? 🙂 Which begs the question, what do working Indian women do with their money?

Now, I am a Kikuyu woman. My grandmother worked in her farm till she dropped dead at 91. My mother is retired but you would never know as she is out and about delivering food supplies to institutions and sitting on boards all over town and making her money. We just do not know how to relax and prepare meals, shop and take care of our families all day.

I do not know a single Kikuyu homemaker. None. I personally run my own business and thankfully because of the Indian influence, I not only work from home but can now state with joy that I am home 70% of the time. I go to client offices and sites but am a work from home mom.

When close Indian friends learn about my culture, or where I come from and how women work, they shudder. I used to wonder too, why our women are out there working and earning. Then I watched this great TED Talk by Dr Helen Fisher.  A small portion of the video explains. It turns out African women have been equal to men-socially, economically and even sexually for millions of years. African women have produced 80% of food consumed in their homes for years. Working is not new to us. In fact, for the rest of the world, women are just now getting back to work.

Back to Indian ways.During our wedding ceremony, we had a priest who I must say was brilliant- translating each and every ritual he did or chant he made (which was not only to my benefit as most Indian family members and friends later admitted that they had no clue on their wedding day why some things were said or done ..hehehe). In one part of the ceremony he had to advise my husband on the lines of to always take care of your wife. He went on to state `In today’s world this means give her your ATM cards’. To which everyone laughed and clapped. Oh, Indian women, even the priest has mandated you to spend your man’s money with abandon 🙂





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