Today, we eat, breathe and sleep on what’s ‘viral’ and what’s ‘trending’. Every time anything goes into a rage in the virtual world, we zoom into some sort of ‘autopilot’ mode, letting hash tags and ‘those four words about something’ guide us to relevant or irrelevant deductions, without any care for the truth or reality.
So when a young working mum’s ordinary Facebook post started trending like hot cakes across our rather crowded virtual melee, we became quite curious naturally. But instead of accepting the bullet of half-baked truths, we decided to dig further. What we found pleasantly shocked us, while also proving the fact that human bonds can and always will, triumph over society’s aged perspectives.
Here was a normal working mum, who has today become the sole bread-earner of the family. Not because of a divorce or any other social complication, but because it didn't matter to the couple who stayed back and took care of the child as long as the child was well taken care of.
Here was a mum, a banking professional, hailing from a traditional Indian family, whose relationship with her spouse Jaspal, was so strong, loving and mature that they have not tagged tasks to gender. Her husband willingly gave up his job and became a full time daddy - in a society where every man is expected to earn for the family by norm or coercion or whatever else.
Here was an ordinary mum, not some superstar, activist or billionaire, who was sincere and diligent enough about her work and did not want to give it up because of her son’s sickness. She instead managed the situation quite effortlessly with her husband's support. In fact, on that occasion when the picture was taken, her son, Purshottam was unwell for a couple of days and was being looked after by his father, who had taken leave. However, on that particular day, the little boy just wanted to be with the mother and refused to even eat or drink without her. Swati, clearly didn't want to fail on a critical official commitment for that day. So they mutually decided to bring the child to her office, which was the need of the hour. She then used her backrest pillow to make him lie down and bottle feed.
What Swati Chitalkar did that day, was extraordinary precisely because of the ordinariness of it all, and the same holds true for her truly better half as well. Neither of the two of them ever needed to attend gala conferences, lectures and sessions on gender equality, responsibility etc, to make the choices that they did. Nor did they probably read those ‘Chicken soup’ style guides on perfect parenting or relationships, to shape out their beautiful bonds of friendship and happiness. They just did it, because it came naturally to them. (just like it should to all of us, but never really happens in our identity bound, slogan crazed patriarchal society!)
What this story also brings forward, is the fact that a stable, reliable, standard infrastructure for child care in absence of both parents must be created in order to check women stepping out of our workforce. She also shared with us that she managed to exclusively breastfeed her child for 6-8 months and wean him as well, with the support of her employer, who allowed her due maternity break, a couple of months of the newly introduced child care leave by the government and a few more months of additional leave on her own account. Jaspal Singh Chaney, Swati's husband, on the other hand is an IT professional with a leading software firm and set an example by quitting it for a full-time- fatherhood.
And lastly while retweeting and pinning endlessly, the conversations, the idealisms and the ‘Wah-wahis’ we could simply point our fingers at society and ask this; why can’t our society redefine its flawed notions of family and fatherhood and raise more Jaspals - individuals who are truly men, not some hollowed, arrogant shells of flesh and bone, just out there to express their false superiority and mardangi?
Swati you inspire us all, because you did the normal, the logical, the thinkable! Jaspal Singh, you inspire us too, for simply being with your spouse and child when they needed you the most. As for your story going ‘viral’, well it truly proves the lamentable state of affairs within us where normalcy is redefined as the despicable. We hope there are many more couples like you in our society today!
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