Let’s call her M. We were in school together. Not thick as thieves but good friends. As it always happens life got in way and we lost touch. A chance reconnection on FB re-ignited the old friendship and we decided to meet.

From first look, M looked very different. Yes, 15 odd years is a long time and we all change and evolve. But the ambitious studious friend who sat next to me in class and went on to do her MBA in one of the premier institutes wasn’t the one sitting across the table. With perfectly coiffured hair, accessorized attire and her ensemble complete with a bag and a watch that cost more than a modest man’s monthly salary, a cultivated air of nonchalance talking about her hectic trip to Casablanca over the weekend; this wasn’t the M I knew.

It took some time for the fashionable façade to come off and her story came out albeit haltingly. Her husband, a banker, a very successful one, whom she fell in love while working, made it very clear that only one of them could work. The other would stay at home to mind the kids and home.

No questions asked who would earn and who would sit at home. When I fell quiet, M remarked, “It’s ok. I have loads of fun. Shopping, frequent foreign holidays and of course the kids keep me busy. Why run around and work when life can be easy and cushy?”

We promised to meet again and we did try. But her lunch soirees and frequent trips abroad got in the way. Our worlds were too different and too far apart for us to meet again but I’ve never forgotten M. The look of quiet disappointment in her eyes which she covered with huge sunglasses. Or was it regret?

Another friend, a work from home web designer, tells her husband she’s at the salon when she goes for work meetings. Another doesn’t tell her husband about the investments she makes with her earnings. Their respective better-halves don’t like to know that they are working or saving money; they feel happier if they shop, party and spend time at salons. Both women laughed as they narrated it, leaving me aghast and fuming. Neither of them see this as an anomaly. And M has buried her desires and ambitions under layers of expensive ensembles.

Often the abuse is so subtle that the women don’t realize it. Men telling their wives, why do they need to work? I’m earning so much and so well, you just enjoy life. I’m there to take care of it all. This isn’t care, concern or love. This is subtle subversion. Not letting the woman grow her wings and find her niche. M’s husband isn’t a doting & caring father and husband; he is an ego-centric man who can’t see beyond his career goals. The shopping money that never runs dry and frequent trips abroad are subtle tactics to keep her lost in the haze of a life so that she takes care of his domestic front while he soars and flies high. Abuse has many faces and sometimes the perpetuator is a well-educated, sophisticated & successful man and the victim is often no less qualified and capable but willy-nilly finds herself trapped in a gilded cage.

Behind every successful man stands a woman who holds the fort. Likewise for a woman to succeed, she needs the whole-hearted support of her family, specially her man. Support that goes beyond mere words; translates into action. It’s not enough for the spouse to say he supports his wife in her endeavors. Verbal support needs to translate to reality; minding the kids, attending to their school chores, playing with them…sometimes it also means just making sure the grocery is done or the door bell is answered to while she works on her dream.

What’s worse is that often women themselves don’t realize this.

Surrounded by children, family and responsibilities they don’t consider their dreams, even themselves important enough. It is ingrained in them not to dream big or think of their dreams because they have a much more important role to play. To hold the fort while the man chases his dream.

What’s scary and cause for concern is the fact that these women laugh and make light of the situation! They don’t see how they are being minimized.

Most of them live their entire lives gulping down regret, disappointment and hurt; wishing for support and encouragement to make their dreams a reality. For things to change, women need to change first. Be the change you wish to see around you.

My debut novel – A Forgotten Affair, is a love story which deals with this sensitive issue – emotional abuse in affluent homes. My protagonist, Sagarika, is a talented and gifted artist who decides to walk out of her marriage to be with the man she loves. She meets with a near fatal accident, goes into deep coma and then wakes up to a complete memory blackout. Her life too, is not unlike the life of the women I spoke about. The decisions she takes, the demons she fights, are what I explore in this book.

Kanchana Banerjee.jpgAfter two decades of writing for companies & publications, Kanchana fulfilled her long-cherished dream of writing a novel. She lives in Gurgaon with her boys – husband, son & 2 dogs Her debut novel published by Harper Collins, A Forgotten Affair, releases early September. On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2aFYZaN                                                             Kindle: http://amzn.to/2aCu2Z1