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Honey, I wear the pants here


KUCH NAHI HOTA HAI: In Karan Johar's debut film, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the tomboy loves the hero but he only falls for the girlie-girl. Kyunkithe girls who dress in dungarees and beat the crap out of you at basketball can't be girlfriend material. But the babe in the short skirt and the long hair, her heart warm as a puppy and her eyes limpid pools - she's the one our hero gives his dil to. But, of course, since Hindi cinema needs its happy ending, the tomboy grows up to be gorgeous and curvy and can still play a mean game of basketball. Since she decides to take on the hero while clad in her chiffon saree, of course he shoots the ball into the basket while she's still tucking her pallu into her slim waist. The hero can't believe his luck - he gets the game and the girl. She, on her part, realises what's winning or losing when she's hit gold (read: got his attention) in life anyway? The movie was a superhit.

When Priyanka and Deepak were planning their yearly getaway, they chose Koh Samui in Thailand. Once they'd decided on a place, Priyanka's personal assistant at work (she's HR head at an MNC, he's a professor of economics) made the hotel reservations, booked the flight tickets and organised a car to pick them up. When the couple landed on the sunny island, a placard reading Mr & Mrs Priyanka Gupta greeted them at the airport. They both found it funny. At the hotel, the room was booked under Priyanka's name and the air tickets were - obviously - subsidised using her flyer miles. "I was laughing at being called Mr Priyanka till she accusingly told me that there was nothing romantic about the holiday because she organised it all. I wonder how I could have infused romance into a plan that was remotecontrolled by her, " he says. Deepak also admits that, left to him, they would have probably holidayed in the Kumaon hills. "She earns more than I do, so her plans are always more elaborate. "

Now Priyanka, like most women, may argue that romance has nothing to do with elaborate plans - and the simplest gestures can be romantic - but the fact remains that it's tougher for a man to surprise a fullyconnected, alpha woman today than it was to sweep a fair maiden off her feet in the past.

Last month, Anil Trivedi, a banker, surprised his wife Rita, also a banker, on her birthday with tickets for a weekend getaway. She flipped her lid. "I had an important conference the week after and needed to work overtime to prepare presentations for it over the weekend. I thought it was really stupid of Anil to make plans without even checking if I was free, " she fumes. "When we were dating, she would always complain I never surprised her. Now after marriage when I do, this is what I get to hear, " laments Anil. Of course things would have been different if Rita didn't work and had all the time in the world to be romanced by her well-meaning husband.

What's the problem here? Priyanka earns more than Deepak while Rita's job is as demanding as Anil's. And both situations are putting a strain on their respective marriages. According to a recent article in the New York Times, "Sexual attraction in the 21st century, it seems, still feeds on 20th-century stereotypes. Now, as more women match or overtake men in education and the labor market, they are also turning traditional gender roles on their head, with some profound consequences for relationship dynamics. "

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt believes the alpha-woman is always more desirable than the wallflower. "Romance is far more gratifying between equals. If one partner scales down her personality for the other, it's not an equal relationship. The idea is, like Khalil Gibran wrote, to stand apart but together. "

But how many times have we seen the stereotype play out? When the woman, as great a professional as she is, only falls for a man who is visibly more loaded than she is? In 2009's The Proposal (see picture on left), Ryan Reynolds reports to Sandra Bullock's editor in chief character. Bullock is portrayed as the mean bitch who only finds true love when she realises her humble assistant (Reynolds) is actually the heir to an empire. In one scene, the voiceover actually refers to Reynolds as an 'Alaskan Kennedy'. The movie went on to become one of the biggest box office successes in Bullock's career, and her first number one film in ten years.

"The turn of the century hasn't changed much and the exceptions are far from setting the rule, " says psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh, MD. "Most men are still threatened by successful women and do end up complaining that romance doesn't come easy when you know she's equally capable of picking up the tab, every time. "

While most would like to believe such philistine attitudes are not for 'people like us', advocate Chitra Phadke - who practises at the family court in Mumbai - sets that theory to rest. Phadke says often women who earn more or are in better positions professionally are seen as a threat to the male ego. Husbands tend to snub them or are rude to them in public. This leads to problems within the marriage and, sometimes, even a divorce. "Some wives, successful as they may be, make sacrifices for the sake of their children. They end up bearing with a man's slights to save the marriage, " says Phadke.

Does this 'management' of emotions and 'balancing' of testosterone and estrogen levels in a relationship leave any place for love? "To a large extent I think any romance feeds on the stereotype of the alpha-male who is capable of providing all, " says Mills and Boon author Milan Vohra. "Having said that, I like the idea of alpha women. I think it would be next to impossible for me to write a romance where the female protagonist is not working or has never worked. I'd always want my heroines to have spunk. It's cool if she's someone who's taking time off from her career, or working in a non-profit set-up. But I'd want her to be passionate about something beyond finding love. A totally non-driven woman character? I don't think I could write a romance around her, " says Vohra. Maybe there's still hope.

(Some names have been changed on request)

Reader's opinion (5)

Madhusudan IyengarApr 2nd, 2011 at 08:34 AM

Absolute crap.. Why don't women & the public in general stop for some time & give a thought. Frankly speaking, bitter relationships are increasing now because of the poison called 'Equality'
Honestly speaking there was more equality in the previous generation.

Oh dear women, plz grow up..!!

Preeti Feb 4th, 2011 at 02:25 AM

Romance has nothing to do with who picks up the tabs. Problem comes only when the women end up pairing with men who feel threatif they earn lesser than their women. The real confidant men will not have any trouble with earning lesser or even being stay at home Dads.

Ranju ShirishFeb 1st, 2011 at 18:47 PM

Whoever wears the pants, has a responsibility to learn to keep them on, in face of crazy world out there!

Komal TripathiJan 22nd, 2011 at 22:55 PM

A female dominated male in a male dominated society is a phenomenon spreading like an epidemic.Men are increasingly finding it difficult to survive with a dominant woman.thanks to the economic independance of women atleast thay got a power to make their own desicions...

Khushvinder SinghJan 11th, 2011 at 15:34 PM

our generation is witnessing many profound changes in almost all walks of life.The need of the hour,as i perceive, is honest introspection and wisdom to drive you through the turbulence.Those who will do it will emerge as winners and their genes will thrive the stability of future generations.

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