The Flat-Family-Marriage blog raises societal issues and is NOT sexist: Here’s Why

If you’ve landed straight on this post, then I must mention, this is a reply to all the women (and men too) who got offended by an earlier blog post of mine and some of them even termed it sexist. While on and off quite some people have thought that, this particular comment yesterday forced me to write a reply.

Here’s the comment I received few days back:

The incredible sexism in this article made it very hard for me to agree with some of the valid issues that were brought up. Maybe you could broaden your very narrow mindset and consider that women do have dreams and aspirations beyond having another child? Many women would like to be entrepreneurs, but they need to overcome a huge amount of societal pressure to get married and settle down by as early as 20, pressure that is far more than that faced by their male counterparts.

The entire tone of your article is one that stereotypes women into the category of nagging annoyances that are hindering Indian men and their entrepreneurial dreams. I don’t know what women you’ve been dating but maybe you only seem to connect with very traditional women because you, yourself, have a very traditional mindset towards gender. I cannot see a motivated, driven young woman being attracted to someone like you, who doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility of female entrepreneurs in India, in an article titled “Reasons why young Indians don’t turn entrepreneurs”.

I also found your use of phrases like “my girl”, “your girl” and “I hope my ex-girlfriend is reading this” demeaning and bitter.

FYI there are a lot of female entrepreneurs in India. Some at a smaller scale, running beauty parlors, and many at a larger scale, starting NGOs etc.

Hi Anu,

First of all sorry if you got offended. Secondly, thanks a ton for your comment. While I have received a lot of good feedback on the blog from women and men alike, some have written in to express concerns you have raised and your reply really pushed me to answer you. In fact honestly speaking, I got offended by you terming the article or me ‘sexist’. I wasn’t okay with it so I thought to reply to you. Since the reply was long, I converted it to a blog post itself. Here it goes:

Let me apologise first to all you who got offended by it, in any manner. While writing, that was never the intention. Since it was a rant, the language didn’t turn out to be flowery and some of you felt bad. Apologies again.

Secondly, Anu, this is a personal blog, my version of the experiences i have had. I do not pretend to be writing articles that are rooted in surveys, or has interviewed people in similar situations. After reading my blog, someone actually did that, The Week magazine to be precise – see point 3 below.

Coming to the answer, let me share a few incidences, post that article, they should answer it.

1. One of the very first things that happened was that a female entrepreneur SMSed me, “Dude the sentiment that you’ve expressed in that blog, is the same how I feel everyday. People asking me about when do I plan to have kids and all…” She went on for sometime expressing how she could relate to every bit of that article. [I wish I had taken screenshots of that sms and stored, would have helped today.]

2. Another successful female entrepreneur (now in her 40s) said, “that’s exactly how I felt when I was young like you, why don’t boys want to get married to a female entrepreneur?”

3. In Sep 2013, The Week magazine did a story on “How young entrepreneurs in India are facing a problem in getting married” – A lady journalist did that story. Along with me she covered 4 other (single) entrepreneurs, 2 out of whom were women, again. The crux of that story was same as that of my blog. The problem is ancient Indian mindset/society. And not what you think I am saying, “women”. Couple of more points I must also mention here. First, when this story was being written, the journo asked me to connect to more single entrepreneurs. I asked a couple of “women” entrepreneurs and they refused to say anything in public about this. Obviously, no one will ever complain about them. Since I raise and talk about a norm which I feel is an issue, people are bound to get upset. Second thing is, when this story got published online, it did not get good feedback, for obvious reasons. And was eventually pulled down from their portal! Well, I have a copy of the print issue, can share it if you want.

4. In Nov 2013, a “women” entrepreneur got in touch in with me and honoured me since the post made it to the most read post ever on her community portal.

5. The second most important point, another women entrepreneur asked me to join hands in building the biggest portal for women in India (and possibly the world). Yes, she knew about the post. I can say that with certainty because we had this conversation at the event mentioned in point 4 above. Again, she could have thought the same and could have never initiated this. Today, we are working together.

6. The most important point. Six months after that post, I merged my company with another company, that was run by, not one but two women entrepreneurs. Needless to say, they had read that post as well.

I could go on with more stories but I think these are enough to tell you that my mindset is broad enough to get me the chance to interact with many phenomenal people, women and men, both professionally as well as personally.

Just to make it clear, the problem statement I focussed on was “Indian Society” and not “women”, as you think. Hope this helps.

I’ll even take this opportunity to mention that I strongly support women rights and entrepreneurship. I am a supporter of the #VAW (Violence Against Women) community and have participated in events earlier. And I do read (books like Lean In) to address and understand such problems and how to eradicate them.

Obviously everybody has their own opinion, so some of you chose to disagree while others agree. It’s your opinion and I respect that. If you are still offended, apologies once again.

Update: May 22, 2014: A friend shared her perspective a few days back, sharing it here, with her permission.

Another perspective
Another perspective

Flat, marriage and family – 3 reasons why young Indians don’t turn entrepreneurs!

If you are from India, have been a part of a regular middle class family and have even thought of starting something of your own, am sure you’d associate with the headline itself! Everything that I’ve mentioned below is based on true incidents. I don’t intend to hurt anyone here, still if you did, sorry about it! Getting to the point, straightaway!

Marriage:

About an year back one of my very close friends told me about a product idea. I liked the idea and told him I could work with him on that if he’s willing to seriously build it. His answer was – “yaar abhi job nahi chhod sakta, 6 mahine mein shaadi hai” [Dude, I can’t quit job right now, getting married in 6 months]. Okay, get married but why do you want give up on an idea you believe in? Your girl will understand, won’t she?

Guess what? Obviously, he never build it and few months back I saw someone (very famous in the startup community) roll exactly that product out and is quite close to getting funded too! Yeah, my friend’s “happily married”, barely at 27!

Update [Oct 19, 2013]: This guy who went ahead and is building this product recently got funded $150,000 and got featured on Techcrunch too!

I know an entrepreneur who literally fights (or used to at some point) with his wife everyday just because she wants another kid and he doesn’t. His company has just come out of startup mode and is heading towards being an SME. “I have a 4 yr old kid and having another one now would take me 4 years back! I have been slowly planning the financials but this would mean I start planning all over again, save even more and take even fewer risks!” is what he said!

Indian entrepreneurs' struggle
Indian entrepreneurs’ struggle

One of my ex girlfriend had started talking about marriage barely when we had graduated. I never denied marrying her but I used to tell her lets first achieve something, I want to do a few things in life, be a successful entrepreneur and all this might take a little time, there’s no point in getting married quickly and then allocating funds to expenses that could have been avoided at that age, but no, she wouldn’t listen! Of course, she’s happily married and I, having failed 2 startups in the past, am still building another startup! (I hope this post reaches you, lady!)

Oh! And that concept of getting your kids married at the right age => guys before 30 and gals by 26-27 max! I’ve always stressed, there’s nothing called such as a “right age” – why not just get married when you are ready – 25 or 32 – how does it matter? I hope you’re not thinking about that old shit about retiring and then marrying your kids before that <- That actually is the root problem!

Family:
Sorry to say, but the uncles and the aunts in our (normal middle class) families are the worst. They will keep asking your salary, some of them every single f***ing month. These relatives are probably the ones whose kids would have done “nothing” in their lives, graduated from some (worthless) A league institution in India and landed a fat paying job. And believe me these are absolutely good for nothing folks. If you are a startup guy, you already know that, don’t you 😉 They would join a company through campus placement and would be too scared/complacent/useless that they would spend their entire life within that single organization – without even doing something innovative! These uncles would be happy to show the entire family that the ad in TOI today was done by their kid while all that ad would have is a bollywood diva holding a soap bar in her hand. THATS IT!?! That’s all you learnt in your fancy B School?

What’s the big deal in it? If I pay TOI that much, they will even publish a horse shit pic, they just want money! But no, these are the ones who are valued in your family! Whatever they say are Golden Diamond words. What’s worse is you are always compared to these dumb folks whenever you go to a family gathering. And most, all of them would look at you as if you are the piece of shit lying on the roadside.

To share another case, one such highly respected family member told me to look for a career in animation, back in 2007-08. Recently, I met him at another family gathering a few months back and he said “tum animation me kuch kyu nahi try karte?” [Why don’t you try something in animation?] I was like…dude? You are still the same! Your thoughts are still stuck where they were 4-5 years back! By the way, this member is probably the highest respected person in my family and heads delivery at a multi billion (yes Billion) dollar enterprise and travels abroad every week. Yeah, (sadly) that’s what puts the stamp on his authority! Am quite sure even Steve Jobs or Bill Gates would have spent more time with their families at his age (and still earned much more if that’s what you want to hear).

More problems we face with family/neighbours in this book.

Flat:

The other fantasy about middle class family people is owning a flat! I never get this point. I, really don’t! Why do they want your kid to buy a flat and then spend the rest of his life paying back the loan? Coming from middle class, we’ve never had loads of money to spend. So the way out always is to pay probably a 10th or even less initially and then take a loan for 60% for the next 15-20 years.

And is duly supported by our Financial system! Go and try to raise money for your startup and the same money for a home, you’ll know what I mean!

Once you have a loan on your head, that too a home loan, for not less than 40-50 Lacs, am sure you wouldn’t be willing to take a risk, would you? And that tension of repaying that loan! Anyways, there is very little probability that our kids would stay in that house for long. They’d go places, do stuff in life and make it big themselves! Actually this would connect with Rahul Dewan’s post where he talks how retired people should recede back to smaller towns and do great things. A brilliant thought by the way, go read that!

In another relationship, I told my girl that I don’t earn great right now and that I am trying to build a company and shared the vision. At first she appreciated my honesty but then within a few weeks she asked “Abhinav, hum ghar kab lenge?” [Abhinav, when will we buy a home?] That day itself I knew – she wasn’t the one! No wonder that relationship didn’t last long.(I am quite sure you’re reading this!)

I guess I’ve written, read ranted, too much already or else I won’t be allowed to enter my hometown the next time!

Update: I realized most people, even though agreed to this, say its inconclusive. I must add this: The point is that people who can bear all these pressures and can still build a company, are the ones whom we call SUCCESSFUL!

Update2: Somebody got so inspired that he made a short movie out of this. I got to know from the comments section.

Hi Abhinav

I was inspired by your blog to write and direct a short movie on the topic. It’s now released on YouTube. Thanks for watching and hope you like it!

Here it is:

Update 4 [Oct 23, 2013]: This article has led me to an interview in the prestigious The Week magazine. [Looks like they pulled down the online version of the article, was in their Sept issue]

Update 5: [Apr 19, 2014]: A small section of people thought this blog is sexist, my sincere apologies to you if you think so. However I do not agree with that point and here’s my reply to it: The Flat-Family-Marriage blog raises societal issues and is NOT sexist: Here’s Why

[Update 6: The most important one] The article was published on Feb 13, 2013. On Nov 26, 2014 I got married and I am still an entrepreneur. Maybe a year later I would write how it has been 🙂