Today I signed up for a new art project to be a part of. It goes without saying that I am excited about participating.
There are lot of the other on-going long term projects that I have been working on this year and i have been posting about them on this blog too. 1) Concertina sketchbook – here and here 2) Shepherd Boy- Here , here and here 3) Dina’s life- here. While none of them is yet complete each is living and active in my sketchbook and computer.
Last month I started another project – Hindi Alphabet project to create flash cards to teach my daughter Hindi language(click here to see updated album). When I got stuck with some words, I put out a call to my friends on social media to help me out with words and new ideas. Among other reaction that I got from people was the question why?… why do this? does it have any commercial prospect? why not buy a book or a mobile app that exists?
The simple answer to these questions could be that it is my hobby and I do it to keep my self busy as a stay at home mom of a 34 month old daughter or to keep my drawing/conceptualizing skills as a designer alive. However there is other side to the coin…… why not ? why not do these things? why not create things whose value cannot be measured in monetary terms? I did not make any money on my book that I created and published in Jan 2013 but it gave me immense satisfaction as a designer, illustrator, and mom. I would like to think that if nothing else it will be a part of my legacy. I remember to this day the special things my mother did for me including cooking and drawing and teaching me things and my drawings would be something along those lines that my kids may remember me by.
But I will be honest with you…there is something else that bothers me about this whole situation. You see when I was growing up in India in early 1980’s being a working woman was still an upward trend, even though most of my neighbors and friend’s moms were stay-at-home moms (SAHM) and even then women were limited to certain professions- teachers, nurses or secretaries/administrative assistants. By the time I reached high school (grade9) SAHMs were considered to be gossip mongers , busy bodies who wasted time in talking and socializing around neighborhood, keeping busy in kitty parties playing card games etc. Activities like crochet, knitting and embroidery were considered skills that make you a good housewife but had no monetary value (until tourism made some of these activities viable and even respectable). In university while studying architecture Prof. M would often ask the female students whether we were serious about being architects or it was our way of biding time till we were married off. In those 20 yrs of my life time being a stay at home mom had become less and less desirable and even deplorable – either you were not good enough to have a job or you were married into a rich family where you did not need to add to family income. All in all being a SAHM was considered a waste of professional qualification and if that is what you aim for in life then there were many other fields of study to bide your time.
So a decade later when I moved to North America , a place which I assumed had greater gender equality, where women have been working for a long time and where working would/should be considered a personal choice, I was surprised that stay at home moms were valued less than their working counterparts and I only realized this when I stopped working- my mat-leave was over and I was being asked how my job hunt was going. I have now been officially unemployed for 2 yrs and while people have been mostly polite about it , some even quipped how lucky I was to not have any day-care issues, I started to feel that intelligence, sharpness and passion is not what most people associate with stay at home moms. Thanks to the online community , I have come across many mom-prenuers, women who are writing and creating things, leading an overall satisfying and creative life while still being at home to care of the kids.
I posed the question , “why draw/create something new when so many exist already…when there is no monetary value to be seen” to some creative friends of mine online. Here are some wise words and responses that I got
From suzi– “Asking “Why?” is their way of saying they cant understand why you’d want to put in the effort and yes maybe they are right, but really effort is driven by the endless giving machine that is the heart. Without drive there is no doing, without passion, no giving.”
from Nina – “There are gazillion photographs and drawings and paintings out there but we still do them. Because we want to, because we have the need to and because they are in us waiting to come out and be seen by the light of the day. Here and now”
Here and now…. we are …. we do.