It's tough work being available in a hyper-connected world like ours. Communication has moved beyond inter-personal conversations with friends, family and acquaintances on social media to larger groups whose members may live in your city, or who share the same interests or situations as you do. In fact, Whatsapp groups and Facebook communities seem to have become part and parcel of our lives in a way that seemed unimaginable at the start of the millennium.
Conversations on these platforms have blurred the lines between personal communication and public disclosure. For some being part of these dialogues seems invasive and a compromise on privacy. For others, the anonymity is empowering. One group of people in the latter category appears to be Indian housewives.
Whatsapp groups created by and for stay-at-home mothers and homemakers are common in urban centres like New Delhi. In reality, these women may live a few doors apart from each other but their association remains virtual. This metaphorical separation has created a safe space for a number of them, a platform where they can share hopes, fears and, sometimes, deep, dark secrets that have been dying for an outlet free of judgment.
To be able to speak from behind the screen of virtual anonymity seems to make it easier to ask questions about fidelity, sexuality, love and depression. The responses cover a broad spectrum, from empathy to disdain and much more in between. In fact, the answers to certain questions and the discussions that follow some confessions are often more compelling than what got the conversation started in the first place.
A query on losing weight post-pregnancy can throw up comments advocating confidence in the contours of a mother's body and scathing reviews of the negative body-images portrayed by the media. It can also prompt comments observations on how weight-loss is essential to keeping the romance alive in matrimony.
All in all, as innocuous as these communities may seem, they demand a certain fortitude from their participants; either as observers offering advice or as the ones asking for it. The absence of a "real" relationship with these women is empowering in that it can reaffirm some of your beliefs and calm some of your concerns. But, you need to be open to receiving unwanted criticism and judgment from those you don't know; advice that can be as difficult to digest as it would have been coming from someone you really do know.