Shock-proof? That's me. So imagine my reaction to a call I received a few months ago offering me—yes, me—a Ferrari at a special price! "Sorry, I think you've got the wrong Dé—it's my husband who's a Formula 1 fanatic," I said. But no, the gentleman at the other end continued his persuasive spiel. What made him think I was in the market for a sex machine (also known as a Ferrari)? "Imagine, you'd be the first woman in India to own one," he said smoothly. Great idea. Pity I didn't have the money. Not even for his "Special Offer" (Ha!!). What the Ferrari salesman's pitch conveyed went far beyond me and my individual bank balance. Who could have imagined, even five years ago, that an impossibly upmarket, international car company would target Indian women as potential customers? This is how far we've come...and frankly, it's a great feeling.
Often, as I sit at my dining table, writing furiously, the phone rings and I mentally curse the caller for interrupting. Five out of 10 such calls are from velvety-voiced salesmen offering me all sorts of amazing services and facilities. Home loans, soft loans, insurance policies, wealth management schemes, car loans. I get a special kick out of these calls. "Hey...do these people really think I have the means to afford all these goodies?" Women the world over are in a similar position—suspended between a sense of disbelief and one of smugness. "We've done it!" they crow, as more and more canny marketers court them, stalk them, seduce them with offers they find hard to refuse.
Women who earn their own bucks and pay their own bills are the new swashbucklers on the block. Their numbers are awesome, and increasing daily. As a consumer base, they are anything but soft targets, since they are aware, informed and tough when it comes to parting with a single rupee. They want value for money—full paisa vasool—and are willing to fight for the best rate in all sectors. After all, they've made it the hard way, and it has taken them centuries to get here. Armed with platinum/titanium cards in their LV wallets, you see them everywhere—in fancy restaurants, secluded spas, swishy airport lounges...they're buying everything in sight—from sprawling villas in Goa to customised chronometers to positions in blue-chip companies. That leaves old-fashioned Sugar Daddies where they belong—in the dog house, chewing on bones and memories of glory days when a trinket or two would get the girls drooling.
Today, women are making key financial decisions on their own. A friend bought her dream house recently. She figured out everything entirely by herself—how to raise the money, how to negotiate with the builder and more crucially how to make her savings work for her, without any additional cost to herself. By assuming full responsibility, she also displayed supreme confidence. As she surveys her beautiful apartment with Italian marble flooring and two spare rooms, I see the glow of satisfaction in her eyes. Most women who've worked towards this—the most important asset in a person's life—generally radiate in exactly the same way as my friend. For, as society often reminds us, a woman never really has a home to call her own. As a young girl, she lives in her father's home and as a married lady, she occupies her husband's. So which is the home she can rightfully claim as hers? The answer is obvious—the one she buys for herself. More and more women are making this crucial decision and putting down their own money for a roof over their heads. It frees them from that ghastly insecurity of staying in relationships that may not be in their interest. And it frees them from the abject humiliation of being "boarders" (often unwanted ones) in anyone's home.
From sweepers to surgeons, women in the workforce are increasingly breaking away from past tyrannies and asserting their right to live life on their own terms. No more "sanctions" to be sought, no more "permissions" to be begged for. "My house...my car...my PC...my card...my jewels...my money...." The operative word here is "my." Short and unbelievably sweet. This new equation is not restricted to "people like us". This change is cutting across all divides. Just yesterday, the woman who works in our home asked me if I could arrange a role for her in one of the TV serials I write for. Surprised by her request (she's the mother of four), I asked (almost on auto-pilot), "But have you checked with your husband?" She laughed uproariously, "What for? I have the looks, I have the talent, it's my life..." and then she added slyly, "Besides, which man doesn't like the extra money in the family kitty?" Bingo.
Oh well, I didn't get my Ferrari. But maybe the Roopmatti in my home will get hers!