When my uncle married a wife much younger than him, he saddled us with an aunt far younger than my wife. This created problems for my wife who refused to address anyone "less experienced" than her with an honorific, settling instead for a condescending "My dear" to her face and "Whatshername" behind it. Though Whatshername didn't live in Delhi, she made up for it with a career that frequently made family breaking news. The cherry on the icing was my aunt's entrepreneurial venture, a non-government organisation (NGO) that she founded to court, in my mother's avuncular opinion, "the famous and flighty".
"She's just a social climber," my wife noted, "wanting to get close to those in power." When my wife said this, she was going out to an NGO function to honour a socialite for being "a good wife and mother", finding no other qualification for the jetsetter whose husband was an important member of the government. "Really?" I'd commented, when the glamorous card that could have constituted the NGO's entire annual funding arrived at our home, "you're going for this?" "She's a friend," my wife said defensively, "and she always attracts the social press."
My wife isn't averse to either socialites or NGOs, having volunteered to spend a considerable part of her day with both. She's also an enthusiastic volunteer. When she made up her mind to teach the neighbourhood presswallah's children, she insisted he send all three to her every afternoon. Having decided to sacrifice her siesta in the interests of "empowering the poor", she went about it with a zeal Narendra Modi would have envied. When the children refused to come to her after the first terrifying week, she set off to round them up. She railed at their father, she admonished the poor tykes, and soon came to be referred by locality vendors as the "crazy lady" who went after children with a stick.
Since the start of the new year, she's also attended three "eye-makeup high-teas" ostensibly for the goody-bags the cosmetic companies doled out to the deserving ladies who signed up to attend. She's also appeared at dozens of store openings, fashion shows and gadget launches, and went for a film premiere that started a couple of hours later than announced, and then failed to screen the full film because the stars had left. She attended a talk on Women, Why They're Beautiful (seriously), another on surrogacy (er, don't know why), and a briefing on the war economy of Zaporizhia without knowing where Zaporizhia is.
Having felicitated socialite housewives for being "women achievers" and "extraordinary beings", she's now decided not to be part of the audience any longer. "Face it, I'm a better multi-tasker than your mother," she said to me apropos of nothing, and now wants to launch her own NGO "to recognise the true potential of women" from her circle of ikebana, kitty and Facebook friends. This will give her leverage to the extent that she can manage some media coverage, even if only bloggers who will write about her for a slight consideration, such as the unopened goody bags from the makeup companies that our daughter dissed for not being posh enough. Mostly, though, my wife says she will now have a handle over Whatshername. "I'll teach her how to run an NGO," she said to me, "can you write about my first fundraiser?" Which, in case you're curious, is intended to raise resources for the upliftment of "embittered daughters-in-law". You can sign up now.