Burning out too fast

More and more high-achieving couples are working hard and partying harder... burning out, reports Vimla Patil

Burnout has become the biggest epidemic among young, upwardly-mobile men in metro India. Here is a huge number of metro-sexual men who not only drive themselves to achieve financial and personal success even as the hit the mid-twenties, but also tie the knot with young women who are equally qualified and share their zest to make it big in life before they have reached their thirties. Ambition to possess all the comforts of life is high among young achiever couples, and while both drive themselves beyond their physical capacity to earn more, take more loans and pay more EMIs, they both pay the price by losing their health and peace of mind while doing this.

Vivek Bapat is one such young man. An IIM graduate, he married his colleague at a foreign bank, Vedika Saxena. Both set up house in a flat in an upmarket suburb in Mumbai and began the hunt for a home of their own. Vivek has to pay the EMIs on the flat, the car and various equipments they have in their home. "My wife has to work as hard as me to create enough money to meet all these instalments and to run the house. Our petrol bills are heavy because we live far from our place of work. Vedika works long hours and often gets home later than me. This means that we live on pizzas and biryanis — all of which are unhealthy. Sometimes, in my rare quiet moments, I go back to my parents’ home in a quiet area of Pune and love the images of my mother arranging flowers in the home and doing pooja every morning.

"I recollect the time with my mother when we use to joke with each other and spend the evenings sitting in the verandah and laughing together. It seems to me that Vedika and I have forgotten what it is to laugh together. We are both stressed, hyper and just want to get the money needed for our lifestyle. It seems to me that men like me are burning out too fast in the race for the heavily advertised lifestyle of homes, appliances and holidays — all given to you through big loans which take the hell out of us."

Nilesh and Krittika are a couple with a different story. "My wife and I go partying every night," says Nilesh, who comes from Lucknow and has settled in Mumbai because of more opportunities, "Krittika smokes and drinks, sometimes enough to make her inebriated. Then I have to drive her home and put her into bed for the night so that we both can go to work the next morning. I cannot stop her or reprimand her because I do this, too. When we were courting and decided to get married, there was a tacit acceptance that both of us are equals and there would never be any role expectations from each other. Yet, I find that I long to be a father, just like my own. Krittika has no desire to be a mother for some years to come.

Do these new-age couples burn each other out too fast and end up breaking their relationships as well? Yes, say social counsellors, things are becoming tough because urban couples are bitten badly by the bug of equality. The roles of husband or wife — or for that matter boyfriend and girlfriend — have taken a 360 degree dramatic change in this generation of urban youth, and married couples are finding it difficult to cope with the change. Neither are young women prepared to be ‘home-makers’ nor are they keen on being ‘traditional mothers’.

Says Maya Murjani, an IIM graduate who works at a high job in an engineering company, "I think I am equal to my husband in every way. My career is going better than his, so if he gets home early, he has to cook and keep the dinner ready just as I would. Men cannot complain about doing ‘female’ things any more. We devote time to earning money equally and he has to run the home equally. I don’t know what we will do when children come but I’m living only in the present."

Most such couples live away from the extended family, say counsellors, because of their lifestyle. They are at their workplaces till late in the evening, change in the office restroom and drive directly to the party venue. "Where is the time to visit relatives except on Divali or a family function?" ask counsellors. "Naturally, this isolation from a protective, balancing environment takes a toll on the marriage or the peace of mind of both partners in an ‘equal’ marriage and trouble is not far away.

Many couples squabble every day and eventually blame each other for the travesty of their relationship. The family court is full of couples who apply for a divorce. Should they slow down their ambitions and give more time to each other and their home? Most couples would not even think of this alternative because of their driving ambition to own a home and all the comforts of a high lifestyle at a young age, which is sold relentlessly in the media. This, we feel, is a personal choice. Couples have to decide their priorities. Will men accept a burnout early in life by living an erratic, stress-laden life? Will women deny themselves the pleasure of playing with their children ? The answer lies in the heart of the young men and women who share relationships that lead to early burnouts in life.