Every two weeks, Rekha Karnik, (54), makes arrangements for her absence at home and heads out for the day. The retired teacher belongs to an increasing band of older women in Mumbai who take the time out to bond with their girlfriends on a regular basis.
It’s a given that women are better at maintaining relationships than men. Stepping out of the confines of the home and family, say city psychologists, is just another way of bonding in a different atmosphere. “It’s a sign of social change. The earlier generation would never have dreamt of taking off unless their families were in tow,” explains Dr Reena Shah, a psychologist and counsellor, who practices in Shivaji Park.
Smita Mahajan, a Thane resident, takes time off to meet her girlfriends at least thrice a month. “We get a chance to bond, vent and relax with each other,” says Mahajan, who also makes trips with her friends to locations such as Nepal, Shillong, Mauritius and Dubai.
And it’s not just one group that these women hang out with; most have different social circles. “I have various categories of friends. I am very keen on the outdoors and nature, so with one group I head outside of closed spaces, with another I enjoy jazz music and wine tasting; yet another group of my friends fulfills my interest in theatre,” says Elsie Gabriel, a resident of Powai. Mahajan also admits to having several women gangs. “With one group I may enjoy playing cards, while another group is my kitty group, and the third group is one I travel with,” says the 54-year-old.
Explaining these different kinds of friends, Gabriel says, “Each of my many friends have their own place in my life. When one is more mature, one can maintain many levels of friendships,” she says.
While one may argue that these women do not form the majority, there’s no denying that an increasing number of them in the 40-plus bracket are veering towards this trend. This also explains the conception of women only tour groups like My Fair Lady by Kesari Travels.
Count on us
And these friends come with several benefits. “If have a problem, I can count on them,” says Mahajan. “Recently I was sick and I just called up my friends who immediately came over with hot food,” says Karnik, whose two children are married and settled in the US.
Dr Shah says there are various explanations for women forming close bonds with their ilk. “After 45-50, women are done with their primary responsibilities and bringing up children. Those who work are close to retirement and have the time to invest in themselves.”
Women also tend to form closer bonds as they talk about home, children and relationships. “Men, even best friends, would mostly talk about politics or the stock market,” she says, adding that other reasons for such close bonds and frequent outings could also be the breakdown of the joint family or very early marriages.
However, all the women vouched for the fact that they wouldn’t have been able to enjoy their me-time without the support of their families. “My husband always encouraged me to travel on my own. I took my kids to Kashmir by myself when they were young and got bitten by the travel bug,” says Mahajan.
Karnik says, “Earlier my husband would get worked up if I stayed out too long with my friends, but after 50 we both understand each other better. Now, when they come over, he happily retires to another room so we can enjoy ourselves.”
After 45-50, women are done with their primary responsibilities and bringing up children.