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Ramesh and Snigdha were a perfect match. Till she climbed the corporate ladder to the top, and he fumbled. Can they get back on the same road, to happiness? Uma Ganesh and Ganesh Natarajan answer

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ramesh Saigal and Snigdha Bose Saigal (Bose is Snigdha's maiden name that she refused to part with when she married Ramesh) make a happily married DINK (Double Income No Kids) couple. Though married for eight years now, the relationship goes back nearly 15 years when they met while studying engineering at one of India's premier engineering institutes. Both followed up their engineering course with a management one at one of the top B-Schools in India. It was not just friendship but common ambitions and professional goals that helped foster a special relationship between Ramesh and Snigdha.

Post MBA, both landed plush offers at the campus from multinational IT companies. While their professional life started moving in the right direction, both Ramesh and Snigdha decided to take marital vows as well after two years of courtship. Things were just perfect for the first five years. Both had high-flying careers and a perfect understanding. Everything was fine till Ramesh was hit by this entrepreneurial bug and decided to quit his steady job and launch his own product company.

But, as they say, it is not enough to just have an idea but have an idea that is commercially viable. Ramesh's idea was a commercial disaster and before he knew it, he was out of business.

Ramesh did manage to emerge from the entrepreneurial disaster and land himself a good job at a middle management level in the IT industry. Snigdha on the other hand had moved up in her job and was the chief marketing officer at one of India's best-known software services companies. She had the name, fame and success she had desired and painstakingly worked towards. However, the seemingly perfect relationship seemed to have gone wrong somewhere.

For the first time, Snigdha started coming home to a new person-she could no longer identify Ramesh in his present frame of mind and behavior with the man she had spent 15 years with. Ramesh had suddenly turned into a cynical and complaining husband-he had problems with her attitude, her job, her focused career goals, her work hours, her hectic travel schedule, et al.

In short, everything that seemed fine for the last eight years had suddenly become reason for disagreement, debate and marital disharmony. Finally, a day came when Ramesh suggested that Snigdha should quit her job and work towards a more balanced family life. He claimed that he had the financial strength to run the family and take her responsibility. Snigdha was faced with the biggest dilemma of her life-a problem far more complex than what she had encountered in her entire professional career. She did not want to leave her career, but neither did she want to leave her husband.

How should the relationship behandled from this point on, without major compromises on the career front?

Ganesh Natarajan and Uma Ganesh, one of the few very well-known and successful couples in the IT industry, offer their solutions.

Ganesh and Uma started their careers together as management trainees in Crompton Greaves, straight from business school, and went on to build successful global careers. They live in Pune and have, daughter, Karuna who is completing an MB-PhD program at Cambridge University, UK

Ganesh Natarajan, Deputy Chairman & CEO of Zensar Technologies

This case is very representative of the conflict that has always simmered beneath the surface between the dominant male ego and the emerging need for rewarding careers in educated and ambitious women. In this country with its strong history of joint families and finely balanced division of work and home, responsibility between the sexes, the need to adjust to the new equality between working couples is causing more stress than many would openly accept or even acknowledge.

The ego conflict is often compounded by the stereotypes that young couples themselves have in their minds when they start a marital relationship. In spite of being equally educated, it is quite possible that in the early stages of their marriage, Snigdha would have automatically assumed the woman's homemaker role, taking the lion's share of work in creating the home and running it and managing the kitchen, while Ramesh would have been content to make sympathetic noises at her double work load and enjoy the cups of tea she would have willingly made for him. As the initial aura of wedlock faded and obsession as well as success at work made Snigdha more confident, his own battered ego would have become extra sensitive to real and perceived slights and the feeling that her work was becoming progressively more important than her "lord and master husband.

What does one do when this stage is reached? The first step is to address the issue fairly and squarely and even seek counseling from wiser professionals who have seen this situation before. While the case facts clearly suggest that it would be futile for Snigdha to give up her job in comparison to Ramesh's less prestigious work, Ramesh should make the effort to accept the new realities and come to terms with the fact that he now needs to be less demanding and more supportive. If there are any specific factors that irk him, like excessive travel on her part, he could request her to be more considerate and try to adapt her schedule to his own travel in future.

Both partners are clearly compatible. All it needs is a little humility and willingness to adjust on the part of Ramesh to restore the balance and joy of their marriage.

Uma Ganesh, CEO, Kalzoom Technologies

It is important for both Snigdha and Ramesh to realize that 'success' should not be seen from the point of view of the society or the media which is always comparative and need not necessarily reflect the inner satisfaction and happiness. While the career is important for Snigdha, and she does not have to give it up in return for Ramesh's happiness, the real success and happiness will be possible only if she is able to take her beloved husband along the journey of life and discover the happiness together. And this will call for some compromises on the work front, close attention to Ramesh's thought process, being transparent about issues bothering each other and playing a positive and supportive role to help Ramesh to lift up his spirits and become more confident about himself.

Snigdha needs to figure out how to deal with the emotional turmoil of Ramesh. She has to first of all recognize that if she really continues to love Ramesh, these are not 'his' problems but her problems as well and a part of the solution lies in reflecting upon her own behavior toward him in the last few years. While Snigdha may be receiving accolades for her performance at work, is she making conscious attempts to recognize and encourage any talent that Ramesh may have?

The very fact that Ramesh had the courage to give up a comfortable corporate job and tried becoming an entrepreneur shows that he is an 'ideas man' although he may not have been successful in the business. Can he now share his experience with others through relevant forums or act as a mentor for start up entrepreneurs or write articles on the subjects that he has expertise in?

If the disparity in their earnings is coming in the way of their relationship, Snigdha could offer that both of them share the monthly expenses and whoever has extra earnings could put it away in a joint savings account or better still, Snigdha could offer to create a healthy kitty soon enough so at an opportune stage, perhaps Snigdha with her marketing skills could support Ramesh in his venture to become successful in his second attempt. Snigdha should also try and see if she can minimize late comings although she may not be able to avoid travel in a responsible, senior position. If this is not possible, she needs to have an open chat with Ramesh and suggest that he joins the gym or takes up some hobby in the evening after office hours so he does not get bored or feel tired of waiting for Snigdha to return home.
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