Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bone, Bane and Boon

The slip is showing lady...
In many Indian homes, house work is all three. A bone, a bane and a boon. It is a bone of contention between the occupants, a bane for the one who carries the burden and a boon for the manipulative members who use it as a stick with which to beat the drudgery executives around them.

What exactly ought to be the place and priority of housework in the domestic scheme of things? Is it a necessary evil to be dealt with for the sake of maintaining a liveable quarters. Or is it the absolute litmus test of a house wife’s right to live and breathe.....a mirror to reflect her capability and integrity with, a symbol of her commitment to the family, the very reason for her existence.

Picture this; a small bowl of rice got overlooked, tucked away in one corner of the fridge, behind the two litre pan of milk. The lamp corner of the room cheated the wet swab on two successive days; a 250 gms of half opened soya porridge caught the big deal, the able bodied and educated family of professionals are all agog over this monumental waste complemented by a sense of personal injury and betrayal.

I wonder at our own pathetically lopsided view of this whole business of housekeeping.

Yes oh yes, I get it, there are children starving all over the world, the man works so hard to earn the family bread and every drop does make an ocean. But a sense of balance, pray. Adding insult to injury, it is the women themselves who inflict these disproportionate and misplaced views on themselves and their sisters, for want of a better word. Many of us take great pride in our shining brassware, our gleaming toilet bowls, our starched linen, our polished floors that look fit to eat off. Nothing wrong with being house proud just so long as it stops short of being a personal, family and social benchmark.

Obsessively compulsive, I know more than one genie who keeps the candles in the freezer to make them last longer, whose house has all the table covers turned up for the sweep-swab drill and who undoubtedly is a painful mother in law, a harangue of a senior wife and a traumatic presence for the husband and children. Sadly enough, house work is an Indian woman’s most treasured and basic validation and it is the homemakers who struggle to keep it that way. Rather than a task necessary to live in health and hygiene, the daily drudgery is the housewife’s anthem, not a whisker less important than silly world issues like the Nuclear Deal or Corruption Cornucopia.

And who is to say if much would change with more Dads opting to stay home. Would they give the cleaning, polishing and portioning just the attention it deserves or would they too turn it into some sort of signature campaign.

It might be a good idea to sit down every Sunday and list out the essential and the non-essential in one’s life. For instance, one might start by counting how many people would take in one short and sharp breath in their busy lives, sparing even a quicksilver thought for them, should they hit the bucket that day. It is one of life’s eternal mysteries that deep down, we all harbour a strange sense of immortality. Not to us, it cannot happen to us, not in the near future in any case. It might be a good idea to remind ourselves that we may not have as much time left together as family as we think we do.

This may be the last time you will hold someone you love close. The last time that you may be sitting across the table, with family around.

Sure, the house needs to be clean and it can be done. Why be drastic and diminish or belittle the most important people in your lives over this ? Why rage over things that do not matter so much in the long run ?

So your handyman used Harpic on the sink in place of Vim. It’s ok. Tomorrow is another day. Make the switch....

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