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Sorry Tales of Housework

While growing up, I shirked house work because I knew Mummy would do it. The only hard work I did is to eat whatever she made. Mummy would wake up early in the morning, bathe, do the pooja, make breakfast and lunch and then of course, my task was to eat it away as if nothing else matters. 

Of course, she would ask me to help her out and learn some basics but do you think I listened? Not seriously, I simply didn't. I used to tell her not to worry so much. I always felt there would be a magical Alladin's Lamp that would manifest and take care of everything when it was my turn to take care of a home. Her wise words "Start early, or else later you will find it difficult to manage simple chores in your home" always fell on my deaf and dumb ears. Those were the years I wish I could turn back time....(sigh, dreaming, dreaming!)


Marriage, Introspection and the Pressure Cooker

Suddenly, I found myself married. Unlike most girls who were mentally conditioned for this official 'lifetime' position, I lived in a dream world created by Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, you get the drift. 'M' which means MARRIAGE it transforms even the laziest girls into hardworking 'ants,' to scurry alone from dawn to dusk, unfailing carrying out tasks. You know what I mean, right?


So I learned:
  • how to make tea without burning the milk
  • how to get kitchen chores done
  • how to survive on different variations of Maggi during a working week
  • how to make curd rice without the curd curdling
  • how to make upma without uppu (don't strangle me, but it happened!)
  • how many teaspoons of sugar makes it okay to drink so that your better half doesn't drown in diabetic sweetness. 
Through this sea change in life, I found myself learning a lot of things like discovering the new world of culinary wonders like the pressure cooker, which is a lifesaver of sorts.

I grew up seeing the 'Prestige' pressure cooker ad for housewives and wondered a lot of times why a couple's marital happiness seems so dependant on that cooker. 

Once I began my disastrous experiments in the kitchen, I got a fairly good idea of how critical a cooker's role is. The guy who created that ad is a genius, must say!


Well, after many trial and error sessions and self humiliation by burning most stuff that made it inedible, there were days when I would simply sit and cry because well, cooking was rocket science to me.

I found myself learning to make rice/Maggi variations/upma without all of it sticking like glue on the teeth. I learned to remember to add salt and not too much of it, little things like that got me going and growing. I began to understand that when some women friends try to help you with their suggestions, they are either laughing at your inefficiency at the next kitty party or just eager to prove that ultimately, your competence as a home maker boils down to 'being a woman stuck in the kitchen.'


Ms Intellectual Waits for Hubby to Cook
In Delhi, I've understood from scraps of social conversation with women in my building, a lot of your ability or interest in cooking or doing housework is attributed to the region you come from. I don't agree with the perspective because I think it depends on the kind of lifestyle you've led, the family background and your own inclination to it.


Lets call Ms. Intellectual. She has a literary bent but she is a housewife who is devoted to her family. I know her personally and see how much effort she takes in looking after her family. 

An interesting thing she told me is that there are three things the women in her family have never done for three generations unless it was some kind of a life threatening situation:

1. Wash dirty dishes.
2. Wash laundry.
3. Cook.


My first thought was: wow, I wish I belonged to that three generation of women because the snippet of information came at a time when my routine, besides a crazy, hectic job at the time, involved doing all three! And I don't feel any admiration about the fact that her husband who worked very long hours would come home and then cook the dinner for the family. Of course, they are helping each other and that's none of my business.


When Ms Intellectual's Mother came to stay, I was sure that maybe she would cook, bend the generation rule a little but I was wrong. The mother and daughter would wait till the hubby came home and cooked for them all.


I am not sharing this to be mean or critical because in today's world, marital life is all about sharing everything. However, I wouldn't like to follow Ms. Intellectual's style because I don't like the thought of making my spouse do all the hard work every evening after he's had a very exhausting day. My feeling is more to do with not burdening a loved one when he is already wrapped up his day and ready to just unwind after a day's hard work.


Ms Liberated Will Marry Only Hubby Cooks
I also knew some girls who were very independent and not married at the time when I met them. They used to tell me they would marry only if they met men who would do all the cooking and home chores.

And my thought: Yea, right! Wait till you are married, gal!

In Kerala, when a girl is about to get married, the first question that is asked is, "Do you know how to cook?" Since my marriage was a love marriage, I could happily skip the question and face reality directly. Ouch!

In Delhi, I've heard a majority of mothers say that their daughters don't want to marry because they aren't interested in cooking and cleaning for men. And yet I have also heard a close friend of mine who taught her 4 year old son to make his own milk and rotis on a proper stove on his own because she is working and returns late. And now the little boy makes sabji for himself and makes tea for her when she comes back home with a headache. Her explanation is this, "It is my gift of love to my daughter in law, the best gift one woman can give to help another."

Wow!

Perhaps this debate will go on. The new generation may change things for the better so that tasks and chores are shared equally. Perhaps there may come a time that men can become socially acceptable home makers.

I don't know whether there is a perfect answer to this. It differs from family to family, person to person. How about you? What do you think?

Comments

Thanks for dropping by my blog ...Swapna...
I started reading this post... and felt .. I am also a part of it.. and it did bring a smile on my face..
Lazy bones become responsibe.. when the letter M is introduced.. in their life.. and more responsible with the new little one's arrival...
ssstoryteller said…
Absolutely identify with the lazy bones becoming responsible...
hahah..i don't think responsibility sits easily on my shoulder even after 2 kids...!!
Yu know sometimes we do spoil our men...it is an Indian mentality...anyway do what gives happiness is my thought on this...
Haddock said…
In Kerala, when a girl is about to get married, the first question that is asked is, "Do you know how to cook?"

Ha ha . . . .I wonder if those questions still exists. . . .and if it does then the girl better not get married to that family (my personal advice)
But all said and done, its the sharing of the work between the partners that makes things go smoothly.
soin said…
so the whole cycle is going to be complete.. men as acceptable home makers.. tough.. coz there are more men and higher egos..free
Maria Killam said…
Loved this post. I too wish I had paid more attention to my mothers cooking growing up :)
BK Chowla said…
I am surprised.I always helped my mother and subsequently my wife.It \is such a pleasure to do so.
Abhilash said…
Nice to read the post.

Now a days when girls plan to marry in kerala... it is asked... "athu veno" Is it needed?

and when boys it is asked
"jeevichu mathiaayo?"(are you fed up of your life)

kidding...

After-marriage problems are common with all couples with respect to cooking and laziness.

Mutual understanding, helping tendency, sharing and proper synchronization can solve everything.

No boy or girl should take the responsibility on their shoulders, rather try to share it.

The more you share and depend, the more you are free. The more you are ready to accept, the more you balanced.

Balance should be there otherwise, sab kuch "udumbaaaaa..."
Lavanya Sriram said…
yeah..me too wish i had paid more attention to cooking before i got married, though I was helping out with other chores :). all hindsight :).
I think the practice (Do you cook ?) is just not in Kerala, its prevalent everywhere. The " Do you sing?" is only now slowly going away. So "Do you cook?" will definitely be there.
As Abilash said, Mutual understanding, helping tendency, sharing and proper synchronization can solve everything. But you should be lucky enough to have such a partner who thinks along the same lines. If only one of them is of that view point, then you are a goner :)
Yeah Swapna,

thats soo true..after marriage, every lady is hard working..though she was not at all before hehe..but it makes one happy and lead a happy family life.. i'm not married but i have seen my frnd, whos lives were changed after marriage...thanks for posting this..
Shahid Mukadam said…
I am not married...and dont wanna think about this situation at the moment,,,,but will never be the hubby who comes back home and cooks food
Petty Witter said…
Thanks for that insight. I'm one of the lucky ones - we have an arrangement whereby he cooks whilst I wash up, well it works for us.
Swati said…
Hilarious ..but are there real people like Ms Intellectual ??? How practical is that ?
Uma said…
Marital bliss being linked to the pressure cooker is quite true :D
I think cooking is a survival skill for men and women alike these days - knowing it is more liberating I feel...
Toon India said…
nice post..I think ms intelluctual must have a very dumb husband for sure :)

It's about sharing ,prioritisingand all that crap..am happy to be a bachelor :D
Swapna...when my marriage was fixed my parents where too tensed..only concern was hw i wl adjust to a systematic life..a lazy gal, dat too an only daughter... but after wedding when my parents came to stay with me for 5days they where surprised to see the cange in me..(but still getting late to wake up from bed :P)

but next month wen i go to my home for my delivery i will be d same as before..alwayz lazy at home.. :)
Pari said…
Hi Swapna, first time here and thotoughly enjoyed reading your post. Somewhere I felt myself to be a part of it especially where one suudenly matures post marriage except that I was quite an experimental cook and responsible otherwise also.
Do drop by whenever you have time.
two can split the work ... but in case my husband doesnt wanna help... i cant help him much when it comes to earning outside home. i ll b a professional housewife then :D
Sudeep Bhaumick said…
i don't mind sharing as long as i don't have to cook... simply because i cannot cook...

and i don't mind doing the dishes as long as i have licked my fingers clean before i start on the dishes :)
Hey friends, I had no clue when I wrote this post that so many of you would have such wonderful thoughts to share. It's been so much fun and humbling to read your thoughts and get thinking about how different perspectives add value to what we believe is our private snippet of how the world and the society works.

Can't help sharing my thoughts too:

@Sandhya: True, Lazy bones we are till the word M comes into our life.

@Storyteller: Same here, I hardly think responsibility comes to me naturally even after so many years.

@Haddock:Yes, sharing of work is a good way to make things move smoothly.

@Soin: Men as acceptable home makers? I think we have a long way to go before Indian men and women learn to accept that.

@Maria: Thanks:)

@BK Chowla: Good to hear that!

@After-marriage problems are common with all couples with respect to cooking and laziness.

@Abhilash: I liked your points about mutual understanding, helping, and sharing. You are right. It can solve a lot of problems but not everything.

@Lavanya: Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts. Personally, I am sure I'd make it to the top slot for the 'Do you sing?' question than the 'Do you cook?' one:)

@Being Pramoda: Thanks for sharing info about posting your friend, that was so nice to know about.

@Shahid: Hmmm, I don't think helping your wife with chores is a very bad thing to do. Eventually, it depends on your lifestyle, working hours, hectic schedule and so many other factors where you may need to share or support a wife. Let me suggest that when you do marry, just share your thoughts and perspectives about it and be open to inputs from your better half too and not reject suggestions outright.

@Petty: Good for you! We all need to find that balance correctly.

@Swati: Trust me, Ms Intellectual is as real as my neighbor:)

@Uma: I agree, it is a survivial skill.

@Toon India: Dumb husband or smart husband, we will never know who gets the last laugh.

@Lena: I am so glad to hear that you made your parents proud. Waking up late, what a luxury that is, though i agree, its not exactly a great habit. I too join the Wake Up Late club.

@Pari: Sure, will definitely visit.

@American Desi: Good for you. I am glad to see how proud and confident you are about what you do. Keep growing that confidence.

@Sudeep: Ha, thats pretty interesting and its nice to know you dont mind sharing chores.
Sojo Varughese said…
I am not married so I don't know if I can be the hubby who comes back home too cook. I guess, I don't mind lending a helping hand though. [My girlfriend, contrary to what girls are at her age, is a fabulous cook and cooked for me a couple of times. And of course I did help by passing her the chilly powder pack or a spoon and standing next to her as she cooked. That's all the help she would let me do!]
Sojo Varughese said…
One more thing before I forget, I bookmarked this post on my blog! Hope you don't mind!
Thanks, Sojo, for sharing your thoughts. I am honored that you've bookmarked my post. I'm hoping you'll introduce your girlfriend to rest of us so that we brush up our culinary skills or the lack of it:)
Gautam Anand said…
Amusing n yup I can identify with u since I am a lazy soul too..
corine said…
Oh I have strong ideas on that subject. I was born in France and live in the United states, just to give you a little background. I believe that husband and wife and children in age should share all the chores, housework, cooking, etc... Of course at my house I do it all and I don't even resent it. I do it all because I do it better! I guess I'm a modern woman in thoughts and a traditionalist in actions.
We all go through the lazy phase but we all find ways to grow out of it too.

Gautam, dear lazy soul, I think I'd love to see and know what happens when a beautiful girl comes into your life and you learn to share the good moments and sometimes, the good chores too:)

Corine, I think its supercool that you love what you are doing. Thats the way to grow and experience joy in the little things that mark our daily life.
Haddock said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anu Prakash said…
I went through all the same things. I knew how to make chai, but would take me atleast 30 mins to get it done! U get the drift...didn't lift a finger growing up, didn't need to, didn't want to...but now am proud to take care of my family, I love to do the chores related to the house. I'm sure there will be women's lib types that will cringe when I say this, my DREAM job is to be a homemaker and take care of my family, that doesn't make me any less intellectual or less anything as a person. What you do doesn't define you as a person..who you are does.
Dear Anu,

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me here on my blog. I sensed it came from your heart.

Sharing my thoughts straight from the heart too:

I can connect with what you are saying because after marriage, I felt the same too. I wanted to be a proper housewife like my mom and grandmom - taking care of the family. I mean, what on earth can be more beautiful and fulfilling than that? Somehow in my life, I have never got my way. If i have Plan A, Baba tosses me into Plan D. By now, I am getting used to the divine rollercoaster ride. Coming back to your comment, it truly is a dream job and you are blessed to live it. Stay blessed as always :)

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