Thursday, 12 November 2015

Housework? How boring!

My trips to India are quite an eye opener ; a reflection of the changing mindset of the Indian society.

During a visit sometime back, I had a very interesting conversation with a lady, - my husband's maths teacher. P has a soft corner for her. She had coached him at a crucial stage (read SSC, HSC) and he claims she is responsible for inculcating a perpetual love for academics in  him.

Anyway, so we made it a point to drop by her house. Since, I was meeting her for the first time, this is how our conversation went:

" what do you do?"

"Full time mum to two kids." said I, looking at my two boisterous darlings.

"Oh..." I realised somewhere, I lost grades for that reply.

"What have you studied?" I knew she was making up her mind about me. A lot hinged on this question.

"Masters degree in English lit and Journalism. I was a TOI journalist in my former lifetime!"

A slight nodding of head there.  "Right....and you gave it all up to stay at home?"

Was that a sneer? I was not sure. I was busy trying to think of some repartee to counter it.

"Yes and I don't regret it." At least most of the time, I said to myself silently.

" it nice where you live? Do you get servants there at all?" she asked raising an eyebrow.

"Yes, it is lovely. But no servants. Never felt the need to employ one," returned I with a reply.

"What? Who does the housework then?" bounced back the question accompanied by a flabbergasted look.

"I help her out. She does the cooking. I do the cleaning. Between us, we are a good team," P stepped into the conversation.

"Really!" she said making it sound like a preposterous thought.

photo courtesy:
Why was that so astonishing, I thought.

True, house help for the domestic chores are now a given in every Indian household. Though I envy it occasionally, I don't regret the lack of help. I like to think this has made me more self reliant and capable of handling domestic chores.

Crucially, I would not have worked my way through household chores so confidently if I had help around.

So back to the story. Walking back, P filled me in more about the teacher.

Apparently in her heyday, she held classes starting from 5 in the morning till 8 am after which the children headed for school. The classes resumed after school and went on till late in the evening. Her classes were full on even during important festivals like Diwali, inviting the ire of many parents.

But she remained popular because she "guaranteed" success (well, more or less!). It was therefore not difficult to understand, that for her servants were a given. After all she would have found them invaluable for for a smooth family life.

Nonetheless, I find this disdain for domestic chores increasingly common. Perhaps education and career prospects have made domestic chores look like a waste of time. Often time is cited as a reason. But often help are employed just to avoid doing it themselves. The general notion is it is not worthy of one's time when you can get someone to do it.

It has always puzzled me and I look for reasons to understand it. More so, because though help is available, it does not come cheap nor is reliable. There are days when the servants do a no-show, leaving the house in chaos. The economics of it, is also quite interesting. The domestic servants educate their children to get them more skillful jobs. This results in a shortage of domestic help which in turn leads to pay hikes to keep them on.

Often at a get together of my mum's friends, talk invariably turns to a common refrain - servants.

"Did yours come today? Mine didn't."

"She wanted time off just when I have hordes of guests turning up at my place! I had to pay extra to coax her into coming to do the dishes!"

To which someone said:

"At least she is around. My maid has asked for a pay rise or is threatening to leave!"

That's the catch, isn't it. If you have someone to come in, they can leave you you in the lurch too. But at least for someone like me, there is no scope for such "betrayal".

photo courtesy: firstclass
I take a quick look round the room. The layer of dust is getting thicker on the windowsill. The floor has dark patches in some places and the sink is crying out, "Help, I am full!"

Oh, for the joys of having a maid!

Lo and behold! I transform into one.

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