“I am coming home with RM and other officers. They may want to look around. We may be there in 15-20 minutes.” Ma told me over the phone.
I planned my mission at hand as I looked around. Magazines and newspapers were strewn across the tea-poi. I gathered them setting them to a side. Puffed up the cushions and bolsters and arranged them in an orderly manner. Then I wiped off the dust coated on the TV and other major surfaces. This done, I moved to my room doing the same at my table. I was surprised how fast my hands moved. We were living in the office quarters then. The Regional Manager was visiting for the first time, so he wanted to have a look at the apartment. The object of my mother’s call was to give me a heads up to make the house look “presentable”.
I sighed as I looked at the clothes lying on the bed. With all the feminine pleasures of shopping, along came the pain of maintaining them. I folded them up roughly and dumped the entire pile inside the cupboard, out of sight! No time for arranging them there, who is going to check the cupboards anyway! I smoothed the creases on bed sheets and pillows with a finishing touch and stepped back beaming at my accomplished mission.
I had barely sat down with a book (pretending to have been in that position all this time) while the anticipated visitors arrived. They looked around the house impressed, and so did my mother. All was well.
After they left I got some sound advice (There was relatively more sound) on how good it would be if I could spend some 20 minutes every day on cleaning. There would be no need for panic at the news of any guests arriving or worse if visitors turned up without notice.
I recall reading about a similar instance in the Reader’s Digest wherein there is a lot of cleaning going on around the house as some guests are expected. The little girl asks her mom, “Are we doing this so that they believe our house always looks like this?” Well, there is some truth in that innocent question.
When we moved to our new apartment, our new neighbours offered to help us find a maid for us to which we politely refused. Assuming we were being shy, they asked repeatedly and we said we really did not need one. They were visibly surprised. Clearly because, both my parents have full time jobs and I go to college, we would do good with some help. But we explained that we share the house hold work and have been managing that way.
What with being out at work all day, you need to cook, do the dishes, do your laundry and clean the house. The clothes and the dishes are somehow managed. But cleaning is a pain. Hence the extra things tend to lie untended. We get used to living in the mess. We cannot all be cleanliness freaks like Monika from FRIENDS.
However, the arrival of guests makes us conscious and queasy. Everything looks glaringly shabby and you start noticing stray cobwebs or some loose papers under the sofa. We apologetically say, “Please don’t mind the mess” and they are kind and they empathise, “Oh never mind! Our house is messier.”
On stressful days when you have reached a can’t-do-it-nor-can-you-leave-it juncture you regret your greed for things and all the unnecessary shopping you did. You feel a desperate need to renunciate the material world. You question, “Do we really need all these things we possess? How many sets of clothes do we really need? Why do we accumulate things?” But end of the day, you will continue to hoard things and they need to be attended to.
House hold chores are the least favourite affair to most people. To this day, it is considered as the woman’s job. People somehow don’t seem to be able to digest the idea of a man mopping his house or doing his laundry, unless it is his job or he is living on his own and cannot afford help. Albeit the woman may be working, it is still expected that she manage both house hold work and her job.
You often hear the words, “I am a guy! Why should I do it?” The mother would stop her son from doing any work while pushing her daughter to learn everything. Some wives take pride in their men not helping them. And when some men do lend a hand, they are jeered at. Sometimes tagged “Jhoru ka ghulam”(slave of one’s wife). Nonetheless, the trend is changing. It is quintessential for men lend a hand with chores. My grandma made it the rule of the house that everyone does his own work irrespective of gender. Everyone washes his or her own clothes. To this day both my grandparents, both in their eighties, do their own work and share house work.
More often than not it leads to strife in marital lives when the workload is on one person. Where one person slogs and the other chills out, the one who slogs is bound to lose it one day. What if you perhaps get together play some music and share the work and make it fun. That way you could spend some more time together while the burden is lessened.
It is said that men are very cooperative with the household work, say, by moving their feet out of the way when someone is mopping or taking pains to carry the coffee mug till the wash-basin. But maybe it is about time he did some more than that!