The Touchstone for Complaints: the Young Urban ‘Middle-Class’ Indian Housewife.
As dawn breaks, the Indian housewife of today cannot shut her eyes and go back to sleep, to finish her dream, whether wistful or happy or tragic, in a busy urban Indian household.
There are a hundred diverse thoughts milling in her mind. Has the milkman come? Will the domestic helper come today? No one wishes to be a domestic helper these days. Are the children awake?
On a one-salary household, there is just one helper to sweep and mop this two-bedroom flat, with 2 bathrooms and 3 small balconies. When the helper is unable to come, it falls upon her to do the needful.
It is time to make chai, prepare breakfast, pack lunch-boxes. Never mind if her head hurts and she has not slept well, as the family mocks her snoring, as she serves their breakfast. “You call this food?”, “I don’t want toast”, “I don’t want parathas”.
The urban young Indian housewife is the Touchstone for Complaints.
Her older version is often not spared either!
“You don’t earn anything, so don’t talk about holidays or travelling!”
How does one justify the lack of jobs or the mismatch of skills that present-day jobs demand? It’s a losing battle.
She sighs, thinking, I am tired. I am not a certified chef or cook.
Heaven forbid she says this out loud again, as all kinds of accusations would be hurled at her. “You don’t have anything to do, so why can’t you cook properly?”
The conversation and laughter encircle her, but she is left out of it. If she ventures a comment or two, she is cut short, curtly. She has a mind, but because she does not work outside the home, her comments do not matter.
It hurts, this belittling of her intelligence, this underscoring of her ‘non-identity’. When she reacts in anger, she is faced with much wrath from her spouse and children, but how often may one listen to constant rebukes and not be allowed to complete a sentence or participate in a lively discussion with guests?
“You can sleep the whole day”, “You can watch TV the whole day”.
Define ‘time management’. Define ‘schedule’. Define the non-payment of a monthly ‘salary’ for all the household chores done daily, for the family. The money given to cover household expenses just does NOT count!
7-9 AM (2 hours) Morning duties: make tea, prepare breakfast & ‘serve’, then ‘clear’.
9-10 AM (1 hour) Drink a cup of tea, read the newspaper, listen to the news, or watch on the TV.
10 -11 AM (1 hour) Load the washing machine.
Then, Bathe, Pray, Eat? Perhaps.
Then dry the clothes outside, as the helper does not have the time to do so. She can only work for 2 hours in the morning. She needs to work in 3 households to manage her household and we are grateful for her services.
11- 3 PM (4 hours) If required, go out to buy groceries, vegetables, fruits. Perhaps meet a friend for coffee out somewhere, for a change! Try to read! Or sew or watch some TV, maybe sleep for a little while. What luxury!
Return home, then it’s back to the kitchen to chop vegetables.
3-5 PM (3 hours) Children return at different times; prepare snacks; spouse returns, prepare tea and snacks.
Do not disturb anyone as they need to ‘unwind’.
5-7 PM (2 hours) Start to get dinner ready.
7-9 PM (2 hours ) Dinner-time.
9-10 PM (1 hour) Clear up, put things away, wash the dishes.
10 PM – Midnight (2 hours) Perhaps get to watch some TV if the remote control is free or read; use the computer, if it is free… always the last, because she is a housewife and has the whole day to watch TV, use the computer and sleep!
Usually, that is almost 16 hours of housework daily, being on call 24X7, 365 days a year. No ‘salary’ really required, just a touch of appreciation.
Everyday, for at least the next 30 years, she will wake up early to this routine perhaps in the future she may sleep as much as she wants, as a senior citizen and that too, only if her spouse is supportive; only if her adult married son lives with them and her daughter-in-law helps in the kitchen, before going to work. But that’s an unlikely scenario.
So, one day, do sit her down, help put her feet up, make her a cup of chai, put on her favourite music (she must have some choices, have you ever asked her?), or the TV soap she faintly chuckles at and even cries. Do tell her sometimes that she is worth much more than being a touchstone for complaints and see how her smile will reach her eyes!