Her multitasking always amazed me, especially when it came to chemistry. It was 8 in the morning. In the kitchen, my wife was checking the viscosity of sambar, the solubility of chutney and the permeability of coffee, all at the same time. The huge number of multi-sized, multi-label bottles and cans on the shelf in front of her looked like a 17th century alchemist lab with containers of different shapes and sizes labelled in Hebrew and Arabic.
Hebrew and Arabic you can learn, but here it was a different challenge. The Horlicks bottle contained chilli powder, the Bournvita tin, salt, while the oats tin had turmeric. I won't be surprised if the rat poison cover had pickles in it. But even without the blink of an eye she confidently opens a container labelled Britannia biscuit, puts a little masala powder in one of the cookers, and puts it off. No watch for time, no weighing scales to go by.
But then suddenly, there was this call from the department of physics. The milkman has come. Without a lactometer, she predicted that the milk had the required specific gravity deemed fit for human consumption, adult, paediatric and our pet cat included. The simultaneous arrival of the old newspaperwallah needed supervision in the weights and measures department, which she did with the accuracy eligible to earn ISO certification.
Within the next 20 minutes, she noted that the particulate matter in tap water was alarmingly high (to me it seemed usual) and made sure that no one used it for drinking. By noon, she discovered an unusual biological phenomenon of slowing of the movement of our goldfish in our jerrycan-sized aquarium and predicted that the prognosis was poor.
With my postgraduate degree in medicine, I did not find the fish too abnormal but uttered a “yes-yes,” more to avoid an argument than anything else.
By six in the evening, the goldfish had died. She followed the exact norms of environmental safety in the disposal of the mortal remains with necessary prayers — for a new brand of fish food, identifying the cause of death confidently without autopsy. The arrival of the gardeners made her take critical decisions in agriculture, on which manure would suit the mango tree better. And the financial wizard happily manages to run the home with a fiscal deficit starting by the end of third week of every month!
It is said management skills go beyond what you are taught in the B schools. However top grade they are, you need some special senses. I agree.
Even if my salary check lies deep in my hospital coat pocket she smells it out by the time I park the car. Phenomenal, I say. Isn't it? Surprising that with all these qualifications, a working hour from 6 a.m. till 11 p.m., and on call 24 hours a day, housewives are still considered unemployed and have no organised trade union.
Today is the era of re-designation, where the department heads have become directors, managers rechristened as chairmen and owners as CEOs. Without call for a strike the good old, young at heart, housewife has been elevated a homemaker. Does she want more?
(The writer is Head, Department of Cardiology, PRS Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram. email@example.com)