Our eight-year-old daughter who is a fourth standard KV student has to leave home at 7.15 a.m. to catch her school bus. Till the other day, she never missed the bus even a single day. She would be given her breakfast; her lunch box and water bottle placed in her school bag; her uniform, shoes, socks, belt and hairband — everything would be OK. While all these duties were punctually done by my wife, I used to be busy reading The Hindu.
Last week, her spine was damaged. She was wriggling in pain, admitted to a superspecialty hospital. Special scans revealed a diffuse bulge at L4-L5 and L5-S1discs. Traction belt, physiotherapy and absolute “bed rest” were recommended. The burden of household duties fell on my head.
The day after she was discharged from the hospital, I tried to send our daughter to school. Waking up at 6 a.m., I entered the kitchen, took the packet of rava and tried to make upma. How easily I used to eat the upma and point out its shortcomings to my wife whenever she made it tastily. But I didn't realise that it was so difficult to make it. Many times, I ran to the bedroom to get directions and at last I go the upma ready.
But when my daughter took a spoon-full of it, she immediately ran to the washbasin and spat the whole thing out. “Father,” she asked, “have you used salt or rava to make upma?” She mocked at me saying that upma was not made of uppu (salt). I tasted it and found that it can't be eaten. My wife then asked me to prepare noodles. Somehow, I managed to do it and my daughter was forced to eat it.
Where is the uniform? It is to be ironed. Where are the socks, the belt, and the hairband? Time ran out and she missed the bus.
Don't mind. I turned to preparing the lunch. As the cooker does the main job, I could prepare rice more or less successfully. But when I ventured to make sambar, I was ashamed. A thing which I like so much and my wife used to make so easily, I couldn't prepare. I didn't have the smallest idea how it is made. Though I ran innumerable times to consult my wife, the sambar I made turned out to be something else. In short, I could provide meals to my wife and elder daughter but didn't ask them how my preparation was. I myself found out how it was when I took lunch. Luckily my younger daughter is fond of only bread and biscuits, and I was spared stringent criticism, because it is her nature to call a spade a spade.
When my wife used to do the household work, the kitchen was so clean and tidy; but now however hard I tried, I could not make it as clean and tidy as it used to be. Washing utensils was the most tedious and difficult task. You will continue washing and the utensils in the sink will continue increasing. It causes hip pain. I wondered how difficult it would be for my wife, who had undergone two Caesareans, to do all these tiresome chores in the kitchen before and after attending to office duties. Both of us are government employees (to be frank, my wife holds a higher post and her share of monthly income is larger than mine) and yet she toils more than I do in the house (and at office too)!
Bed rest for my wife would be over and I would be relieved of this tedious and tiresome kitchen work, I thought. But who will relieve her of this burden of running a home? I realised that the woman — the mother, the wife — is the spine of a home. It is truer if both the wife and husband are employed. A wife serves her children, the husband and her home too. She knows the needs of the children, husband and the home. But the husband and children know only about their own needs. After serving all the needs of others, the women attend to their own needs, physically tired and mentally battered.
I remember reading in a feminist article that the work done by women in the kitchen is equal to that of a pilot who flies an aeroplane. What an absolutely correct observation! Men will realise it only when they are left alone and forced to cook for their survival. We don't know the value of the service women do for the well-being of the family. Their unselfish service is taken for granted and we are fond of believing that they are frail and inferior to men. Actually, women are not only equal to men but in many respects are superior too.
(The writer's email ID is email@example.com)
Keywords: Woman power