Travails of a working (from home) woman

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On how the lockdown has put the woman’s resilience to the test

Sneaking some well-earned email-responding action in under screenglow is the dream of every working mother. | Pixabay

I have lost four kg. No kidding. No, I did not work out for hours. Nor did I diet with obsession. I worked from home — and for home. Hang on, I’m putting the cart before the horse. First, let me come clean about the provocation for this rant. A well-meaning offspring, living abroad, texted: “Take care and enjoy the forced rest.” My lips curled into a wry smile and eyes opened in startled revelation. So, the world thinks that the much beleaguered working woman of India is finally relaxing, feet up. Nothing can be farther from the truth. BTW, this is not for the liberated GenNext young women because they will not relate to the situation. For the others, here we go...

This lockdown is stretching the limits of woman power. If someone thought that women are great because they balance home and career so beautifully, here is some gyan. They now have surpassed themselves by running office from home apart from running that said home, hands tied behind their backs, without missing a beat.

Illustration: Deepak Harichandan

With none of the comforts or facilities the workplace could offer (we sorely miss the kiosk, for starters) and just the basic tools that could possibly be provided in these circumstances, the women are taking care of production. The ‘punch in’ and ‘punch out’ option the HR so thoughtfully provided on our cell phones has been reduced to a farce. Because we seem to be on the job what seems like round-the-clock, juggling responsibilities on several fronts. The best time to do office work these days is night, when the lights are dimmed and the house is in slumber.

With domestic help staying away, the kitchen sink has to be constantly cleared. Naturally, no door delivery of food. This means that the larder has to be constantly replenished. With whatever available in a curfew situation. After all, so many mouths have to be fed and watered (euphemism, of course, for hot and cool beverages). Right from morning coffee to dinner and the nightcap of hot milk, planning is crucial even as official work has to continue seamlessly. Emails have to be sent, documents read, edited, pages curated. Coordination with colleagues proceeds and decisions are made amidst an over-strained system and a groaning wifi connection. The need for an additional pair of hands is felt more now than ever.

 

After sound and light, the PM can think of a way to salute this particular species of woman, which is working overtime to keep hearths and hearts warm. Is the PMO listening?

 

A household with super-seniors is a different kettle of fish. Here cleaning has to be optimum. Repeated alerts about how old people, especially those with co-morbidities (new jargon this writer learnt, as if lockdown life itself is not morbid) are vulnerable and need a close watch don’t offer the caregiver any comfort. An endless supply of hot water, fumigation (did you add turmeric?), etc., are keeping the woman on her toes while the fingers haven’t left the keyboard. Add to it energetic teenagers, whose craving for entertainment and a caterpillar-like appetite have to be respected. Frayed nerves have to be soothed and low spirits boosted.

Now, the first paragraph should make sense to the reader.

When will the lockdown lift to allow the women to return to a decent work schedule?

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has a task. After sound and light, he can think of a way to salute this particular species of woman, which is working overtime to keep hearths and hearts warm. Is the PMO listening?

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