I hate it when manageable articles have to die an early death because they went past their likeability date. If you look around, you’d find many such things at home which can be revived or given a new lease of life, simply by tweaking it here and touching up there. My husband has a transferable job and every new house we move into has its own share of old creaky problems and hand-me-downs. Most of than not, people like to get rid of old stuff or stuff they don’t have any use for and put it away in a spare room or garage.
But like energy, old things too, never get wasted; of course, if they haven’t rotted away or have been splintered into nothing. And I love resuscitating and tailoring them to suit my needs. I am a Houzz fan and also an avid follower of Good Housekeeping and Martha Stewart. But as someone researching them for a long time now, I can assure you that they make it look easier and snazzier than it actually is. The finish of the product, when you ‘do it yourself’ at home may not be as perfect as it looks in them glossy magazines. But then, when did DIY mean perfection? You do what you can and as long as it serves your purpose well, you’re a winner. (At least, that’s what I tell myself!)
I recently made good use of an awkward dresser into a media centre. Houses on our side of the globe usually do not have the kind of wall where you can easily cut or punch a hole to hide in the wires. If you don’t understand what I mean, check this video:
We do not have walls made like these. And you cannot cut through cement, without creating a huge mess. So, either you mount a board before you mount your TV that will cover your wires or put a tall media centre in front of it and hope, that it covers at least the ugly lengths of wires that run long and far. So I did just that and managed whatever I could to hide the wires.
I wish I had the Before photos because the After might not look much without it. For a hint, my old dresser looked something like this –
And, here’s what I made of it. The top gap had two drawers and the gap below had two sliding doors that stuttered every time I tried to open them. I added the three little drawers on the left because the previous version of the table-top protruded a little (notice the extra wood on the tabletop), making the dresser look uneven. Now I store CDs in them. The two doors at the bottom replaced two sliding doors that were there before, so it was easier to open.
Like many other homemakers, I hate a mess. I don’t think I have OCD yet (though I cannot rule it out completely) but there’s just so much I can take when it comes to a shabby room, a dresser in disarray, a mishmash of clothes or other articles etc.
My husband loves watches and more often than not, will either buy one or get it as a gift. Not surprising therefore that there are a lot of them, lying around aimlessly on my dresser. I used to have a small bowl to hold them all but well, it broke and now the watches have nowhere proper to go. Hence, a mess.
The other day, while I was about to throw away some old 100 Piper bottle cases, I thought of innovating them to hold the watches. So here’s a peek into what I did with them:
First, I peeled off the branding paper and cut them lengthwise, about one-inch and two-inches wide, to form a long window. Then I stuck them to an orphaned wooden block lying in the garage, with Fevikwik and let it dry. You can also use wrapping papers if you want, but because I didn’t have a decent looking wrapping paper, I painted and dried them in the sun.
The left one helps me as a charging point and the right one (the watchman!) holds my dear husband’s darling watches. See…
Do you have any organising ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to know.
Do you like the money plant? I do. It’s quaint and classy and doesn’t need much ado to keep it going.
The money plant is legendary actually. Apparently, a poor Taiwanese man received it in return to his prayers to God to relieve his financial burdens. He went to care for it, later selling seeds and nuts, earning a lot of money hence. I didn’t know that when I ushered it into my living room and I haven’t yet come across any nuts in them. But it is said to increase your wealth and prosperity if you care for it and nurture it well.
There’s a money plant vine curling artificially around a frangipani tree in my garden right now. I did that. It cannot quite sap the juice of the tree but looks pretty nonetheless. I also had it in a flower pot, supported by a bamboo quadruped-like structure but it took a lot of effort to keep it looking fresh and green while curling it around the structure. About then, I found that this plant can grow equally well in water.
I had some empty wine bottles which I thought could be put to good use here. I took fresh saplings from the parent branch and dipped them into the wine bottles filled with water. Now all I do is change the water every few days and mist-spray the leaves occasionally to keep them clean. They grow and curl down and need near-to-nothing care.
Here’s a glimpse into what I have made of them –
This is actually a pickle jar!
Cutting: Make a sharp 45-degree incision on the branch, making sure that you’re leaving enough length to dip a node or two in the water.
Fill your container (planter or bottle) with water, enough to keep the nodes wet and nourished.
Change the water in a span of 4-5 days or even a week to keep it looking fresh.
If you’re going on vacation, you can leave it as it is. By the time you’re back, there might be a few yellow leaves which you can pluck away before changing the water again. The best deal about this is that it needs minimal care.
Do you have any house plants you love? Share your knowledge with me.
So, I was just into a few months of my marriage and everything was still fresh and new and happy to me. And then, this happened. I don’t quite know what to call it, but you know the tumble of the ride is necessary to make you feel alive. And this was a big tumble!
Hubby and I were in Hyderabad for his training and the plan was to push to Chennai to join his mum and sisters for a trip to the famous Tirupati Temple. I was apprehensive about the journey’s arduousness since visiting Tirupati meant a long serpentine walk into the temple, enough to make a normal person who brisk walks daily, pant for breath. But since the plan was made and the arrangements were done, I decided to go with the flow.
We reached Chennai around nine-thirty in the evening and headed to the guest house to meet up the rest of the family. After a quick bite, we booked a cab and went for an evening out in the city. About an hour and a half after, in a Cafe Coffee Day at the shores of Adyar Beach, we learnt that our VVIP booking for Tirupati darshan was made for 5 am the next day and we were four hours away from the venue, idling around with coffee and pastries. We rushed back to our guest house, trying to decide what to do on the way. First sign: wrong time to set out. By the time we reached, we had decided we would head out at night since this wasn’t Assam and travel by night wouldn’t be hazardous. Bad decision!
Back in the guest house, we decided to call another cab agency for a Tirupati booking. Dumping our luggage and the cab driver’s promise, we headed off in the new cab to Tirupati at midnight. A few kilometres outside Chennai, the cabbie drove into a narrow lane, only to realise he was wrong and came back to the national highway. That was our second sign. The guy didn’t know his roads too well. We still gave him a chance, thinking that evening might have blurred his road mapping and he would figure out the rest soon. A few kilometres further, he said he had to fill his tank up and entered a gas station. Refilling his tank, he realised a car tyre was punctured and had to be replaced. Our third sign: we should have ridden back home. By then, I suppose, wrong decision-making had clouded our brains and we still chose to go ahead without thinking about consequences. After fixing the guilty tyre for what seemed like ages, our pesky driver rammed the doors shut and set sail again.
It was one-thirty am when we left the gas station and everyone else, except my mom-in-law and I, slept off soundly at their seats, while the driver zoomed off with Tamil songs playing in his system. Lesson: Never put a sleeping person in the front seat. Definitely not, if it is night-time! My sister-in-law was dozing in the front seat with her earphones on when the driver decided he has to get some tea to pull through this journey. So he stopped at a tea stall and vanished into it. After an hour, he turned up and said he had to relieve himself after tea and was, therefore, late. We bought what he said.
We were 30kms away from the highway that we left when we were stopped at a toll booth that crossed you over to Andhra, now closed for some official reason. We didn’t have passes and to get it, we’d have to head back to the highway and take another route. Hubby woke up at the commotion and took the front seat, getting mad at the driver for not informing about this. After wasting 60kms, we were again on the national highway and well past our patience. It was already nearing dawn when we got the passes at some highway Regional Transport Office branch (that resembled a paan shop), an hour later.
We started looking for signboards pointing towards Tirupati. A left turn and we were driving into a narrow lonely road, with closed shops and loitering stray dogs. Leaving a dusty town, we entered a dark stretch of road (the ones which are shown on crime shows), flanked by paddy fields. The roads were unlit and there was no signboard since the last one that pointed towards Tirupati. We were nowhere close to Tirupati, nor in a position to return to Chennai. So we decided to go along. I was chatting with my mom-in-law when the car suddenly strayed left and then took a strong right to get back to balance. The cabbie was dreadfully sleepy and was in no position to drive. Furious, hubby took the wheel and put him in the shotgun seat!
It was pitch dark, with nothing except our headlights for help. I took the navigation duty since others were already tired and sleepy, and embarked on what was our most memorable (!) journey since marriage. We had crossed into Andhra and our driver was Tamil. Telugu was neither our strength nor his! We drove for about two hours like that, asking the occasional early riser in Hindi and English, which way went to Tirupati. Towns woke up to dawn, street lights were switched off after last night’s guard on the streets, morning joggers hustled out of homes and lungi-clad chaiwallahs dotted the street corners. We had been driving for ages now.
It was already six o’clock when we reached the Tirumala toll booth and the colourful gates opened up to Tirupati. As we drove up on the hilly route, looking at the spectacular view of the mountain, the fresh morning breeze kissing our faces, the journey seemed worth it. The driver was up by then, shamelessly clicking pictures with his phone. My elder sister-in-law, a martial arts instructor shared our common passing thought aloud, “Iyaak mariye pelaun niki! (I think we should kill him)” We could have done that and easily thrown him down the cliff for all the pain he had caused us, but we stuck to being human and being analytical of our own decision about taking this journey in the first place.
But the ordeal hadn’t ended yet. The officer-in-charge who had booked our visit was fidgeting and told us that we had missed our VVIP booking and were managed into the next VIP booking. What he didn’t mention immediately was that wearing traditional clothes inside the temple premises was strictly important! My elder sister-in-law, the coolest in our gang, was comfortably dressed in a short, waist-length kurta and pyjamas, sporting a cropped haircut and rather tomboyish demeanour. The moment the temple authorities spotted her, they gave her a dhoti. Not understanding the purport of the message, she casually folded it on as a dupatta. The instant reaction of the temple people: No sir, this is a dhoti and has to be worn like a dhoti.
If I was her, I would have definitely stepped out and insisted that I be kept away from such restrictions. She, on the other hand, wrapped the dhoti like a dhoti and moved on in the queue comfortably. It was as hilarious as it was unsettling, at least to me. People stared at her and passed smiles, but she joined in the humour and smiled back. And when the checking counter neared and the woman-in-charge asked if she was ‘Ladies-a’, my sister-in-law nodded and went over to get frisked, smiling.
The queue was still a kilometre long. Sometimes the floor got wet, sometimes carpeted and sometimes sticky. We were in and there was no getting out, even with children crying, possible perverts feeling around and our bellies knocking with hunger pangs. When we did reach the sanctum sanctorum, the priests allowed just two seconds of communion with the god and pushed our elbows to move the line. Tirupati was a busy god, I noted.
After the darshan was over, the sun literally loomed large on us as we stood, waiting for ‘the laddoo’, outside the temple kitchen, for another hour. By the time we got out, it was scorching hot outside. Hubby did not take a chance this time and took the wheel immediately. And if it wasn’t for my sister-in-law’s phone GPS we would’ve wandered even longer. We still had a tyre to repair and had crossed two towns with no signs of any repairing shop. The only relief was that we had a good count of daylight hours left. After what seemed like the verge of our hope, we found one corner shop, tyres of all sizes hanging on its bamboo pillars. It was a godsend!
It isn’t over till its over, they say… and truly so. There were still miles to go before we could plunge into our bed and sleep off like dead people. Every time my eyes tried to shut, I woke up with a start and began talking. When we finally reached the guest house, we got rid of the moronic driver after payment and ate something unmindfully, before hitting the bed.
This was a trip, never to be forgotten. Later that evening when we ordered dinner and gorged like hungry bears, the only positive thing I could feel was that my new family had just got closer. Trying times test your bonds. I looked at everyone, falling a little more in love with hubby, as I appreciated our team effort and thanked god for getting us back safely.
Researchers say that we do not use 75% of our brains in our daily life. I do believe this Tirupati visit made me spend 10% more than my usual count. As much as I am proud of it, I do not want to repeat this experience ever. Like, ever!!!
Do not travel after midnight. The body gets into sleep mode and it’s unhealthy and difficult to keep it up.
If the cabbie looks doubtful, change the guy or change the agency. Even if the agency insists, do check if the fuel meter shows full and the spare tyre looks ready.
Make sure your phone or car has GPS installed when you’re travelling. Saves a lot of trouble!
Dress appropriately for the venue you are visiting or carry a change of clothes with you. You cannot ensure patience after a long journey.
Finally, do take someone who knows driving. You never know when that might come handy.
The other day I came across this website that made me rethink my predicament and accept the new me – which is supposed to be, gluten free. I am putting it like that because the other way would be – I am allergic to gluten. So anyway, the website made me feel part of a community, accept that this is going to be a way of life and that there are many others who are facing the same problem. In short, they were saying, “Welcome to GFA – Gluten-Free Anonymous”. I could almost see myself sitting on a chair in a circle of other troubled celiac-cursed people. The website did have recipes and options for gluten-free living and diets but I still wasn’t convinced it wasn’t a sorry situation. The whole thing sounded like ‘we are with you’. Was I into therapy now?
I shun the putrid thoughts and concentrated on the good things about it. I would have to give up maida (refined flour) which somehow managed to screw up my lipid profile already and my LDL is now pretty borderline! For those scratching their heads, lipid profile is not something that makes you a pro or look pretty, it is your cholesterol test. So the bad cholesterol aka LDL was busting my blood stream and the gut was already celiac cursed. Need I worry more? Damn, I was supposed to talk about the ‘good things’.
So yes, the good thing that came out of my ‘condition’ is that I started watching what I was eating. I love cakes; which goes on to say that dropping flour off my chart was like getting dumped on email – shocked and without explanation! I decided that since it was necessary to drop pasta, pizza and the equally criminal cheese and cream out of my way, I would not give up on cakes, even if it means having a slice a month. Now since the website (which shall not be named) already made me feel clinical about myself, I chose to find a happier path and started browsing Instagram! And then, I found Sheila (realglutenfreemeals.com). Yeah, that’s her name and she surely is one helluva Sheila. Sheila here is not only young and pretty, she also has a very handsome husband and two adorable kids and she makes me feel classier about being gluten-free. I emailed her a few times and let’s say, she and not her customer care team, encouraged me to try a few things for starters. I had a bag of almonds, gifted by someone on some occasion lying in my drawer and I had never thought of them until now. Sheila skips dairy and drinks almond milk instead, and the flour that is the residue of the process comes in handy for baking! My heart cried out with joy. I was ready for cakes again.
That a friend’s Facebook food posts were tugging at my sorrow chords, is now not beyond repair. Sure, I might not immediately come up with her delectable Bundt cake, but I shall and I will, try and try again. To cut to the chase, I baked an almond cake yesterday and it turned out so yum, I felt like a mother rescuing her kid out of the kidnapper’s hands! The recipe I turned to, did not mention butter or oil but I was worried it might burn the cake and therefore added a few dollops of butter nonetheless. I mean, I hadn’t yet come to trust the oil of almonds completely. And the best part is that the husband, who is usually ordering off a completely different menu than mine, loved it to bits…literally! There are only a few portions (not slices) left of it now and I am super excited to try something more gluten free.
In all this, I have learnt one lesson. Practice more than you preach. Sheila, thank you for not trying to put the spirituality of ‘gluten-free living’ down my throat and instead, enticing me to try it as an adventurous new lifestyle. I know I will have to manoeuvre a lot through the aisles of spicy, dairy-loaded, flour-heaped Indian cooking, but I will find my way of living and revel at that very soon.
For those, remotely interested in the recipe, here’s it.
ALMOND CAKE (no wheat!)
250g ground almonds
225g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla essence
Blend this together and bake for 40 minutes. Voila!
P.S. This is not Sheila’s recipe. I just got it off a Youtube Clementine & Almond cake and dropped Clementine off the list.
As a woman of the house, it is often taken for granted that you’d sacrifice for others and let them take first priority every time. I did grow up with such a mother in my early years. After some time, she might have realised how stupid that was and chose to live for herself as much as us.
Mum and I have been very close since I was a child. Not a surprise really, because dad was the more possessive and the silently brooding one, who would burst out once a while, and otherwise assume you read his mind all the time. So yes, mum was closer because she didn’t assume we knew what she thought. In fact, she was pretty overt about what she felt, thought and expected. She made sure we knew she was as important as Dad. She would never take a smaller piece of food/delicacy, just because she put a big one on ours (my brother’s, dad’s or mine). She’d rather cook more. Also, she made it clear to us kids very early that just because there was a quarrel between mum and dad, it didn’t mean we could see her in any low light. Her authority remained untouched no matter what circumstance. She didn’t treat dad like a god nor did she expect us to treat anyone like that. She didn’t appease someone just because she was expected to. If she didn’t like someone/something, she made it clear. She did all her duties as a daughter or sister-in-law but she didn’t bow down to ill-treatment silently. She’d fight back even if that led to a commotion.
Honestly, while I appreciated her openness, I found it overwhelming too. But as I grew up into a woman myself, I realised that if she didn’t do it, we’d always expect her to give up or give in. I realised the importance of a woman making her intentions clear and not just having a mind of her own. I figured that if you don’t stand up for yourself, nobody else will. She also taught me that if I allowed people to walk over me, they will go on and trample. She also had a strange conviction in me and my brother, something we didn’t have ourselves; probably, because she had undying conviction in herself. She always moulded herself to understand our side of the story before she brought on hers. Yes, we fight and damn hard. But she always pauses to listen; and if she doesn’t disagree, she accepts.
She has never waited for us to make her life meaningful. We do make her world go round, but she never compromises on her own time or space because of us. She even asked me if I didn’t want to marry, so she could brace it and move on. I suppose she would have even made herself accept it if I was gay. She’d have taken time, but she’d have accepted it. Because, even before people could publicly speak about it in our social circle, she was telling us about homosexuality and meeting my gay friends amicably.
As far as my memory goes, she always had short, cropped hair and a plump physique. She suited her wardrobe and hairstyle as per her convenience, no matter how ready the society was for such an upgrade. She switched to salwar kameez and pants when saris became cumbersome for her. She always carried her weight off well – although taming my carbs because of her hereditary gene – and told off people who fat-shamed her. She brisk-walked 45-60 mins a day and lost considerable weight in her late 50s before hypertension and diabetes could find a home. She has always tried setting an example for us rather than giving advice. She has mild arthritis now but doesn’t stop her evening walks, lest that become an excuse for a passive old age.
When women her age are either worrying about political showdowns, girls getting drunk, live-in relationships or why Simar turned into a fly, she reads, listens to music religiously and keeps a tab on every new model/actor/beauty pageant winner. She lately watched Zero Dark Thirty and recommended me to watch it!
Looking at parents, children and the changing world of today, it seems parenthood isn’t going to be a piece of cake at all. It won’t simply entail giving birth, feeding and caring or raising and teaching or keeping them away from harm. It won’t be enough to follow our parents’ footsteps because their update on parenting is dated now. Their choices had transcended that of their parents I am sure, but we have stepped into a completely new generation. Parenthood now is a lot of unlearning the old and learning the new. It is the sensibility to spare the rod to understand the child. It is the responsibility of telling your kid that it is perfectly fine to be himself/herself and not follow the herd. In fact, it is a matter of pride to be special, unique and different.
The other day, in an on-going conversation about kids and their future, a friend casually slipped in a valuable piece of thought – “I will love my son even if he turns out to be gay tomorrow. He is my own and I will be proud of him.” I ruminated on it later, reflecting on its profundity and unprecedented conviction. Most cases of ‘coming out’, often had unsupportive childhoods and disgruntled, albeit, shocked parents. In such a situation, the individuals had to struggle to accept and then appreciate themselves. They chose friends over family, unknown strangers over familiar relations. Even our generation took its time to relate to homosexuality naturally. Therefore, my friend preparing herself to accept it, if her son turned out gay later is a commendable thought for me. I also realised that not just sexuality, but many other things that have been standardised commercially will need to be debunked when I raise my kid. I’ll have to make sure that for him/her, height, complexion, hairdo, income brackets, community or place of origin do not become a matter of judgement or self-assessment.
I’ll also have to teach my kid what is appropriate and inappropriate – politically, racially and gender-wise. I will have to give him/her an environment that is not sexually prejudiced – no blue for boys and pink for girls necessarily. I will have to ensure that the child learns how to protect himself/herself against perverts and kidnappers. I will have to teach him/her to appreciate fitness and like organic foods, and not stress-eat burgers with fries. I’ll have to tame my own social networking habits to teach him/her that they don’t give evidence of your social standing and popularity. I’ll have to apologise myself if I expect my child to apologise to me for doing wrong. No kid in this age is going to accept anything but an equally respectful relationship with its parents.
My 12-year old niece is very sensitive towards gender-based comments like ‘getting married and becoming someone’s wife’. She doesn’t like being told what she cannot do because she is a girl. Thanks to her mother, she is growing up to realise that feminism is an ideology of respect and that she can claim it as much as the next person, no matter what gender. She is growing up to be a responsible kid, and despite her quiet self, she knows when to voice in what matters. She also plans to buy a bungalow and a farmhouse when she grows up. When we were young, most parents refrained from telling us problems of the family – financial, interpersonal etc. My parents were rather candid, but I probably wasn’t too savvy to figure it as maturely as kids nowadays do. So we grew up, quite oblivious of many matters that, had we understood earlier, we could have staved off them on our way. Now, of course, parents make it a point to tell their children almost everything.
It is important for a child to know what the financial status of the family is, no matter how rich or poor. They must learn that money is not just for spending but also for safe keeping for emergencies, for planning their future and for the parents’ retirement. They also ought to know that money doesn’t always keep coming. Sometimes, there can be breaks in the flow. They need to envisage their future not on the basis of their parents’ bank account but their own plan of action. Without this knowledge, any rich kid would like to cruise along the Pacific, not knowing if the parents are draining their coffers; and any poor kid would resign to fate or switch to dishonourable means.
I would also need to learn with my kid, as he/she does in the learning curve of their growth. If I do not learn, I will not follow. If I don’t follow, I won’t be able to guide well. And that is going to be precarious if I am to look after my son or daughter well. Kids are uninhibited towards newer and more complicated subjects and when faced with competition, often respond positively. Grown-ups on the other hand, either become defensive or depressive. Neither will help if we are to cope up with them in the long run.
It has also become mandatory to teach kids about sex today. No more shying away when it comes to birds and bees. Our parents had trouble talking about sex in front of us. Yes, mum would have some lessons to impart, which she delicately laid out, often inducing fear and restriction. But now, we have to conquer our discomfort and address the elephant in the room. We need to tell them that sex is not a villain; unsafe sex is. We have to tell them why it is unsafe for them biologically, to indulge in sex at a young age. We’ll also need to encourage them to express their emotions freely – be it infatuation, be it the desire to experiment, be it fear. As much as this is important, it is also utterly essential for teaching kids the importance of avoiding and reporting undue touch. 90% of child sexual abuse emanates from known relations – uncles/aunts, teachers, regular delivery men and in extreme cases, parents themselves. It is imperative therefore that the child knows how to detect unsavoury behaviour on part of the grown up, be it in touching restricted zones of the body or enticing them with solitary attention via gifts or perks. That includes telling the child what zones their bodies are restricted to touch. Unless kids know that, they will be easily susceptible to abuse and later guilt and stunted social personalities.
Having said that, we have to have a voice ourselves if we expect our children to grow up into individuals with a voice. Unless kids see us taking a stand for ourselves, they will emulate our fear as a normal behaviour. We are often told that parents have to sacrifice a lot for their children. Well, in this century we have to sacrifice our submission to adverse situations or people and be bold. We have to make that leap of faith and believe in ourselves. And we have to believe in our kids too if we want them to be confident about their ventures. Often, children suffer from the lack of trust from parents – not in regards to their character but regarding their ability. Most of all, we’ll have to know how to deal with failures – both theirs and ours. We’ll have to teach them that it is alright to fail if we pull up and fight back. Above all, we’ll have to have them know that life is not always about working hard and amassing wealth; that they will need to sit back to enjoy their hard work’s benefits because happiness might be expensive to earn but free to experience.
One evening, we were invited to dinner by my husband’s junior colleague. He got married last April and had been keen to host us with his wife ever since. It was a warm summer night, and though I was worried that I’d be sweating in a sari, I didn’t. We made it at a decent hour, around 8 PM and were ushered into their living room by the host. His father joined us too and we soon began a normal conversation about the weather, the political upheavals, the decrepit roads of the district interiors, the predominant culture and customs of the people of our immediate neighbourhood and what food one should prefer in such a sultry weather. The father did most of the talking, leading one topic after the other, my husband punctuating each with an anecdote and a consequent laughter.
An old lady, clad in the white traditional clothes of a widow, entered the room. She had a weak but pleasing smile and you could imagine that she must have been a beautiful woman in her youth. Our host introduced her as his maternal grandmother, as she sat next to me and smiled. The conversation between the men continued with renewed energy at each joke, while she and I looked at each other occasionally. After some more time of pleasing silence, I asked where she lived. She seemed relieved to have been spoken to finally and said that she lived in the next village along with her sons. I didn’t realise that I had opened the gate. She went on telling me how she follows a certain profound spiritual faith propounded by a guru, how (in her younger days) she used to spend hours without a break working at the guru’s ashram, and how her own sons do not subscribe to it nor give her money to attend the spiritual workshops that the ashram organizes each year. “The ashram gets innumerable devotees gathering on different occasions each year and you have to pay the least minimum amount to enable to feed so many mouths three to five times a day,” she said. While her vigour to explain to me the power of her faith did not fall short of breath, she occasionally incurred a drop in the energy because of her sons’ lack of involvement in the same. If not that, she’d refer to the cataract operation she recently had, which marred her eyesight more than make it. Her son-in-law proudly commented on how diligent and devoted she has been to her faith, perhaps because he conformed to it too.
The host’s mother came into the room, every now and then, with a tray full of fruits or tea and biscuits or juice. She is a schoolteacher and apparently takes a bus few miles off to reach her school. If you looked at her, you’d know she had been running around the whole day, despite the heat. Her husband paused her once, flippantly suggesting that she should let the new bride do these chores instead. Wasn’t she the younger one after all? What was she doing inside anyway? We all smiled uncomfortably in our seats. For an instant, I felt like one of those not so pleasantly plump, elderly aunties who visit people’s houses to judge their new brides on her dexterity to serve guests. I shifted my leg that crossed over the other, swiftly to the ground. Very obviously next time, the new bride entered with folded hands in a greeting and her head held down. We spoke to her and found out she is a Sanskrit postgraduate, with a Bachelors degree in Education, probably seeking a teacher’s job soon enough.
An hour later, we were taken to the dining room and served a well-prepared platter of vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies. We enjoyed the food and thanked the hosts. I trust I wasn’t emitting any judging signs through my demeanour but the host’s father thought it pertinent to mention that the food prepared was actually not by his daughter-in-law, since as he put it, ‘she tries hard but it’s often tasteless’. My husband and I did not pay attention to his musings and thought it better to express our gratitude more overwhelmingly.
Later, as we were driving back home, I pondered over this. It didn’t look like a family that stereotypes women to be a creature of the kitchen. After all, the matron the family is a schoolteacher and her mother persistently followed her own faith. But I couldn’t easily shirk off the feeling that the father-in-law was distinctly setting the tone by weighing the bride’s qualities simply by virtue of her culinary skills; as if she must entitle herself to it, to qualify to be there. I wasn’t very comfortable with it. I don’t know if questioning something so subtle, socially, would be wise for me to do, since there is evidence contrary to mere hospitality. But I hope that she finds her ground soon and entrenches her identity well enough for anyone to think before labelling her according to his/her understanding of her office.
I am not the ideal housewife. If I had a slogan like the followers of Magneto, I’d say: Regular and Proud!
I am not a multi-tasker. I cannot remember the horde of other things that women are somehow superhumanly expected to remember. And I affirmatively say, I don’t regret that; because women who are adeptly doing all that aren’t at peace either. And I mean women, who – as the SMS forwards go – do the dishes, iron the clothes, prep up the breakfast for the next day, check if the doors are locked, leave water at the dog dish, before they hit the bed; even after they have said goodnight. Trust me when I say I get their phone calls in the middle of the day getting mad over having to be ideal. I am not them and I don’t care if that is the benchmark, the society has subtly set, through social networking.
In fact, thank god I am not ideal. Imagine the hard work to keep up the pretence. It is a pretence because a human being is not a gem. A human being is simply a human being. If she is loving you more for calling her a ‘gem of a woman’, she is perhaps laying the disgruntled snake somewhere beneath her satisfaction of you giving her that credit. Embrace it. Women don’t like to slog or to be ideal. If you think otherwise, you haven’t yet sat together with her till she actually lets out her secrets. It rips off her patience to memorise things, to pick up what you left off, to get crazy about the bed sheets getting wet by the bath towel, to clean the loo after you have left tell-tale signs of your stench and then put on a smile for you when you come home. You think she enjoys all that? No. So, she does it for your love? Well, yes and no. Yes, and I hate to admit because she hates to be lonely and your appreciation brings her the stars. No, because she’d have done it anyway, even if she was alone.
Women get crazy because their biology has made them so, the biology that sends them a red alert to be perfect. Have you met those who, as the saying goes, ‘live like a man’? Those unkempt women have the liberated hormones. Rest of us are dealing with the desire to not care about it and yet ending up tucking the ruffled bed sheet crisply below the mattress. If you think we always get away with it, simply by saying ‘hormones’, go ahead and get a sex change. We’ll see how you deal with it. By the way, I will not fail to mention here that there are men who are deemed ‘lady-like’ because they like to keep their things neat and in order. Who decides that it is a manly trait to mess up and a womanly trait to clean?
Back to the first argument, though. Lately, I have been having doubts if there is at all an ideal housewife or if it is a social construct. Because if there was, there wouldn’t have been any divorces – she’d have taken whatever came her way, with open arms; there wouldn’t have been #MyChoice videos trying to scream out what she really wants (and people wouldn’t have been going crazy over why sleeping around or sleeping out of marriage, cannot be her choice); there wouldn’t have been household quarrels; and finally, there wouldn’t have been restaurants, because all those women would be ‘ideally’ cooking the ‘ambrosial’ meal! So where is that whole pack of the ideal women residing? In the chauvinist’s head, right? It is his dream to have someone like that. Pity.