My wife and I are having major domestic issues.
It’s that time of the year. The temperatures are rising, the kids are at home for two months and routines have changed…it doesn’t take much for tempers to start fraying.
It’s that time of the year…it’s not only children who have school vacations…the domestic help also goes away to the villages…and the finely wound tapestry of daily life starts unraveling. The cook goes on leave and even though there is a new one, we suddenly need to pay more attention and give more time to meal preparation. The house-help also goes on leave at the same time, without arranging for a locum (and there is hardly anyone around to do a locum) and this adds to the daily chore burden, including sometimes having to do the dishes. The chauffeur goes on leave, completely disrupting the daily routine of going to work, going to the market and getting the kids dropped and picked up from their various activities. And colleagues at office too go on holidays adding to the overall work burden.
There are two different worlds living together, dependent on each other. One world is the one where we work and run our homes with everything in between. And then there is the world of the people who enable us to do this…the maids, the servants, the chauffeurs, the cooks, the tiffin-carriers and all the others, whose raison-d-etre is supposedly to make our lives simpler and easier.
This other world runs our world. Without the enablers, we would find it virtually impossible to function and to carry out the activities we do. People often compare our lifestyles to those in the West, who even with higher income levels find it a luxury to be able to afford a maid to come in twice a week, leave alone having chauffeurs and cooks. Many who don’t know, especially those living in European countries, often think that a good number of us are Maharajas still living in a monarchial world with all the help that we need at our beck and call. Little do they realize what the truth is! The real Maharajas are people like our cooks (and we Gujjus even call them that) without whom our daily routines suddenly would just derail.
So dependent are we, that it takes one little deviation in our finely scheduled lives for everything to start crashing. The driver falls sick, so we have to self-drive, which means the car remains at work and can’t go back to pick up the son from school, which means one of the parents has to change his/her work schedule or request another parent to take care of the son, who still though needs to be taken to another class, which means one more favor from another parent or coming home earlier from work, and since the car was not there to take the cook to the market, the cook hasn’t been able to get fresh vegetables, which means dinner will also be an issue and so on and so forth.
It has been a tradition in our country that once a certain social level is reached, menial housework is passed onto domestic help. Yet, friends in the West manage quite well without armies of enablers and with no significant drop in productivity. Perhaps at some time in the future we too will be able to ape them and manage our lives on our own.
Until then…domestic problems…are problems that occur when the domestic help is not around. Domestic issues between couples and among families need another name.