It was a Saturday evening. The evening sun was lazily slipping down far away behind the huge line of trees and buildings. I could hear the koels on the tree just behind our house, start their singing in tandem, one following the other. Some children on the street in front of our house were shouting in their strident voices, as they were putting their best into the street cricket there. I spotted the old baker on his moped, busy selling loaves of bread and cookies to the womenfolk of our neighborhood, all crowded around him. A few women were sweeping the ground just outside their homes and drawing different kolam designs. Saturday is beautiful this way, as I get to see all this. Since my job has a five-day working pattern, I am home on Saturdays and Sundays. My wife works for six days of the week and only has the Sunday off.
It’s at about five in the evening every Saturday, that I get to hear these sounds and see these characters again and again. And as soon as that happens, an alarm rings in my mind. It was the same that happened on that day too. I ran for the switches in my study room and switched on all the bottom three on the panel in one go. These are for the different small and big lights that adorn our balcony that have to be switched on, when dusk starts smiling. There were a few times that I had missed doing this and the questions “How could you forget this? The whole place in front of our house is dark and doesn’t it look like a dacoit’s den?” had come up from my wife in a stern tone, when she got back home from work.
I closed the main door that opened into our home, as it would otherwise welcome the dance of mosquitoes inside. My wife had reminded me about this in the morning before she had left for work. Keeping this open in the evening, would end up with additional work for me when I am about to go to bed. I will have to try and kill the mosquitoes that are inside with the mosquito bat, while they keep entertaining my ears with their music. I will have to do this for two of our bedrooms and the dining area as well and I have always found this to be an arduous task.
After this, I ran up to the terrace to see if there were clothes that had been put there for drying that morning. My wife normally leaves for work at 8.30 am and at that point I would invariably be snoring, best in my sleep. Since it’s the only day on which I get a chance to catch some extra sleep, I normally wake up only at 9 am on Saturdays, 6.30 am being the wake-up time on other days including Sundays when we have to leave early for the morning church mass.
She would, however, ruthlessly wake me up with her loud and clear instructions to the clothes put for drying that would then be in the machine, all washed and rinsed with spinning done and ready to be taken out. I had carried out her instructions that morning and now, I also made sure that the dry clothes were taken off from the terrace and put for folding on the couch in our hall.
The folding of these would mostly happen towards late night, either by me or by my wife. But I knew that if I could finish the folding too by the time she returned from work, it could indeed be the delight element I could bring up for her. During rainy days, even if a small shower of rain got these clothes wet, after they had been out there for the entire day and all dried up, it would be the reason for the biggest disappointment, when she got back from work. She would attribute it to my lack of anticipation and agility. I had got this feedback a few times and I had been very quick to pick this up and meet her expectations.
Once the dry clothes were put on the couch, I scrambled and took two frozen packets of milk from the freezer zone of our refrigerator and put them for thawing in a vessel of water. I then took the boiled milk, that was stored after the morning consumption in the non-freeze zone of the fridge, and kept it on the stove for preparing coffee for my wife, my daughter and myself. Monday to Friday every week, when I return home in the evening from work, my wife prepares a hot cup of coffee for me. So Saturdays and Sundays are the only days when I get a chance to delight her in reciprocation and I always do this with extreme care.
Marriage provides a resting place from the hectic pace of modern life.
And along with this, I also prepare a bread sandwich with jam and egg omelet. I serve these for my wife and daughter. My wife finds this especially touching, as she gets to have this as soon as she enters our home from work and offloads her bags onto the couch.
So, once the thawing was done, I boiled the milk from the packets and I then stored it away in the fridge, for the next day’s consumption. I then prepared the coffee and the sandwich and kept it ready. All this l do so as to please my wife and also not to give her an opportunity to complain that household chores are not getting the due attention from my side. However, my daughter loses track of a few things due to her absent mindedness. This could be her unkempt room or empty biscuit covers that she had left in the cookie container after eating the biscuits. So I remind her much in advance to clean up the clutter, so as to avoid a situation coming up due to these, when my wife arrives from work.
Come Sunday and I step in with my wife to help her in the weekly cleaning of the rooms and the toilets. I also support her in whatever way I can in the kitchen, while she is into the heights of cooking. These could be with the washing of vessels, mincing of vegetables, monitoring the progress of a dish getting cooked on the stove with frequent sauteing and mixing so as to avoid the dish getting burnt up, while her focus is on something else. Sunday is the only day she gets to cook while cooking for the other days is done by a part-time maid. With the passage of time, I realized that while she was in the kitchen, it was enough if I was just there talking to her on whatever topic she was keen on discussing.
I did not have to really put my hand into anything unless she really wanted me to. These topics could include Indian politics, educational system in India and abroad, the vision for my daughter’s journey of life from a parent’s perspective, investments and matters at her work place. Sometimes when we would tread into areas where we would have a difference of opinion, it would lead to soft arguments.
But I would still try and hold on and remain there with her in the kitchen and contribute. This is to ensure that she does not feel being left alone in the kitchen to do all the work, as that would upset her enthusiasm levels while cooking.
My wife does all the grocery shopping every Saturday and when she brings these home, I help her to get them segregated and stocked at the right places in the kitchen. On the days, where she would have to wash, segregate and stock the chicken and fish into small pouches for using through the week, she would ask me for help to prepare dinner for my daughter.
This would be mostly dosa, egg omelette and vegetable sabji. Of these, the sabji part involves reheating the quantity that has been carried over from the morning’s cooking packed for our lunch. Dosa batter would be available as it’s prepared by her and stocked in the fridge once every week and I would use it to prepare the dosa. The omelette would of course have to be prepared from scratch.
Support the wife
These are the different steps and approaches I take to support my wife in the household chores. I ensure that whatever I do is made visible to her. This really helps to maintain a harmonious atmosphere at home as my wife gets to see my contributions. It also gives me the satisfaction that I have contributed in some way to the home affairs. But I am aware that the delights that I deliver today would certainly become the standard expectations from my wife tomorrow. There is no guarantee that she would continue to be delighted even if I consistently kept doing the same things. That’s the irony of a husband’s life.
Couples who cook together stay together.
By Roy Cherian Cherukarayil