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He is a home maker…our fathers, our brothers, our lovers, our husbands, our sons...there is a homemaker in each of them...
The 10 by 10 kholi would be jam packed with 5 full bodied men interminably spreading their limbs this route and that the entire night and heavy with hot breathing. The one to get up earliest was Ganesh dada. He would then make the morning tea for all his mates in the sputtering kerosene stove which took its own time to oblige. After washing his face from the common street tap he called out to the others, cracking simpleton jokes. Everyone loved Ganesh dada and he refused none in our old neighborhood, running little errands for all and helping out the elderly couple across the street with their grocery shopping. I used to crane my neck out of the enclosed balcony of our two room accommodation just above the led factory he worked in and asked him what he had for lunch sometimes. His answer fascinated me not because of the contents of his meal but the zest with which he described them with so much satisfaction. The laborers cooked their meals in a big pot in turns. Meal was boiled rice and vegetables like brinjal, carrots, potatoes and gourd mashed together with a little bit of mustard oil and chilies. Responsible for sending money back home and saving every spare paisa for his future plans, nothing else was affordable, not even poppy seed paste cooked with potato chunks (Alu-posto).In case there was load-shedding, he would sing, sitting cross legged on the pavement outside their factory, his eyes cast faraway, dreaming of things he craved. Everyone knew he wanted to go back home, in interiors of Midnapore and get married to a bride selected by his mother. He wanted to live there, put up a small grocery store of his own and have a peaceful dwelling disrupted only by the chirps of his children. Endless jokes were cracked at his expense, calling him horny, marriage-crazy and what not yet nothing faded the light in his ever-smiling face. His dreams kept him warm.
Maybe it’s because of him I could never believe that marriage was a woman’s dream alone. Men dream of marriage just as much, maybe not in the same way but they too want a home and they are home-makers, our other half, just a bit confused by the social nurturing as to how they are supposed to act!
In most Indian homes boys and girls get if not widely different then a mildly gender-coded upbringing. Despite receiving a modestly liberal upbringing I pointed out to Maa the other day that my brother never did any housework and was never asked to do anything. The general perception being that housework is beneath his potential and these things are for Maa not us. He cannot cook even to save his life. Ma did not burden me with housework too but I was often admonished for lacking girly abilities of managing chores. It was just out of the question in brother’s case. Was my brother at fault for not doing his part in home making/home keeping? OR was it the demeaning status of household chores that led to this consequences?
There is a lot of talk about the crisis of women in a man’s world. The crisis of men is, however, grossly overlooked. They don’t mind shedding tears, they don’t mind being emotional wrecks, they can change the baby’s diaper and lull it to sleep, they can nurture just as well as women only if the society validates their emotions and their innate constructive instincts. Just as women are branded as home bound, ‘gharelu’, serene and affectionate, men are brainwashed to hide their feelings, their softness, the fact that they too feel mushy for a girl at midnight and they have as tender a heart as a woman. Can you imagine the pressure of gender on men? Generation after generation they have been forced fed sermons on feeling less emotions, being outward bound, not recognizing their instincts for building a nest.
If a man sits comfortably while his wife cooks dinner, after both come back from office, it is probably not because he doesn’t want to help her, it can be that he has no idea that he can help her and it is very much his place to help her or cook the entire meal. Even till date when a man makes a cup of tea, or helps around the home he is either marked as “Biwi-Ka-Sevak” or overwhelmingly praised for his ‘generous’ nature. In doing both it is acknowledged that kitchen is not his place and if he cooks it’s an extra-curricular activity. When will we ever start taking cooking, washing, cleaning etc as life skills? And this is where we have deprived men just as we have deprived women.
Every living being craves a home, a nook where he or she can come back; fold his or her wings, take rest, rejuvenate, find comfort and comfort loved ones. Men have the right to think of marriage, a home to come back to, a dinner table of warm conversations and a person to hold on. In the abyss of human existence a sense of belonging is the actual force behind creativity and creation where men and women have equal shares. Just as much as we teach our girls to fly and soar, we need to tell our sons to care and express. So that when I play with my five year old niece she does not give me the daddy role which entails being couch potato and going office, while mummy she keeps the baby and cooks.