After several years of marriage, I have realised that calling my husband, ‘the man of the house’ is a complete misnomer. To begin with, he is hardly at home, the work consuming a good 10-12 hours of a weekday. Secondly, he seems to believe that the house is an automated entity that cleans and repairs itself. It is messy when he leaves it in the morning, and neat and orderly when he returns. It is almost as if some fairy godmother has waved a magic wand over the place. Wet towels left on the bed have vanished, the dust on the dresser has disappeared and dirty breakfast dishes have been transformed into clean dinner plates. Yet, he has no curiosity about this magic and is completely oblivious to the finer details of running a household.
As a writer and consultant, I work out of home. The work part is conveniently forgotten and since I am at home, I usually end up taking care of the household chores along with typing out a client proposal, trying to think of the next plot turn for my novel and helping our daughter write a Hindi poem.
Meanwhile, my husband works hard by hanging around in office trying to look busy in front of his laptop or catches up on sleep during long office meetings. While we both don’t literally have to get our hands dirty thanks to the domestic help available in this part of the world, I still try to involve my husband in crucial domestic decisions so he can feel that he is a part of the household. That is the least he can do by way of contribution.
"What can we do to get the hardwater stains out of the bathroom tiles? Nothing is working." I asked once.
"Googleit," he said helpfully, as though it were a new brand of high strength cleaner.
"Should we buy a front-loading or a top-loading washing machine?"
"We need new curtains. Let us go shopping this weekend. There is a sale on at Fine Furnishings."
It was only when I yanked the iPhone out of his hands and said, "Maybe I should marry Google and move in with it" that he looked up and said, "D..uh?" His eyes had the glazed look that comes on when I mention anything that needs to be done around the house.
When I finally dragged him to the furnishing shop, he spent most of the time on his phone, looking up and giving a thumbs up sign at every piece of cloth I showed him. Then after doing a harrowing shortlisting process on my own, I asked, "Should we go with the cream silk with peach coloured sheers that will go well with our furniture but could look dirty soon or the dark brown one which will not show the dirt but it might make the room look a bit dull?"
"Whichever," he offered magnanimously.
I stomped out of the shop while he adopted an aggrieved long suffering look.
I recently moaned about this to a friend during one of our complain-about-the-husband sessions.
"He doesn’t care about the house at all. It is as though he is a transient visitor who is only interested in the food. He might as well live in a hotel."
"Lucky you," said the friend. "I have one who is obsessive compulsive about everything that goes into the house."
"But you are so lucky," I insisted. "I know that your husband fixes all the electrical appliances himself, hammers nails for putting up pictures and he has even shared his secret recipe for making a cleaning mixture to get rid of grease stains on the kitchen chimney."
"Oh, you don’t know the half of it. He scolds the maid for not cleaning the fans properly and insists on doing it himself with me holding on to the ladder. He spots stray cobwebs that would escape the scrutiny of Sherlock Holmes. When others go abroad, they bring back perfumes and handbags for their wives. He goes to the supermarket and brings me a set of kitchen towels and a super-saver six-pack of Windex." She wore the harried look of a long-term sufferer.
"But that’s good, isn’t it." I muttered.
"That’s what you think. Five months ago, we decided to get new curtains. First he drew up a list of all shops in Gurgaon. Then we visited each one and collected swatches of cloth. He then made an Excel spreadsheet and compared different prices and material and decorative impact. He even interviewed my friends on their choice of material. Nothing seemed good enough. Now he wants to visit Delhi shops. By now, I don’t care if we have curtains. I want to live in a hotel."
I think I will go to Fine Furnishings and pick up those curtains... by myself.
Nirupama Subramanian is the author of Keep The Change and Intermission. She is also a professional facilitator and coach in the area of leadership, change management and communication. After 17 years of marriage, she has realised that her efforts to change and coach her husband have had little effect
From HT Brunch, November 25
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