Subarna Ghosh, a working mother in Mumbai has recently expressed her dissent over the lack of participation of men in household chores through a petition urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.
Housework in India usually involves a lot of heavy lifting. Unlike in the West, few Indian homes are equipped with dishwashers, vacuum cleaners or washing machines.
So, dishes have to be individually cleaned, clothes have to be washed in buckets and hung out to dry, and homes have to be swept with brooms and mopped with rags. Then there are children to be looked after and the elderly and infirm to be cared for.
In millions of middle class homes, the housework is delegated to the hired domestic help – part-time cooks, cleaners and nannies. But what happens when the help can’t come to work because there is a nationwide lockdown?
Indian households often see an unbalanced and unfair workload of household tasks performed by Indian women as compared to men. The quibbles grew manifolds during especially when the nationwide lockdown was imposed as house helps and domestic help including part-time cooks, cleaners and nannies had to refrain due to the spread of the infection in the past few months.
Lockdown ke bahane se ek baat yaad aaya
Ghar-bandi mardon ko kya kisi ne samjhaya
Ghar ka kaam ‘aurat ka hai’ bolke usne thukraya
GDP ki baat chhoro, apno ne bhi bhulaya.
Tab socha kyu na Modiji se baat chalaye
Ki agle speech mein mardon ko yeh yaad dilaye
Ghar ka kaam har din hai sabka
Lockdown mein phir kam kyu badhta?
Bhaagidaari hi hai zimmedaari
Kya barabari nahi India ko pyari?
Questioning the basis of equality while sharing work at home which is usually considered the primary responsibility of women in India, Subarna wrote, “Unequal distribution of unpaid household work has rendered the harshest blow to women across India during this lockdown. Yet, women’s care work continues to be invisible and no one wants to address this gross imbalance,” in her petition seeking a change.
The petition which gathered around 75,000 signatures – a reflection of the scale of gender inequality in homes across India, reflects impeccably on women’s growing issues with household chores in India.
When Ms Ghosh told her husband that she was starting a petition he was “very supportive”, she said.
“His friends made fun of him. They asked him, ‘Why didn’t you just do some housework? Look, now your wife has gone and petitioned Modi!’
“He took it on the chin,” she said, laughing. “He told them, ‘Because more men listen to Mr Modi than their own wives’.”
Ms Ghosh’s petition was also criticised by a lot of people on social media. Many chided her for bothering the prime minister with “a frivolous matter”.
“Some people wrote to me saying Indian women need to do their housework. Yes we do, but where are the men?”
I asked her if she thought Mr Modi would talk about housework.
“I’m hopeful,” she said. “Mr Modi has a huge support base among women, so he should talk about an issue that’s important to women. When the rainy season started, he talked about cough and cold, so why can’t he talk about gender equality?”
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