Domesticity In the Time of Lockdown
With full-time domestic chores and no part-time help, we are discovering a new side to ourselves
This morning, the moment I woke up, I staggered out of the bedroom to poke the husband about the vacuum cleaner.
You see, in our home we have all the gadgets—okay, many of them—of a modern home. By that I mean, we have bought a lot of things with our post-Amazon enthusiasm for acquiring random stuff. But, we only use a few regularly (we meaning, the domestic help). Some were used (once or twice) when new and the rest were kept away unopened (like a really posh table top grill). I can hear them groan inside their taped boxes.
We first bought a washing machine when our son was born, but moving to our (not so) new home, we forgot to connect it. Last week, panicked by the imminent lockdown we got a brand new one, which I’m, honestly, loving. I hope this breathless excitement of doing laundry will last.
Our old (new) vacuum cleaner has been on the topmost shelf of our service area, so I had to pester the husband to get off the living room sofa (which takes a bit) and bring it down for me. We discovered a cold press juicer, a three-deck steamer and some other utterly useless stuff up there. Can’t believe we bought them! Bims, our domestic, suggested breakfast, but my inner Good Housekeeping woman had by then been awakened, so I waved her aside and proceeded to do my thing.
A cloud of dust blew into my face as I opened the box, and then of course after 20 minutes of wrestling with tubes and wires, I managed to get the thing going. Grimy and sweaty even before any cleaning had been done, I didn’t feel like the domestic goddess I had imagined I would turn into this Corona season, without any part-time help. I just felt tired.
The husband determined to contribute—and before I could admire his world-class sitting skills—marched to the loo purposefully to clean the basins, but returned bewildered. He can never find anything in the house, not even if it hits him in the face. So he created a big fuss trying to get hold of the cleaning material, proceeding to give us a small TEDTalk on cleaning equipment and how to store them right. When I entered the loo to inspect how much of a mess he had made, I was totally shocked. The basins had been washed clean, and the loo smelled lemony fresh. Now I am a bit depressed—because he is totally ahead in the game.
The teenaged son, meanwhile, has been doing US time in India: His board exams have been stalled, so in grief he plays online video games with his friends all night, and sleeps all day. When I say all, I mean all. Since his father and I are both working from home and are up to our ears with so much exposure from each other, we got really cross and gave him an ultimatum. So he woke up today and learnt how to switch on the washing machine. I could see he was proud and all set to post an Instagram story on ending his career as a laundry virgin.
Tingmo, our pet Golden Retriever, who looked happy to see us home in the beginning of the lockdown, is beginning to look a bit disconcerted. He barked a few times when the washing machine came on, and ran away into a corner when I started perambulating the vacuum cleaner through the living room. He quietly watches me doing the dishes in the kitchen, and his dad brushing him down in the middle of the day. He has never seen us all so mobile and active. Poor Tingmo, he must be wondering what is up with his family.