Published: 05th May 2018
Not to go all English Vinglish on you, but it's about time homemakers get their due
If the Karnataka High Court has ruled that women who work at home are as busy as professionals, who are you to think otherwise?
Gauri Talreja, 49, lives with her husband, 52, and son, 29, near Karkhana in Secunderabad, Telangana. She wakes up at 6 am and gets ready to cook, sweep, wash clothes and clean her house - all by herself. And like several other housewives, many a time, her work goes unnoticed and is seldom appreciated. But this is not an isolated case. There is a Gauri Talreja in every Indian household who toils all day, every day. And while their husband and children may come home to a hot meal, the homemakers' work is treated with a cold obliviousness.
What a relief it must be then for her and women like her to hear that one of the highest judicial forums, the High Court of Karnataka, not only recognises their 'work' but also rebukes the ignorant about the same. “Such a contention (where a housewife is described as ‘free’) merely shows the lack of understanding about the work being carried out by ‘the housewife’. It also reveals the lack of gender justice…,” said the court. This statement was issued when the court was hearing the divorce case of Gaurav Raj Jain and Shweta Jain, which was filed in Bengaluru.
Now, of course, it was difficult for homemaker Shweta Jain from Meerut to travel to Bengaluru, so she filed a transfer application in the Supreme Court which was later on dismissed by an apex court. Instead, Gaurav was directed by the court to pay for her travel expenses. Now in a fair world, this makes perfect sense. But when Gaurav found out that he was to pay her flight expenses of Rs 32,114, in true patriarchal style, he proclaimed that she had enough time on her hands to travel by train as she is a housewife and ‘free’. Now, there are a number of issues with that statement: for starters, he can't dictate the mode of transport which Shweta chooses, he can't refuse to do what a court has directed him to do, all of which thankfully the court addressed.
But let's get to the core of this - How we, in the 21st century, continue to believe that the work of a housewife cannot be classified as 'real work'. Let's get real.
The court also said, "....she (housewife) is responsible for looking after the members of the family, and for running the house. To look after the members of the family, and to run the house is not an easy task."
Let's pedal back to Gauri Talreja for a moment, shall we? While weekdays are a monotonous cycle, weekends are a relief as the Talreja family goes out to eat and her husband accompanies her to the sabji market, where she haggles to purchase a cauliflower worth Rs 40 for Rs 30, tomatoes worth for Rs 20 for Rs 15 and so on, while her husband carries the bags. She saves a total of about 50 per week. Sounds like all our mothers, doesn't she? But if you think this is all she is saving, hold on! Maids charge anything from Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 in Secunderabad, Hyderabad's twin city. So by opting to do all the housework on her own, she saves an average of Rs 5,200. (And that's not taking into account inflation or any of the other billion things she does at home and beyond).
Now think about all the housewives, or our own mothers, who do this and this alone and how easily, due to social conditioning, patriarchal inclinations or whatever excuse you would like to give, their work is dismissed as not 'real work'. Such is the trajectory of Shweta Jain, Gauri Talreja, and all other homemakers.
The one with the help
While there are women who get by without a helping hand at home, for those who have a job, things tend to become difficult. And it's a known fact that working women would rather hire maids or cooks and invest their free time in their family and children. So to help them along came Anupam Sinhal, the founder of bookmybai.com, one of the first portals through which one can hire maids, cooks and more. "We receive 100 requirements per day from Bengaluru alone. This shows that more and more women realise that time is more important than money and hence, outsourcing household work is the best option," says Sinhal, adding that, "Even if a working woman spends, say, Rs 10,000 to hire a maid and earns Rs 40,000, they are still contributing to the benefit of the family, with their time and money."
Singhal also says that there is no stigma around hiring maids anymore, though some women still prefer to do certain tasks on their own like taking care of their newborns
The final word
So, here is a little homework for us - How about we ask our mothers about this to try and understand how much they actually contribute to the household and learn to appreciate her for all that they do.
And whether they have a maid or not or whether they are homemakers or employees, women have enough reasons to rejoice! Their work has been acknowledged and appreciated. And while we never hold back in praising women who balance both work and household responsibilities, here is a special shout out to the pro homemakers! Salutations to thee. Or in the words of the court, "housewives are as busy as professionals."