I remember well that it was Sunday and coincidentally Women’s Day when I first saw those white sheets of paper. They were very ordinary papers. However, appearances are often deceptive.
I realized their actual value when my wife, Sudha, thrust them under my nose and made me read the beginning of every paragraph. I say beginning because the latter half was kindly finished orally by her.
I knew that women have the best memories in all of God’s creation. But even if I had been such a fool as to not know that, I would have realized it that day. She had memorized every word of that document. And she rattled them out as easily as if she was gossiping about Mrs. Sharma’s new car, which, she said, looked almost as bad as Mrs. Verma’s battered old Maruti.
To tell you the truth, as I began reading it, the very title toppled me off my feet. Just imagine sitting leisurely in your pajamas, waiting eagerly for your tea and hot alloo pakodas, and then suddenly reading “Ladies Club Association’s Declaration of Homemakers’ Liberty.”
After I had finished reading and listening to the entire four-page document, I tried to calculate exactly what it would mean to me. But I could not fathom the terrible consequences of such an unthinkable catastrophe.
I was still struggling with my fears when the first bomb exploded.
Sudha pointed to rule number four of the Declaration of Homemakers’ Liberty, which said, “Homemakers would get holidays on all Sundays.” “So you see,” she said firmly, “today is my holiday. Whatever you want to eat, cook it yourself.”
“But darling,” I began, “you… you can’t have a holiday! What would become of us?” I said, looking pitifully at Munnoo, Guddi, and my reflection in the dressing-table mirror.
“You have two holidays every week, Saturday and Sunday. We, homemakers, have none. So what is wrong if we demand a holiday, too? We also need a change and time off for relaxing our tired muscles.“ “Besides,” she said, “you men should also take some responsibility. Share the load. Look at rule number six again.”
I looked and read aloud, “Husbands would have to help in the housework, including cooking, cleaning, and teaching kids. And they must take full responsibility for all household work on Sundays.”
“And, by the way,” Sudha said, “the Housemaid Association has released a declaration, too. They will be on leave every Sunday. So …”
“But that’s ridiculous!” I exclaimed, my manly vanity revolting at the idea of cleaning the house with a broom in my hand. “We have our office work to do. You don’t help us with that! How can you expect us to help in housework?”
“I expect this because it is written in the Declaration. And you would have to pay a penalty if you don’t follow its dictates,” Sudha declared with a mysterious smile playing on her lips.
A smile, which sent shivers through my spine and I asked fearfully, “What kind of penalty?”
She pointed to rule number twenty. It was a long list. I read along, Penalty for arguing is preparing bed tea, the penalty for not listening to orders, and neglecting them is one new saree worth at least a thousand rupees. The penalty for not doing housework on Sunday was doing it throughout the next week, and so on.” The list ran on to some twenty articles and by the time I finished reading it, sweat had soaked my shirt.
Just then, a scream rang from the neighbour’s house. The declaration had found its next victim, perhaps.
Sudha took the paper from my trembling hands and seated herself on the sofa to watch a daily soap on the television. Making herself comfortable, she turned to me and asked, “So darling, what are you preparing for breakfast. Cook something special. After all, it is Women’s Day.”
“Yes, Papa!” Guddi exclaimed. She was busy playing with her dollhouse until now. Sudha had told her five times not to make a mess. Guddi had neither listened nor responded. But now, her ears and tongue suddenly started working again! “Let us eat bread rolls for breakfast. But don’t put too much spice in it,” she ordered.
“Bread rolls?” I asked vaguely, I had no idea how they were prepared. “Ok, sweetie,” I said to my child. As hunger clawed my stomach, too, I got up to prepare something, which I hoped would look like bread rolls.
As I was going towards the kitchen, Sudha called. I turned eagerly, hoping against hope for her to change her mind. But she merely asked with a voice full of cynicism, “Do you know how to make them?”
My pride again reared its head at the wrong moment and made me say, “What do you think of me? Won’t I know such a simple thing?” Saying this, I raised my head with arrogance and strode into the kitchen.
After fifteen noisy minutes of search, I finally located potatoes and bread. These I knew were the key ingredients required for bread rolls. I rolled up my sleeves to mash the potatoes. However, I soon realized that I would have to boil them first. So I put them in the cooker with a lot of water and put them on to boil, congratulating myself on the success so far.
While the potatoes were boiling, I decided to mash the bread. I also had to figure out other minor ingredients, and the trick to sticking the bread to the mashed potatoes. Soon I had a plate full of crumbled bread, and all other minor ingredients like spices and oil lined up on the slab. By now, twenty minutes had passed, and Munoo and Guddi were shouting for their breakfast. I removed the cooker from the burner and transferred its contents to a plate. I gazed at the well-organized arrangement on the kitchen slab and tried to decide the next step.
The bread was ready, spices and oil waiting, it only remained for the potatoes to get mashed up. Deciding this, I picked up the biggest potato from the plate. It was steaming hot. A fact which I noticed when it scalded my fingers, jumped out of my grasp, and vanished. I took a couple of steps back to find it on the floor. Well, I could not do so, but my foot did. It landed straight on the round potato. The next moment, I was sprawled on the floor with my foot twisted at a crazy angle.
My loving wife gave up her constitutional holiday, took me to the hospital, and got my ankle fracture fixed. While in the hospital, I met three other poor husbands of our society. One of them had burnt his hand and the other had a deep cut in his right palm. The third had suffered a nervous breakdown at the sight of the Homemakers Liberty Declaration.
Fortunately, my broken ankle won me the exemption from that Sunday’s household duties. But the fear of other Sundays loomed large over my heart.
The next morning, when I woke up, a very welcome sight met me. Torn bits of the Declaration of Homemakers Liberty were lying on the floor. As Sudha rushed to help me to a chair, she pushed these bits aside with her foot. I looked at her with a questioning glance. “I realized,” she answered, laughing, “that it is not me who lacks freedom and independence, rather…” She let her sentence remain unfinished.
She did not need to complete it.
HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!
I hope you liked this funny story and it made you smile. Share it with your friends and spread the chuckle!
Check out Jyoti Arora’s Books
(Click on the picture given below)