In the quiet time of a high decibel neighbourhood, when most of the living souls are fast asleep, you hear the steady stream of flowing water, the occasional gurgle of the sink, a gentle swoosh of scrubbing, utensils rubbing against each other, friendly banter of steel products,
“Time for a bath, you oily minx!” greets a pot
“The pot is calling the kettle black, you greasy pig!” a saucy sauce pan retorts.
The clean pot, pan, boilers of all shapes and sizes, ladles and spoons big and small come gleaning clean.
After a while, you hear wood pecking sounds with inconsistent rhythm. That’s vegetables being chopped: heap of onion slices, shreds of radishes, cubes of tomatoes bleeding out juice. Then starts the musical whirr of the mixer, working its way on the masala. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
The pan on the stove will start puffing shortly, while the pressure cooker eagerly wishes to whisper a secret. “Psst, psst, lisssssssssten”, it goes.
But the pan is unimpressed, it keeps making smoke rings and blowing on the cooker’s eager face. Cooker has to gulp it down, suppress its emotion, till it cannot contain itself at all. Then it burst out with a deafening scream. The pan who had snubbed the cooker, gives it a silent deference, “Wow, man!” Being accustomed to crying out loud, the cooker now screams out every now and then, till a pacifying hand turns off the knob of the stove, “Cool down dear friend and we shall see what’s inside, but first let the steam off.” Cooker exhales deeply, “Ahhaaaaa!”
Pulses are done just right.
Then comes the tempering. Watch out for the naughty little mustard seeds running off the kadhai, but then finally hissing into submission. Some jeera powder, some haldi, some hing, and what fragrant gandharvas will float in your kitchen.
And I watch all this action unfold, with a mix of anxiety and patience. I love the beauty of everyday chores, especially while I am not doing it! Actually, while I am at it, oh, I sting, I bite and brutally too.
A writer, a mother, full time Assistant Professor in a college, I already had my hand full, or so I thought. Life without a maid, I knew was going to be challenging. Every day, I ended up watching chaos unleashing in my house. I remembered Yeats as I tidied up the disarrayed house for n’th time,
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”
I was exploding. Oh, the drudgery of it. How different is a woman’s work from Sisyphus’? A constant sense of déjà-vu. The endless cycles of laundry, like Karmic cycle, what goes around comes around, and dirtier! I scourge the greasy utensils, but the thought of doing it yet again, in a few hours stained my mind. Countless meals to be prepared, cooked, fed and eaten. Meals to be frozen, reheated, distributed, disposed. Oh the rigmarole of every life! Shouldn’t I be doing something more important? Or glamorous than this? Can’t it be any better for a gazillions of women around the world?
I tried patience. I failed. I tried laziness, the famous ‘I don’t clean the lot till it rots’ attitude, it was a disaster. I tried Gratitude, “I am grateful that I have a family to cook for, a house to clean, I have so many clothes to wash, which means I have dough to buy them.” I felt less dis-empowered.
“Washing dishes can be as great as anything else, if you decide to see it that way. You’re in solitude, which is a beautiful thing. If you do it mindfully, washing dishes can be pleasant as you feel the suds and water in your hands, pay attention to the dish and its texture, notice your breathing and thoughts. It’s meditation, it’s quiet, it’s lovely.” – Leo Babauta
Thich Nhat Hanh in his The Miracle of Mindfulness also writes about the wonders of everyday work in developing mindfulness. I must say, this knowledge changed my relationship with housework. Instead of seeing myself as a drudge, I now see it as a ‘me-only time’. It makes me push my limits, it makes me move out of my comfort zone. I may not be in the best of moods while mopping that corner near the cupboard, but I am doing it without whining, which is a galactic shift.
Since a few days, I think I have got a handle into doing dishes. I prepare my lectures, plan my day and visualize my book chapter while washing utensils. It certainly doesn’t seem like a waste of time.
The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. – Agatha Christie
So, there you go, all you need is a perspective.
“sssstttt”, coots my pressure cooker in agreement.