Real team work
N J Ravi Chander
In a house teeming with males where my mother Padmakumari was the only female member, it became apparent to share and divide the family’s chores. Ours was probably the last generation that listened to their parents and not pampered by the elders. Of course, our parents rewarded us for our efforts with goodies and simple toys.
Some yesteryear tasks that we performed are redundant today, and the new generation of city-dwellers could scoff at them. Our parents would wake us up at the crack of dawn, arm us with steel buckets or brass vessels, and make us join the serpentine queue in front of the public street tap to fetch water for the household. Though the city municipality had taps fitted to the homes, they seldom spouted water!
Fights erupted when someone jumped the queue or brought in more vessels, and the adventure had its lighter side. Foul-mouthed brawls between the women were frequent. It was at the street corner near the public tap that we had our first taste of profanities. Swear words are always easy to learn, and we picked up many instantly though we hesitated to use them! The street tap being a hop, skip, and a jump away made it easy to haul the precious cargo.
Our five brothers’ battery adopted a strategy to relay the water-filled vessels to our parents, who stood on the ready near the gate, and often, we got the job done before the tap ran out of the precious liquid. Another chore unfamiliar with today’s generation was that of cleaning grain.
Rice, wheat and ragi bought from the local ration shop always contained impurities. They would heap the bags of grain on the red-oxide floor, divided them into portions, and the impurities weeded out. We could frolic with our playmates only after the chores assigned to us got done and dusted.
Weekends were always busy as we indulged in manually grinding the masala for the Sunday special meals and churning the potato paste for the mouth-watering ‘payasam’. The potatoes had to reach a rubbery texture before deemed fit for making the ‘payasam’. Though it was the most challenging chore, it made us develop strong and supple arms. Besides, fallen leaves would be raked and dumped into a pit for making plant compost.
My siblings and I would also take turns in grinding the idli and dosa batter. Making goodies on festivals was a team effort, and on my mother’s directions, my siblings and I would shape and cut the cookies, deep-fry them, drain out the oil before tucking them into the tall tin boxes. We paraded about in new clothes on festive occasions and exchanged goodies with neighbours’ and friends. There were camaraderie and bonhomie in the community.
Besides the above tasks, we spared no effort to keep the house spick and span and ran family errands. We kept the plants glad by watering them daily and showed off our prowess by drawing buckets of water from the well and pounding the rice to smithereens. Though my parents were unlucky not to be blessed with a female child, they seldom missed a daughter’s absence as we helped fill the void.
These learning curves stood us in good stead in life’s journey and turned us into honest, responsible adults – a rare trait these days. Five daughters-in-law, years later, fulfilled my parents’ desire to have a girl child to some extent. They would exclaim with a sense of pride, “They are our daughters!”
(The author is a former banker who has taken to writing as a pastime. His write-ups find a place in various national and regional publications including Kashmir Vision)