Who will do the dishes today?

A happy-go-lucky freelancer and his career-oriented wife try to achieve balance in their relationship, much against the moulds of their parents' relationships

Shubhajyoti Sengupta | Posted on 10 Jan 2017
Time to read: 3 min
Kitchen - not just a woman's domain anymore | Bonobology

We’ve known each other for more than 12 years now and have been living together for the last 4 years. From English literature to Bangla music bands, we explored everything together on magical afternoons, as kids. We were in our late teens, studying in the same engineering college, and rather than falling in love, we enjoyed each other’s company. Since then many things have changed. Bidisha, the more practical one, took a well-trodden path and is now working in a reputed software firm, while I, the more fanciful idiot, followed the crooked lane to become a freelance writer.

We took separate paths, and yet remained close enough to bring in the flavour of the two different worlds into our relationship.

Sometimes I would get jealous of her luxurious workplace and the team lunches they had, while I sat alone at my dingy writing desk. Sometimes she’d envy my freedom to accept and reject work on my own terms.

Gradually we developed completely different tastes. While she always had a weakness for Bengali literature, I submerged myself in Celtic folk songs and James Joyce. While she was happy to tune into rhythmic Indian numbers, I sought solace in British sitcoms. We grew up with individual tastes, but never grew apart.

However, things became complicated after we got married. The expectations of both sets of parents clashed with our individualistic lifestyles. Bidisha naturally earned more, since my income fluctuated. 

My father died when I was 19 and I've been a freelance writer since 2009, much to my mother's discomfiture, as she always insisted that I take a regular job after completing both my BTech and MBA. Even now she approaches the situation with nervous laughter. I never saw my father entering the kitchen. Though my mother went out to work (she still does) every day, she was the one who did the messy work and got her hands dirty. That’s how things were. The husband should earn more (as my father did) while his wife should take care of the household chores and the kids.

As far as her parents are concerned, they were strictly against the marriage and with our 4th anniversary round the corner her father still asks me "What do you write?" "Whom do you write for?" and "Do they pay?" 

Once we had a baby boy, an entirely new set of problems popped out of Pandora’s box. I like to cook and spend more time with our son. I sing Irish folk songs as a lullaby and Tata (our son) loves them. Bidisha is more career oriented, while I’m happy-go-lucky. I write. I drink. I feed my son, drop him to school, bathe him on occasion and so does she! When she has to leave early I manage the chores, while on the days I have to write more she takes care of them.

Our deal is not like a cricket team where the batsmen are expected to score and bowlers are expected to take wickets. The understanding is more dynamic, just like in a football team. When the defender moves up the field to score, the striker takes his/her place to defend.

But the thing that glued us together was mutual trust and a common ideology. The ideology that I developed from my exploration of modern European movies and books and the one she gathered from thorough reading of eminent Bengali feminist writers were the same. The concept of equality inspired us both. But it was not easy to carry on like this while living with my mother.

So we moved to a rented and airy apartment in Lake Gardens. Here we enjoy the freedom to exercise our concept of equality. Above all, we enjoy our freedom to shout at each other and fight. Yes! Since the roles are not defined, we blame each other for anything and everything. Just like on a football pitch! Starting from a low earning month to the piles of undone dishes in the kitchen sink, we screech and shout, pointing fingers at each other. But this is because we share work equally. We don’t always shout and screech, as most days things fall into place. On some days she is tired and some days I am. However, on those long nights, after I’ve done the dishes, boiled milk for our son, cleared the table and stowed away the food in the refrigerator, sipping a drink standing alone in the balcony, I feel alive. After all, I am a writer and I need to get my hands dirty gathering experiences. We are friends and friends don’t delegate work to each other, but share it. 

 

When the socially accepted roles are reversed within the marriage...

 

 

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