My parents were visiting us for the first time after our marriage and my father was not at all pleased with what he saw at our house. One morning after my wife, Madhuri had left for work he let me have it: “Washing clothes, wiping dishes, scrubbing the floor!” he thundered. “Are you a man or a mouse!!”
I explained to him why it was necessary for a husband of a working woman to share the household chores. “Besides, Madhuri is studying for her MBA,” I told him. “She needs a helping hand.”
“Helping hand, my foot!” exclaimed father. “You’ve become her slave.”
The problem with dad was that he behaved as though he were still in the police force. He treated mother like his orderly and mother behaved like one too. She woke him with morning tea, she waited on him with a towel while he brushed his teeth and in the evening she pressed his legs before going to sleep. If he wanted water he would just yell for it and presto! Mother would appear with a glass of water on a tray.
I don’t know what Madhuri thought of my father, but, when we saw them off at the railway station at the end of their stay with us, she had a strange look on her face. “You know,” she said, while we were returning home, “Your mother really loves that man. She looks after him with such loving care and what is more, she derives great joy in serving him.”
That night after I had switched off the lights, I got the shock of my life-Madhuri started pressing my legs! From the next day on she started doing everything my mother did for my father: She brought me tea in bed, polished my shoes and insisted on bringing me water whenever she felt I was thirsty. She would brush away my protestations. “Your mother has opened my eyes!” she would tell me.
Then one day I had to go to Allahabad on business. I drove straight to my father’s house on the outskirts of the city. My father himself opened the door for me.
“Where is everybody?” I enquired.
“Your mother has gone to the temple and the servant has not been coming to work,” he said, wiping his sweating face on his shirt sleeve. Only then did I notice that he was holding a scrub in his hand.
“Father!” I exclaimed. “You’re washing dishes!” “Yes,” said my father, dismally. “That visit to your house has changed your mother. She has been singing Madhuri’s praises ever since and what is worse - has started behaving like her! Now she refuses to even get me a glass of water. She says I should learn to do things myself.”
“Oh, no!” I said.
“Now that the servant has ditched us she has divided the work between us — she does the washing and I wash the dishes.”
I was appalled.
“To be frank,” he said, suddenly breaking out into a smile. “I’ve started to enjoy working in the kitchen. It keeps me busy.
And he began to arrange the vessels he had washed in the rack.