Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country

– John F Kennedy

Last year, as the wave of CoVid pandemic swept the nation, with reports of virus being produced in a lab in China, a strong anti-China sentiment gripped the nation. This got further aggravated by the Chinese invasion into India occupied parts of Ladakh. Our dependence on China, especially for our electronics industry, is quite well known. The immediate ban on Chinese imports resulted in a surge of nationalism with Atmanirbhar becoming a highly fancied word.

While at a country level, when we will become Atmanirbhar, only time will tell, but has the CoVid induced lockdown, made us, the people of India, anyway more Atmanirbhar?

With the strict lockdown enforced in March last year, we all had to make do without housemaids, especially the temporary ones, while in many cases, even the permanent maids were disallowed by many societies. Majority of Indian households rely on maids for the daily cleaning. With people working from home, the additional task of having to do the household work by themselves, brought an interesting twist to daily life. People who had been used to relying on maids for clothes, dishes and house being cleaned by the maids, were suddenly looking into washing machine manual, going online to order the swanky robotic floor cleaners and the term BJP was coined to represented, not the national political party, but ‘Bartan Jhaadu Poocha”. Jokes and funny memes floated about how the womenfolk were celebrating the lockdown because it had brought a surge in participation of the menfolk in household chores, what they had detested for so long.

Whether it be in form of more technology tools like robotic floor cleaners, vacuum leaners, enhanced sales of washing machines or through optimised usage of clothes, usage of disposable plates, etc the Indian household had to work out ways of building more self reliance. This is of course, more of a good thing than a bad thing. Just like the introduction of motorised transports did not lead to sudden disappearance of horse carts and bullock carts, similarly, enhanced used of technology and other solutions will not mean that thousands of maids will be jobless overnight. 

It’s all a question of mindset and fighting inertia. Once we are used to certain tasks being done by someone else (especially someone other than a family member, someone who is physically and financially inferior to us (perception)), we do not feel that we ‘need to’ do the task ourselves. We get into this fake sense of belief, that we might as well, maximise our potential by spending that time on other tasks. But in reality, as they say in hindi ‘koi kaam bada ya chota nahin hota’.

The more you indulge in activities that spur you to ‘act’, stay agile, the better for you. And some tasks like going down to fetch vegetables or other daily essentials, can help you refresh your mind, get a chance to meet a few neighbours and just ‘feel good’.  And tasks like putting the clothes for washing, then for trying and finally for folding and or ironing can easily be done as a ‘team assignment’ among the house members, so that the overall time involvement can be reduced drastically.

One point which has been up in the WFH discussions, has been as to how the working people need to allocate time to household tasks more often and how that is considered as a ‘negative’ . In reality, I see that as a ‘cost’ for the luxury of clean, home cooked food one is able to have at home, benefitting our health. 

I think, like fitness, health, diet, discipline, etc, being ‘atmanirbhar’ is more of a lifestyle change that we need to incorporate in ourselves. We add (and not reduce) our miseries in life by outsourcing lot of daily routine tasks. And this kind of a discipline will rub off a lot in our work life as well. If we consider ourselves to be smarter than the people whom we plan to delegate the tasks to, then we might as well use our smartness to optimise the time and effort required on that task. That will serve two purposes: (1) task getting done on our own, so we retain our skill and abilities (2) we would have worked out an optimised solution and we can share the solution with others to become an ‘expert’ at finding optimum solutions.

I believe in “Look at every crisis as an opportunity’. So if this pandemic can help me do even 50% of the daily tasks on my own, I would consider it as a huge success.