In January 2021, during a landmark judgment, the Supreme court increased the insurance money (compensation)—from 11.20 lakhs to 33.20 lakhs— to the family members of a deceased couple. The couple had died during an accident when a car hit their bike in April 2014. The judgment is notable for looking at the loss of a ‘non-employed’ family member with sensitivity and compassion. The compensation awarded to the dependents (two daughters and parents) was based upon the impact of the loss of the man’s income as well as the value of the homemaker’s work and services. You may read about the case in detail here.
Let’s shift focus to our innocuous everyday conversations. How often are homemakers asked “where do you work?”, “what do you do with your time”, “are you thinking of working?”, “ are you doing something productive?” By all means, women should have a conducive environment where they get to decide the direction and purpose they wish to give to their lives. Housekeeping is a responsibility to be shared between spouses and all members of the family. Often, it is foisted on a woman as the natural role of her gender.
Women at home are the unseen workforce of a society. They work round the clock. Yet, they are subjected to such preposterous questioning. They are not driven by growth or money. Their motivations are love, care, concern, the comfort of their loved ones, and the priceless smiles on their faces.
It’s impossible to pay homemakers. The idea itself is obscene. Let’s accept it; we don’t have the capacity to pay them. Not in monetary terms for sure. The least we can do is acknowledge their work, give them respect and time.
The Lady of the house
She moves around at night
When the long shadows from yellow lamps
Eat up the house.
She prevails over chaos:
Picking up strewn toys and books.
Placing things to be found again.
Plumping up deflated cushions,
Smoothening the wrinkles of a tired sofa.
She sees life flowing, tumbling, unfolding
As routine tasks of a never-ending list.
Her final chores of an aged day:
-Drying out the last lot of clothes
-Dispensing with extra milk in the fridge
-Placing the folded laundry where it belongs
Preparing for the smooth arrival of ‘tomorrow’.
Before settling down for a landing.
She lives the list; becomes one with it.
Molds the lump of chores artfully.
Makes them her life’s song.
A whirring fan, a ticking clock, snores from the bedroom
Accompany her as she blows orderliness.
Careless in the awareness of her aching limbs.
With a few final caresses
She lulls her house to sleep.
She moves in silence
Talking to paintings, smiling at photos.
Is she the ghost of her own house?
The invisible night elf
Of every workshop.