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For many women, the festive season only means a lot more work, stress and tiredness. Are you one of them? This letter is for you.
I know you love festivals, just like everyone else. You love to dress up and celebrate and have a house full of friends and relatives.
It’s Rakshabandhan time and the children are excited as children are wont to be for almost anything at all. The husband is happy too at this break from work, looking forward to spending time at home. The in-laws, ma and papa, love the change in routine. It gives them something to think and talk about for days before and after.
Yet as the day draws close this year, I see your heart sink, just a little bit. You put away the feeling of course, overlook the fact that you really haven’t been feeling your best, dismiss it as the onset of menopause or something similar.
The evening before the festival, the day maid asks for leave. You try to persuade her to stay back, but you do it half heartedly because you know she needs to be home too. You ask her to come in for a little while and have to be grateful for that.
The day dawns, bright and sunny, a trifle humid as rainless August days often are. Soon enough the house is full of sisters across generations, some with their better halves and children in tow.
Amidst happy laughs, rakhis are tied and laddoos eaten. After the ceremony everyone settles down for long lazy conversations. Hot cups of tea arrive and soft drinks do the rounds. ACs are switched on and conversations continue as morning segues into noon.
I see you, dear sister…
……through it all, a smile on your face, that becomes increasingly mechanical as they day grows hotter. I see you readying the puja thalis, making sure the aarti is ready, checking the boxes of sweets. You add some extra rakhis because you know someone will certainly forget to carry theirs. Even as you are counting the gifts one last time, you are calling out to the children, making sure they are bathed and ready in their crisp kurta-pajamas. The tween tries your patience and the teen is no better.
I see you welcoming everyone, handing out cool glasses of water calling out to the teen to tie the dog because your 4-year-old nephew is scared of him, even as you hug and reassure the little one. Then you’re lighting the aarti, helping through the ceremony. I see you making and serving out those endless cups of tea, remembering precisely who wants it without sugar, who likes it black and who wants it green. You give out cold drinks – a not-so-cold one for the nephew who has a cold, chilled ones for the teens and a Frooti to the one allergic to soda. Oreos for the kids, roasted mixtures for the adults, fruits for the uncle who doesn’t have tea.
Chopping, heating, hugging, smiling, joking – you are at a hundred places at the same time.
‘Why don’t you sit down bhabhi. Take a break,’ says your sister-in-law, ‘Can I do something?’
‘No no, the maid came early and finished the cooking already,’ offers ma. ‘There’s nothing much to do.’
You nod and smile and carry on piling the cups onto the tray. You’re in the living room wiping away spilt juice and wondering when you can get started on the washing up when you hear someone call out, ‘Come on bhabhi, we’re having a family picture. We’re waiting for you.’
‘Come on,’ says the husband, ‘Don’t delay everyone.’
And you’re back, adjusting your smile, looking into the camera surrounded by your family, this family that you made your own.
As the day ends, I see you, waving to the departing guests. ‘It was a good day,’ says the husband. ‘It was,’ you echo, even while your mind is drifting to the sink full of dishes.
Don’t think of them now, dear sister, give yourself a break. I’m not even sure I’m qualified to hand out advice but I hate to see you ignore yourself so. I hate to see you exhausted. Festivals are for you as much as for the rest of the family.
Something is not right if festivals leave you mentally drained and physically exhausted.
And if no one notices, maybe you have to get them to notice.
Ask for help.
This festive season sit, talk, laugh, celebrate so your lips lift up in a genuine smile when it’s time for the family picture.
If you, like me are incredibly fortunate to have the freedom to mould celebrations the way you want to, you may think this is entirely a figment of my imagination. I know for a fact, however, that the festive season, for scores of women, means just so much work. And they remain unseen, unappreciated – invisible hands that get things done.
This one is for them.
First published here.
Image via Pixabay