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The House Husband

Just because we are used to something, why should the chain continue? Nisha is highly educated; she is working on a cutting-edge project. Why should she give up her dreams?

“Ramu! Good morning!”

I looked up from my newspaper. It was my friend Subhash. He had retired recently, and had decided to drop by, unannounced, for coffee and gossip.

“Hello Subhash!”

“Selvi, look, who is here! Please make a strong filter coffee for our guest,” I called out to my wife.

Five minutes later, my son, Ravi appeared with a cup of steaming hot coffee and served it to Subhash.

“Ravi! Son, how are you? How is work? Why are you serving the coffee? Where is your wife, Nisha?” Subhash inquired.

Precisely at that moment, Nisha appeared, clutching her laptop bag. She greeted us with a “hello, everyone! Have an early morning meeting, need to rush.”

We bid her goodbye.

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Subhash stared curiously.

“How does Nisha balance household chores and work? You have two grandchildren, don’t you?”

This was not a topic I wanted to talk about. I avoided Subhash’s gaze.

“Ravi, what about your work?” Subhash persisted.

“Uncle, I’m taking a break. I’m staying back at home to look after the kids and help with the chores.”

Subhash choked. He spluttered, and coffee started flowing out of his nose.

“Let me get back into the kitchen, I’m making jackfruit payasam, today. Do you want to stay for lunch?” Ravi asked innocently, unaware of the effect his words were having on the listener.

Subhash’s mouth grew wider and wider.

“No… I have diabetes, I can’t eat jackfruit, too sweet,” he mumbled.

I tried to bury myself deep into the newspaper. When Ravi left for the kitchen, Subhash pounced on me.

“What is going on?”

I had to change the topic.

“Do you know there is a new wonder drug being developed for diabetes? It is rumored to cure the disease permanently.”

Subhash’s ears perked up.

“I heard about it too. I am waiting for it. But don’t change the topic, why is Ravi doing the house-hold chores, like a woman?”

There was no escaping.

“Ravi lost his job due to pandemic lay-offs. Nisha was struggling to manage both chores and her work. So, they decided to swap roles. Nisha makes more money than Ravi, so it made sense for him to look after the home and kids.”

Subhash gawked.

“How long has this been going on? Ravi, a house husband?” he wrinkled his nose.

“It’s been seven months now. Surprisingly, things have been going well. The children are getting attention. Ravi loves cooking, and I am served new delicacies every day. The house sparkles, and we are at peace.”

“Poor Ravi. He must be shattered. At the end of the day, a man is a man. He can’t wear a saree and cook.”

“You can wear shorts and cook too, no?” Selvi, my wife who had just entered the room, retorted.

I smiled weakly.

“How are you Subash Anna? I know you must feel this role inversion to be strange. But once it happened, it made so much sense. Do you know that we were harboring so many unconscious biases? The very thought of my son taking care of the house seemed incorrect. It took us a while for us to get used to it. Poor Nisha! We didn’t realize what she was going through for so long. If housewife is not a derogatory term, why is house husband?”

“Can I have some water, please?” Subhash asked. He was finding all of this too revolutionary for his liking.

“Sure. Anand! Can you get uncle a glass of water?” Selvi yelled, summoning our elder grandchild.

“Until a few months back, whenever I needed water, I would call out to my granddaughter, Ananya. But why should it be only Ananya? I can ask Anand too. After all, both grandchildren are equal in my eyes.”

Subhash took out his handkerchief and dabbed his forehead.

“Selvi, all these years, you did the chores, while Ramu was the one earning!”

“Just because we are used to something, why should the chain continue? Nisha is highly educated; she is working on a cutting-edge project. Why should she give up her dreams? Do you know, I cleared the bank examination, but I couldn’t join because I got married. Till today, I keep wondering, what might have been if I did.”

“God save the banking industry!” I muttered, as Selvi shook her head in mock-anger.

“See you later. I am going to my singing classes now.”

“Classes?” Subhash sounded exasperated.

“Oh, yes. The men manage the house so well. I have time at my disposal, so I decided to pursue my hobbies.”

Before heading out, Selvi handed me a pot, full of peapods.

“Please shell these peas. Bye!”

Subhash looked at me, horrified.

“Subhash, can you please help me too?” I asked slyly.

“Peas come in pods?”

Six months later

“Subhash! How are you?”

Fancy bumping into him at a shopping mall! Nisha and Selvi were with me too.

“Ramu! I’m waiting for my wife and daughters. You know women and shopping!” my friend chuckled.

“You look good. How have you been?”

“I’m great. The new diabetes drug by Curotis is working miracles. I have been given a new lease of life!” Subhash gushed.

“You should thank her!” I pointed to Nisha.

“Why?”

“The drug was Nisha’s project. She led the team that developed it. She works as a senior research scientist at Curotis.”

Subhash’s eyes bulged out of their sockets.

Selvi added, “you must watch her interview on TV tomorrow.”

Nisha blushed.

She muttered, “I couldn’t have done it without my family’s support. Two years ago, I wanted to quit my job because I couldn’t manage it all. But I didn’t and today, my work is saving lives!”

Subhash was tongue-tied.

“Aren’t you glad she didn’t quit?” I teased.

Subhash’s wife and daughters returned from shopping. I wondered how much of the conversation they had heard.

“Appa, why don’t we talk about sharing responsibilities at home?” his eldest demanded. They had heard all of it.

About time!

***

Unclip her wings and she will fly,

What’s her ceiling? The limitless sky.

***

Image source: a still from the film Gunjan Saxena

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About the Author

Lalitha Ramanathan

Lalitha is a blogger and a dreamer. Her career is in finance, but writing is her way to unwind! Her little one is the center of her Universe. read more...

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