Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Wash Bucket Challenge: A Tribute...

"Grandpa, once you're done with your classes, let's go out for a stroll?"- I recommended, as a 15 year old kid, I was very much attached to my grandparents...especially Grandpa who taught me the way of life. I wanted to spend my entire day with them; that unfortunately couldn't happen owing to the increasing burden of studies and overload of extra-curriculars...this was my perfect opportunity indeed. Grandpa had just about finished his voluntary English coaching classes when I entered the scene; there was ardor in my eyes.
"Take Logo (our pet dog) along Dadubhai, I have to help your Dida (grandma) with some daily errands...her back pain has exacerbated over the last couple of weeks. She has been managing everything on her own right from mentoring your dad to being my primary support system in tough times, I think even you should try and help your mother in whatever way you can. She'll feel good about it."- He didn't want to disappoint me, but at the same time there was a strong message that came out of his statement; the words that still resound in my ears...the words that did throng those ingrained inhibitions that perhaps nested in my vitality without even realizing it.
Years have passed by, dadu is no more...but his principles, his beliefs, his praxis still inspires us. This actually might sound disjointed, but in course of my recent photo-walks, my camera has captured a number of frames where women (read "only women") have been spotted to have been entrusted with 'laundry work'. This observation holds good for street-photography as well as shooting indoors for candid assignments. This is absolutely heinous with respect to the modern day scenario where "equality", in every aspect of our social life, is of prime emphasis. 
To cite some vivid examples, let me take you on a ride into the greens of rural Bengal...down to South 24 Paraganas; as an integral part of the cluster development programme we were assigned the responsibility of an extensive coverage on the "Batik printing workers of Bengal" in terms of their lifestyle, mode of operation, business channel, profitability etc. In this context, let me tell you that washing, rinsing and dewaxing form a key component of the entire process of Batik printing..that is an art in itself. It might be unfair to compare the above mentioned processes with "laundry", but then even if we analyze from the perspective of "sharing the load", the fact the men equally contribute to the otherwise-female-centric-exercise is a huge boon. I was absolutely thrilled to see both the genders participating in the otherwise tedious exercise, with women extending their benefaction in the venerated 'core' batik printing process. This trend has also been observed in case of artisans who are involved in manufacturing brass and bell metal utensils in and around West Bengal where there's no gender-discrimination when it comes to execution. In course of the training programme, we have also been informally told that sometimes the husbands cook (in addition to aiding in cleansing, monitoring kids and laundry work) for their "gifted consorts" in times bulk demand; mostly seen in the households of the "Zari Embroidery" cluster where women have a better "hold" of the proceedings while men take care of all the daily chores.

Coming back to the point, well, I come from a very traditional...rather classical (grihasta) Bengali family and honestly speaking it's almost like a convention that females are not supposed to go out and work. Of late, the decorous customs have been torn apart by the newer generation but then we have grown up seeing our mothers toiling all day with the household devoirs. As a kid, I always used to wonder...why on earth would my mother, of all people, wash clothes? I knew that she was a brilliant student, a School and University topper...she was my only tutor till the Secondary level in school...why would she be solely responsible for the trifling laundry job? I used to quietly walk up to her through the mess of filthy clothes and cling on to her saree...this drudgery was certainly not meant for her. I could never express my feelings, but those questions kept lingering in my mind. I guess dad could sense my feelings...and one fine day he woke up early and before heading out for work, he decided to give us a huge surprise. 

"Did you wash all those clothes all by yourself?"- Mom catechized. It came like a shocker to the entire family conferring round the dining table, it was around 9:30 PM and dad had just returned home from office. He was just about to drop off his drenched hand-bag and rush to the washroom when mom's incisive query struck him like a bullet.
"Whoa! Like what? you meaaan?"- He was literally stammering through his words...he couldn't swallow the fact that he had been caught "red handed".
She smiled, rather smirked at her husband's did the entire family. Dad had actually broken the so-called convention, he has always been a compassionate human being; he infact wanted mom to take up P.H.D in genetics, the subject that she loved the most. Not to be...the family restraints, the social strictures and of course "my responsibility" had taken a toll on her booming ambition, she was always pre-occupied either with me or with the daily tribulation. She really wanted to see me excel in life...!!

Now, that I'm settled...she's rather contended, and that I can see that in her expressive eyes. She never lets me indulge in house-work, she feels that I should rather concentrate on my F.P.M. post 5 years of work-experience. She shoves me out of the kitchen whenever I offer to cook for her on weekends..."You must be damn tired my boy, take rest"- that's what she says. Hmm...nevermind, I had a prudent mitigation plan at the back of my mind.
The expression on her face when I gifted her a brand new Whirlpool washing machine with my first salary, was just priceless. She is indeed a very 'strong person', never expresses her emotions but on that particular day, for the very first time in my life, I saw a moist pair of eyes. It was was esoteric. And it has been a "collaborative" effort from then on...laundry is now a jubilant affair with me and mom working together towards eradicating the putridity off our costumes; let me be honest with this one...I enjoy this mini-chit-chat-cum-gossip session with mom in-front of the washing machine. I won't say that I'm extremely good with this, but then the experience counts. Ariel Matic (fabricated for washing-machine specific application) has certainly made my job easier with it's fantastic 'fibre-centric-filth-sanitizing' trait. Ariel has been our trusted solution for years now and surprisingly we have seen a drastic improvement in it's performance every-time. It's like a protective gear for a debutant..!!

For a first timer, it was indeed a very tough job in gauging the "temperature setting" of the washing machine...but then you do learn from your mistakes. The biggest disaster that happened was that I had mixed up those brand-new fancy colored Henleys with a snow-white formal shirt just to discover that it has been absolutely gutted owing to some unanticipated colour-bleeding. I got to know that pre-treatment of 'tricky strains' in cold water is a must before putting it into the machine. The application of hot water might be a pathetic idea when it comes to grease-marks, it might add to the torment (Gosh..that's what I exactly did). Also, I must confess that overloading the washing machine was perhaps not a good idea, I could see the unattended portions of a stained Tee. Also, mom recommended that the front door should be kept open for a while, just to facilitate air-circulation and the residuum (in any form) should be removed immediately after the functionality is completed. It goes without saying that, taking up the "challenge" for the first time was indeed "challenging"..but then it was a learning curve nevertheless. The exposure has been of immense help when I was posted in the U.S. for a good 6 months and I had to take care of the laundry all by myself. Phew! I sure needed this exposure before I migrated. Operating a washing machine on my own was 'some task'.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen...I have taken the venerated #WashBucketChallenge, take my word for's absolutely worth it...!!

This post has been written as a part of the #WashBucketChallenge activity by Blogadda in association with Ariel India. I would like to nominate my fellow male bloggers BiswaDepanjanPranay, Indrajit and Rangan da to take up this challenge as a mark of tribute to women who have voluntarily taken up this very responsibility. Cheers folks!
N.B.- Thanks mom for clicking my picture inspite of the swelling ordeal at home because of shifting apartments. Hats off :)

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