When I as approaching retirement from service last August, at least one prospect seemed to cheer me up – I would be able to find time for my favourite indulgence: the chores.
I looked forward with excitement to the delights of moving about the house with no care for traffic rules - now arranging and re-arranging the kitchen shelves, examining the contents of the refrigerator, of varied vintage on the excuse of cleaning it and tackling a starched shirt on the ironing board whistling “Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do”. The to-do list of activities seemed endless.
But alas! I had forgotten two competitors – my dear wife and our domestic help – Raju (can’t risk taking his actual name, of course). Both refused to give even an inch of their turf. In fact, to avoid any confusion, my wife made it very clear that if I wanted peace in the house, I would let the house be and mind my own business or lack of it. So, I mastered the art of being available without being too visible.
But when the Covid-19 lockdown arrived to shut the door open on everyone, for me a new door seemed to open. With Raju no longer available, here was an opportunity for me to walk the cliché, “Ask not what your family can do for you. Ask what you can do for your family.”
So, on day one of the lockdown, at morning tea, I broached the subject eagerly with my wife, “I think from today I should help you in the kitchen.”
She refused point blank. “No, thanks. Last time you helped me there, I was on the point of a nervous breakdown.”
She wasn’t exactly exaggerating, however, I ignored the compliment and pressed on with feigned confidence, “Okay, then it is settled. I will do the laundry.”
“Wait, wait! Do you even know the difference between cleaning a cloth and washing it?” she quizzed.
Now that was a tough one. Is she trying to pull a fast one just to keep me out of her hair? I examined her expression with the corner of my eye. It betrayed zilch. So, I said, “What? Aren’t the two the same?”
“No, my dear! A garment is cleaned when it comes out of the machine intact and without dirt. But it’s washed when it also loses some of its colour or shine along with dirt,” she said.
“I should have guessed so. How careless of me?” I said to ingratiate her.
“Exactly!” she said.
“Hmm, you are right, but I can learn”, I pressed the point. She replied, “You can’t teach a new trick to an old…”
“Got it! Got it!” I stopped her in her tracks to save myself another compliment and started eyeing her potted plants piteously.
She noticed it and warned, “Don’t even think of watering them. Whenever you try that, you overwater them and the draining water wets the carpet in the drawing room.”
Thus, forced to observe social distancing from all interesting activities in the house, I just sat quarantined in the balcony twiddling my toes. And that’s when it occurred to me that my feet could do with a pedicure.
Well, it didn’t keep me occupied for the entire day, but it did give me some relief from the killing Covid-19-related WhatsApp forwards from friends and well-wishers.
Alas, if only toenails grew fast enough to need daily maintenance!
(The author is a retired IPS officer from Gujarat.)