My son was leaving for Mumbai in July, for a college competition. It was a short trip of five days, the weekend included. Two days of competition required semi-formal suits, which included blazers, but a tie was optional.
The responsibilities of packing for travel and shopping continue to be mine. There are times when I coax both my children do their own shopping. One of them is in the fifth semester of Engineering and the other is an Engineer in a software company.
While I was packing my son’s bags, ironing his shirts and formal trousers and I started reminiscing about my childhood in my parental home. My family carried some formal and colonial fetish about meals and clothing. Every evening, my grandmother would prepare the tea in a kettle with sugar and milk pots on the side and serve it with cookies etc. in the drawing cum dining room (eventually, the younger generation adopted a more American term, living room). On weekends, the family members would sit together and chat over their cuppa. The women of the family, especially the daughters-in-law, learnt to prepare the same in no time from my grandmother.
The men of the family – my father, uncles, and my brother – sported more conventional, full-sleeved, light coloured shirts with collars. I do not remember a time when I saw my father or any of my uncles wearing a bush shirt. I spent many a Sundays watching my father or uncles ironing their shirts and formal trousers for the week and hanging them in their wardrobes. The house had a designated ironing-place. The men spent Sunday mornings or early evenings preparing for the week, before settling to watch the Sunday evening movie on Doordarshan. In due course, the mantle of ironing shifted to my elder brother, and soon I became a part of it too. We learnt from the best. There was an ironing dhobi for emergencies. However, men in the family did not trust or like his ironing. The spotless shirts without creases and razor-thin crease of the trousers were the trademark of the men in the family, which could never be compromised for the comfort of getting the job done by the dhobi.
Then there was the polishing of the black or tan-coloured shoes. Yet another skill I acquired from them. The brushing strokes and the use of cloth for buffing the leather etc. are precision skills and I learnt them all. My brother still irons his own shirts and has a shoe cobbler who comes weekly to shine all his shoes.
I asked my son to polish his black shoes to go with his formal attire. He just put some polish and applied some brush strokes. My maid and my cook watched me buff those shoes shining like a mirror and giggled at my skills.They never cease to be amazed by my culinary skills or my other tricks.
We have always had servants, maids and cooks and all other help as children. Despite that, we learnt cooking and cleaning and all the essential skills to sustain self and run a house. I am not sure if the times have changed, or my lack of time as a homemaker has affected the learning curve of my children. Their skills are limited in household chores. However, they have watched me manage the house and throw endless dinners and lunches along with my job. I only hope that if need be, they will rise to the occasion and acquire the necessary experiences required for effective house management. For now, I am glad that they are becoming good professionals and are good persons. All in good time.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||