There is nothing more regressive in India than watching boys lounge around the house being told by their fathers and mothers that their “life” is outside the house. Girls in India are taught to cook, clean, keep house, raise the children and pamper their men while boys are taught that it is their right to be pampered. After all, it falls on “men” to find a job, bring home the money and preserve that shady thing we call family prestige by imposing all kinds of restrictions on women – what a nonsense.
According to National Time Use Surveys released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2014, because most women and men in India still follow gender norms and patriarchal stereotypes, the average Indian man ends up having the dubious distinction of spending only 19 minutes a day on routine housework (among the lowest in the world). Whereas the Indian woman spends 298 minutes. Only 16% of Indian men said they played a domestic role, such as cooking or cleaning, in a 2011 international men and gender equality survey. So what exactly does an Indian male do with all his time ? An average Indian man, as per the survey, spends more than 703 minutes (11 hours a day) on personal care – mostly sleeping, eating and drinking with an unapologetic sense of entitlement almost bordering a disorder. Even men of countries not known for female emancipation do better – the Turkish man spends 21 minutes on housework, the Japanese man 24 minutes, the Chinese man 48 minutes, the South African man 69 minutes, the Mexican man 75 minutes – the Indian man is at the low bottom indeed. In India, excluding men from household work is not just a cultural practice, it is a glorified cultural practice – mothers celebrate the fact that their sons never lifted a finger at home !!!
Describing the typical Indian man, Shoba Dé, India’s best-selling English-language author, speaks – “For him the universe begins and ends in his belly button. He is self absorbed, narcissistic, feudal, hopelessly spoiled and completely infantile in his responses…In a society like ours, to be born male is enough. A man does not need any other attributes. It is also a society that pampers men beyond reason.” Unfortunate as it is, the truth is that the great Indian family system that we often boast about is sustaining itself on institutionalised exploitation of women through stereotypic gender roles. Consequently, a lot of the work done by Indian women at homes remain invisible, unquantified, and unrecognizable – that needs to change – and there is no better place to make a start with that change than in our own homes. Today women are no longer trapped in the home and they can and should go out to work if they so wish. But if you expect her to come back home and start the housechores – so can you. In many cases it may be too late for the fathers, but you can definitely get your sons into the kitchen, if you so will.
So how does one go about training sons to do chores at home ? Start with cooking – it is like a science experiment – mixing and stirring, a pinch of this and that. Get your son on board by having him select a recipe he wants to make with you. Start with something easy, a simple daal-roti for dinner or an omlette for breakfast and make sure that meal is the one that the family shares together so he can show off what he learned. With a plethora of cooking shows on television today it is not impossible to make your son feel cooking is a fun team adventure – encourage him to think of it as a group activity. Of course your cooking and bonding may not result in a future chef, but he will have definitely learned skills for a lifetime. And if you’re lucky, it’ll grow into a hobby where he surprises you with an incredible dinner – but don’t count on it.