Its a cold, cold dawn at 6am. The dense black sky still has a carpet of shimmering fading stars and the first rose tint over the great Himalayas has yet to happen.
My January project continues to take up my waking hours, but today morning, I have dropped my knitting needles to give my fingers a chance to indulge in their alternative creative chore–posting a slice of life on this blog.
January means school vacations in the mountains. It is too cold and frosty for young limbs to stride long distances and for agile minds to focus on studies when the focus in on staying warm. Women, including my knitters, are on vacation too. This is the month for visiting their mother’s home and getting some much needed pampering. Ranikhet is currently a town of forced bachelors who seem quite content to have the house and kitchen to themselves.
Friends and visitors have been dropping in at home regularly and having a great time. I have my dear Hema to thank for these good times. She enters the house with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. While cleaning and clearing the house, she makes innumerable cups of her special tea, prepares a simple but superb lunch and feeds everyone with love and care. She returns home by 3 pm, leaving behind a clean and clutter free house, two well fed and content dogs, and a happy human ( me) knitting the winter sunshine into her work. The rest of the day is completed by a long evening walk, some mindless TV watching, and early bed. Dinner, on most days, is just a little something from the kitchen fridge.
Its vacation time for Hema’s little kids too, but with their busy working mother at my place, it was just the same weekend routine for them. Play with each other, the goats, watch TV and get into mischief.
Last week, I insisted that Hema should take a short break and go to visit her parents and her childhood village. We decided that I can manage for 3 days without her, and that she needed to proceed on a guilt-free mini vacation right away. She darted home, picked up the kids and jumped into a bus before there were second thoughts on anyone’s mind.
Three days of solitary bliss and quiet, I thought! Nothing to do except knit, sit in the sun and savor the silence of the quiet home. Hah!! how deceptive can the mind be!
Wake up-take the dogs for walk-come back and feed them-make tea and breakfast-wash the dishes-clear the rooms and fold all those blankets and throws-make some tea-wash the dishes-check emails and reply to two important ones-prepare doggy meal and feed them-feed myself-wash the dishes-clear the table and floor crumbs- take out the trash-make a cup of tea-wash the dishes-evening walk-prepare food which will suffice for two meals-WASH THE DISHES–clear the kitchen and house-have a hot bath…now, to do some knitting–and hey, its 8 pm and I am exhausted! I tried, really tried to work on the throw, but it was easier to throw in the towel, call it a day and collapse under the quilt.
Three days of this routine, and I was ready to call up Hema, tell her some strange stories of ill health/fire in the house/lost jewelry/anything at all to get her back. I missed her presence, I missed my simple hot lunch, I missed the neat and clean house mode and I missed my knitting!! Though I had not plunged into house cleaning, or washing clothes or any major activity, the few hours of winter sunshine and light just whooshed past me in the most unpleasant way.
Day 4–I woke up with trepidation and fear in my heart. What if Hema called up and said that the kids wanted to spend a day or two more with their grandparents/she was unwell and her parents wanted her to stay for a few days/anything which would mean her absence for a few more days?! What if I had to keep the house going for a few more days? what if I had to sweep and swab, start the washing machine, cook the dogs stew for the next 4 days, make rotis from scratch?!! It was not a good way to begin the day.
Morning walk was done and I was getting ready to enter the kitchen for breakfast, tea and doggy snack. The sink was filled with dinner dishes and utensils. The living room was strewn with throws and blankets and doggy toys. It was only 8 am, a good one hour before Hema’s usual time of entering home.
I took a deep breath and started to walk towards the kitchen. Wait, I could hear my steps echoing outside the door! The handle turned, and Hema walked in to the most heartfelt and happy welcome ever…the delighted dogs crowded around her, squeals and woofs filled the air, and the totally thrilled human ( me) hugged her hard and tight. The joy of having my wonderful Hema back!
She was thrilled to have gone home, her folks were delighted that she was given leave to visit them, the children had a wonderful time and all was well in her world.
Within minutes, hot tea was placed in my favorite sunlit corner, my knitting and laptop placed beside me and I was free to do my thing. The house was cleaned and dusted back to its usual pristine self, the dogs were taken care of and all was well in my little life.
Memories of another time crept in.. A time when housework was viewed as an integral and inclusive component of a woman’s life. A time when allocating funds for house-help was really low in this list of priorities. I salute the women of those times–the women who found time and energy in their strenuous, thankless, endless cycle of chores to write, to create, to knit and to ponder on the vagaries of life.
I also salute the women of today. The women who have realized that spending funds on a housekeeper is the best way to free up time and energy for their creative self. I speak for myself when I pull out my gratitude list and put Hema right on the top.
She gives me the energy and the space to follow my heart, to pore over books and patterns, to sit and knit and knit, to spend the entire morning on my laptop, to sit and stare at the mountains and the pine trees, and to go for long walks and talks with my friends.
Money and financial comfort would also figure high on that gratitude list. It would be there, not for its buying or spending power or its (doubtful) power to make one happy. Money has given me the power to bring in time, to choose and follow my life choices and sometimes….to indulge in pure leisure!