And as I waited for the milk to boil - I wrote.
And as I taught my children - I wrote.
During advertisement time on T.V. - I wrote.
And between the onions being fried and adding the ginger and garlic - I wrote.
I wrote, I wrote, I wrote!
It was true that sometimes when the plot thickened and I was in a frenzy to get it all down, my children took on the shape of All-Mouth goblins who hopped from one foot to another, screaming, "Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!” But for all that, I was a good mother and a good homemaker, and quite happy with my ding-dong existence.
That was till Kavita shifted next door. And then I learnt what a PERFECT HOUSEWIFE was all about.
Kavita tapped on the door on the pretext of borrowing a matchbox, on the pretext of handing over the keys, on the pretext of using the phone. There is no dearth of pretexts, and soon there was no need for pretexts. Kavita soon made herself a comfortable member of our household and I learnt not to keep the door shut, to facilitate her coming in and going out at will.
And I learnt from Kavita that vegetables must be cut aesthetically into beautiful transverse sections - thinner and thinner, and must not lose colour when cooked (I wish I could cook LIKE THAT), that they must be served in dainty, aesthetically designed dishes on beautiful tables, and in conducive, mellow surroundings (I wish I could be LIKE THAT). I learnt that one must not depend on servants, but wash one's own dishes and clothes (I wish I was LIKE THAT). The pleasure of giving up brand new saris to own plastic buckets, the pleasure of buying saris one did not want at SALES, and saving money by going to wholesale vegetable markets instead of ringing up the nearby grocers (I wish I was LIKE THAT and LIKE THAT and LIKE THAT!!).
So, I wrapped all my notepads and pens in a plastic cover and threw it on the loft and got down to being the PERFECT HOUSEWIFE. We attracted other perfect housewives, and soon a batch of us was regularly seated at our doorsteps, cleaning and cutting greens and talking....about cooking. We discussed the aesthetic value of frying onions and adding the ginger-garlic paste and tomatoes and chilli powder and salt and garam masala to potatoes, and we discussed the aesthetic value of frying onions and adding the ginger-garlic paste and tomatoes and chilli powder and salt and garam masala to cauliflowers. By the time we had got down to discussing the aesthetic value of frying onions and adding the ginger-garlic paste and tomatoes and chilli powder and salt and garam masala to mushrooms, I had had an overdose, and I turned the conversation to children. They took it on, sorrowfully complaining about the various difficulties in raising children and how they didn’t study, didn’t obey, etc, etc. I thought revengefully about my daughter, who was a good student and never troubled me. Because of her, I had nothing to say and was left out of the conversation. Oh yes! It was all her fault!
I was also getting sick of "aesthetically designed" vessels that seemed to have a knack of finding their way back into the sink all too often. Unfortunately, our sink was situated outside the kitchen.
Aesthetic - BANG!
Dishes - BANG! BANG!
Self-help - BANG! BANG! BANG!
And finally a kick that sent the tub full of washed vessels all the way back to the kitchen.
Things would have gone on this way happily and unhappily if Arushi hadn't knocked on my door the next day. She closed the door carefully and confronted me. "Did you tell Kavita that I am illiterate?"
"And that I get cheated because I don't know Maths?"
"You don't? Did you? When?"
We decided we had better ask Kavita and knocked on her door. She pulled us in, closed the door carefully, and then said, "Okay, I take the blame. I said it all. I made it up, and I'm sorry."
After which statement, they melted into smiles and went on to happily to discuss the advantages of cleaning the gas stove with cotton wads dipped in soap suds....
But my spirit was broken. Did PERFECT HOUSEWIFERY include gossiping? Lost in my own world of thought, their voices seemed to come from far away. They had moved from soap suds to soap operas and nasty mothers-in law and deserving daughters-in-law.
I excused myself and made my way home. Once there, I took down my notepads and pens, lovingly dusted them and placed them back in their respective places of hiding.
I am still a housewife, and a fairly good one at that, and I am still friends with Kavita. Only, now I know that I am NOT LIKE THAT.