TWO HALVES MAKE A HOME

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Lekha had been contentedly married to the love of her life for over a year. When it came to marriages, many considered hers to be a benchmark—both doted on each other, were extremely supportive of each other’s ambitions and shared responsibilities, both big and small, equally. Everybody who knew her said that she was the luckiest among them all. However, like every seemingly perfect story, hers had its own hiccup—Mrs. Indrani Verma, her mother-in-law.

Though more progressive than her contemporaries, Lekha’s mother-in-law was yet to accept that only the wife wasn’t obliged to run the household or that the husband could be a stay-at-home husband. Though she loved Lekha a lot, in the very first week after her wedding, her mother-in-law had tried to “give her lessons” for a “successful marriage”.

Lekha had been lucky enough to have left for Australia by the second week owing to her and her husband’s jobs but she was soon about to run out of it for her mother-in-law was coming to visit them in Australia for the first time after their marriage and would be expecting Lekha to have applied the learning from her “lessons”. Little did Lekha’s mother-in-law know that she was in for quite a surprise.

Mrs. Verma’s son went to receive her at the airport. She was surprised at not finding Lekha at the door to welcome her. Her son informed her that Lekha had been called for an urgent meeting at the university where she taught. “More important than her mother-in-law?”, retorted, Mrs. Verma. Her son tried to pacify her by assuring her that Lekha would be back by lunchtime and went into the kitchen to bring her some tea. Instead of calming her, it only shocked her further, seeing her son doing the things her daughter-in-law should have.

Mrs. Verma was in the kitchen when Lekha returned. As soon as she entered the house, she called Lekha to help her set the table for lunch; however, Lekha could walk up to the kitchen, her husband started arranging the things. Mrs. Verma tried to stop him, telling him he didn’t need to and that Lekha would do it. Lekha too, on entering the kitchen, offered to take over but he insisted on doing it.

As they sat down for lunch, Lekha asked her mother-in-law about her journey and how everybody was at home back in India. Mrs. Verma briefly narrated everything and went back to eating. After some time, she asked Lekha why she hadn’t taken the day off to meet her at home and made her husband tend to the chores. Before she could say anything, her husband, who’d been silently observing her mother all the while, spoke up, “Ma, why is it always a woman’s duty to take care of the household and not men? Why do women have to take care of the family, put themselves before others, do all the chores whether they work or not?”

“Because that’s how it is, beta.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s always been like this. It is the duty of the women of the family. That’s what your sister will have to do too when she gets married.”

“But it’s not supposed to be like that. It should not be considered as a ‘duty’, and especially of not a particular person. Taking care of the household is something that everybody in the house should be responsible for. I don’t think it lessens me and any other man for that matter. In fact, I think that if we share the work, it would only bring us closer and make us happy in the long run because one person doesn’t have to take the responsibility of everything in the house.”

He looked at Lekha as he finished, held her hand, and gave her a warm smile. She smiled back at him, full of awe, love, and pride, and squeezed his hand in appreciation for standing up for her, his sister, and even his own mother.

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