Rajini Vijayan, a Bangalore software engineer in her late 20s, broke down in cognitive psychotherapist Vinaya Prabha Baligar’s office, where she’d gone with her husband Mahesh. The stress of her daily grind had finally taken its toll. Rajini’s day would begin with getting ready and leaving for work at 7:30am to avoid rush-hour traffic. On her way back, she’d rush through the grocery shopping, reach home, give her toddler a quick hug and cook dinner. Meanwhile, her husband Mahesh*, also a software professional just back from work too, would unwind over coffee and watch TV. Drained out juggling all the chores alone, Rajini* had dragged Mahesh to Baligar’s office to get help—in more ways than one.
“Mahesh didn’t quite understand why Rajini was so troubled,” says Baligar. “He thought she kept house well, but didn’t understand why the atmosphere at home was so dour.” Discussions with the couple revealed that while Mahesh thought it wasn’t his job to do things around the house, Rajini’s traditional upbringing didn’t allow her to ask a man to get involved.
The story of Rajini and Mahesh repeats itself in countless Indian households. A 2010 gender equality survey by the Instituto Promundo, Brazil, and the New Delhi-based Asia Regional Office of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), reveals that just 16 percent of around 1500 Indian men surveyed play an equal or greater role than women in household duties. “The rate of change in gender roles has been faster among women than men,” notes Ravi Verma, ICRW’s Regional Director and lead coordinator of the survey in India. “More women are studying and going out to work, but they’re still primarily expected to play the role of homemaker.”
Indeed, for innumerable educated Indian women like Rajini, traditional roles have changed outside the home, but have remained much the same inside, leading to problems that men especially need to think about and address, even as paid help is getting more scarce and unaffordable.
One characteristic of household chores is that they are directly proportional to the number of people, and pets, in a family and the size of the house. And it’s a known truth to physicists that even left alone, things only get disorderly, and not the other way around—and there’s dust, rust, cobwebs, piling paper and garbage, breakdowns, leaks—all to be cleaned up, sorted or fixed.
What’s in It for Him?
While it is obvious why a wife would want a more equal chore load, why would a man willingly take on more of such unrewarding work?
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