New Delhi is tracking how Indians spend their time at work and home.
The Ministry of Statistics (Government of India) has been quietly conducting the survey since the start of this year. Its chief statistician told a newspaper reporter that it will be the first time that such a massive undertaking is being carried out across the country. The study is supposed to help evaluate whether hubbies are helping in household chores.
In the late 1990s, a pilot study was done across six states: Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Kerala and Meghalaya. Apparently, nothing was deduced from that survey but this time the figures are being collated and analysed in all seriousness, so it seems.
But I know for sure what men in one Indian state do after working hours, out of the six in the pilot survey; they read newspapers and discuss politics while sipping ‘kadak chai’ at the local ‘chai kada’ (teashop), or march in political rallies demanding something or the other, or the free time is spent standing in line at a government-subsidised shop for a beverage made from malted barley.
Critics may say that this is a generalisation, but taking my example, it is safe to say that Indian males never help in household chores. (Indian men in rural areas are even more averse to doing chores such as washing dishes, and you see many lolling around on a charpoy (a bed made of coir ropes or tape), while women come home from a fast-drying well, balancing heavy pots of water on their heads).
Now that many Indian urban women are also working, climbing the corporate ladder and smashing the glass ceiling, it is also not a generalisation to say that Indian women today do not do household chores, but hire maids to do that work.
Our maid who comes to work to our home on a Vespa like an Italian, has demands like wanting only one particular mop from a particular hypermarket, and she hates the 360-degree Spin Floor Mop Rotating Bucket Set with Wheels that you can buy online from Amazon, which is supposed to make your work easier.
I am also sure she purposely destroyed our expensive vacuum cleaner that we had lugged all the way from Dubai, so that she can go back to sweeping the floor with a local broom made of thinly spliced bamboo.
Meanwhile, the Ministry survey is being done under two broad outlines — paid and unpaid activity, according to the newspaper report. The latter part is of significance as the data captured will focus on time spent on household, volunteering and other activities, it added.
There are very few Indians who spend their time doing good work for the society by volunteering, and whenever the few who do such unpaid work, always go to such extremes that they are featured in newspaper articles and inspire awe and admiration. You must have read about a man who single-handedly planted a forest to help in conservation of the dwindling green landscape, or another person who cut through a mountain to build a road to his village.
I do not think volunteerism is in our blood, so to speak, and I have never volunteered even for simple stuff such as reading to lonely elderly people in retirement homes. It may be because being a senior myself, I know for sure how crabby and rude elderly people can be.
It is not sure what the Ministry of Statistics plans to do with the results of the survey, but another study done in Norway or some such cold country, showed there were more divorces among couples where men helped in doing the housework. It did not mention the reason why the couples separated.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi