My grandmother ( maternal) was the oldest child to her parents and had to do all the chores at home( extended family of more than 30 people) because according to my great grandparents, my grandmother was a dunku rani ( idiot) and there was no point sending her to school. Her parents felt,since she wasn’t going to school, she might as well be useful at home and got her to do all the cooking and cleaning. After all isn’t it said somewhere that idle mind is a devil’s workshop.
My mother didn’t do much work in her home because she studied in a boarding school. However, that didn’t spare her from her mother’s wrath because my grandmother hated the fact that Amma had a rather easy life. She was allowed to study, she didn’t have to do any chores at home and led a very carefree life.
Amma still has a burn scar on her chest courtesy of my grandmother. Amma was asked to fry pappadam and didn’t do a ‘good’ job, so my grandmother in her anger grabbed the kudakkambi (stick) Amma was using to flip the pappadam along with the hot oil and poked amma’s chest!
When we were little, we were never asked to do any chores at home because my mother felt being girls, we will be doing all the chores in our in law’s house eventually and she didn’t want the 4 of us to complain bitterly about how unfair life is..( in other words, she didn’t want us to complain like my grandmother did, who always said, I did all the donkey work in my parents house and I have to do all the donkey work in my in law’s home and my daughter who is supposed to help me was enjoying her life at the boarding school)
When we didn’t have a maid, I did help Amma to sweep the courtyard and stopped doing so because Amma told Akashavani and that her daughters are all lazy and don’t lift their little finger at home. I felt if amma was playing the role of the martyr, then she might as well do all the jobs herself!
Amma did everything. Each morning she folded all our blankets, ironed our uniform, cooked breakfast, packed school lunch. Each evening she cooked dinner, washed the dishes. Weekends were reserved for bulk cooking ( one chatti meen curry, one pana erachi curry, etc!) laundry ( imagine family of 5) and cleaning the house. Amma did all the chores mentioned previously and I hid in my room and read.
It isn’t that I didn’t want to help Amma, but there was no way I could match up to Amma’s expectations. She didn’t like the way I hung the clothes or the way I ironed her blouse. She complained bitterly how badly I did whatever she asked me to do and always said ninnodekke vellathum cheyyan paranja enney venam thallan ( I should get my head examined for asking you to do something) So it was better not to do anything.
I sometimes wonder if I am being mean to my children because I ask them to fold their blanket, iron their clothes and vacuum their room. ( especially because I never did any chores in my own home)