I was born in the late 80s. I was the eldest of 3. My dad was in the army, and my mom had always been a housewife. I grew up switching schools after every few years, roaming from city to city. Part of the perks of Army life was that I never really had to take care of house chores. I hardly ever made my bed. My school uniform would iron itself every night. Every morning my mom would handover a warm lunchbox to me before I left for school. Sometimes she would even send over the batman with a tray of warm snacks for us.
None of that seemed weird to me at that time. We always went to Army schools and most of the kids beside us were like that.
When I graduated high school I was in Lahore with my parents at our ancestral home. I got admission in UET Lahore in Mechanical Engineering which was 10 minutes away from our home. My father had then retired, so we didn't have any such facilities as before, but my mom would make sure that everything was taken care of. Again, I never had any need to do any house chores. My mom would take care of my food and my clothes. All I had to do was to tell her what we liked to have this evening and then it would magically appear.
I remember I would often get up 20 minutes before the start of my class. My mom would have already made paratha anda, I would roll it, take a bite, and gulp it down with the tea and runoff for my class. If I had a free lecture I would just come back home. Quite often my class fellows would come over and we would have some tea and snacks while prepping for exams.
After I graduated, again I was lucky, while my siblings studied in other cities in hostels. I got a job in a design firm near our place. It would take me half an hour on a bike. Breakfast was at home, lunch we would eat outside, and then dinner back at home. Life was simple and carefree. But I wanted to taste freedom, I really wanted to live by myself. I wanted to have an apartment of my own where I had a bookshelf and a couch.
Finally, at the age of 27, I left home. I got a scholarship to study abroad. And things turned upside down.
I lived in the university dorm for while but finally got a job and rented my own apartment. Something that I had always dreamed of. Freedom finally. But that freedom came with a slew of difficulties. Things I was never equipped for.
How do you run a house?
A house as far as I have learned is like your living partner. You have to take care of it. Clean it, wash it, make sure that it is well taken care of so that the house takes care of you. It takes effort and repeated care, every day.
How do you decorate a house? Obviously, you have to decorate it, it is a reflection of how you see yourself. Where should you place the television? What color pillowcases should you get? How many dishes do you need? Do you really need a PlayStation? (the answer was affirmative, unfortunately)
Back when I was young, I always frowned at doing the same thing over and over. How my mom would wake up and then do the same house sweep every day. Starting from the tv lounge to the bedroom and then cleaning and washing the toilets. But then I came across the same problem and I realized that I had to do these things too, every single day. If I don't regularly clean and wash then it just becomes a dismal place and dismal places ruin your mind.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was cooking. I had never cooked. I never boiled an egg in my life. But then I got tired of eating outside (eating fish gets boring fast). And it dawned on me how complex is cooking, something as simple as making vegetable rice.
I am an Engineer, so let me tell you in those terms.
Project Planning: First thing, you need to make a plan, what do you want to make? I want to make vegetable rice. In case I have made it before then it's easy, in case I haven't then I need to learn it. So the first step is to make sure I know exactly what I want to do. Youtube helped here a lot
Inventory and Stock assessment: After I know what are the things I need to make, I have to check what I have. Do I have all the ingredients? How much do I want to make? I certainly don't want to make it so less that I cannot use it for a few days and then I don't want to make it so much that it gets bad. So I need to know exactly what I want.
Logistics: Okay, now I know what I want to make and how much do I have available, I have to plan to go to the store and get all the things. I have to make sure that everything is available, I have also make sure that I don't buy so much that I cannot carry it back home. There is no room for mistakes, you cannot ask your neighbors for extra dahi in case you forget that abroad.
Pre-Processing: Vegetable rice ain't gonna make itself. First I have to cut the vegetables and soak the rice. Note that I am doing all the while working a full-time job and scores of other activities that I talked about before.
Processing: Everything done, Now I have to get all the necessary equipment ready. Do I have what I need? Pots? Pans? Stove working ok? How much heat do I need? Boiling rice is not easy. A little less heat and your rice will be raw, a little more and your rice will turn mushy. The process window for good rice is a minute at most.
Presentation: Alright so the rice seems to be done, the vegetables are steamed and your stomach is growling. You want to put your hand in the pot and start devouring it, but you hold yourself. You need some salad, maybe yogurt sauce because that's how your mom always made it.
Housekeeping: You have finally eaten. If you think you are done then you are sadly mistaken. The real work has started now. Your kitchen seems like someone had wrestled there and used your utensils as weapons. Your dishes need doing. There is a thick layer of burned rice stuck at the bottom of your pot. Your house smells like garlic. You need to do all this because you cannot stand the sight of a dirty kitchen the next morning. So you while you're exhausted from your day job you grudgingly clean the mess you have made.
It would take my mom an hours notice to get this ready, I would take a week to do the same thing.
Living by yourself is not all stressful. It gives you a sense of freedom that is tightly knit with responsibility. If your apartment is dirty, you have no one else to blame. If you forgot your keys, it is all your fault. Your house smells, all your fault. Washroom wet and dirty, you need manners. It teaches you about yourself. Your room becomes a mirror of your inner state.
As you might have inferred, I didn't like cooking. There are some people who relish in such activity, not me. Thank you so much. I'd rather let someone else do it, someone, who actually enjoys it.
I enjoyed cleaning, doing dishes, arranging the books on my shelf. Cleaning is therapeutic to me. Every time my mom would call I would take a broom and slowly start sweeping. Or I would start doing dishes. It felt like an activity that relieved stress. Gave you a measure of control over your immediate surroundings.
Not every man has grown as privileged as I have. Of course there are men who know and understand all these things. But the majority of men in our society have been raised in homes where women have taken care of housekeeping and the kitchen. It is important for men to know such things, at least before they get married.
The reason why I ask desi men to live by themselves before they get married is not that every man should be cleaning or cooking after marriage. It is only because I want them to respect the skill and effort it takes to do such things. Living by your family and letting your mom take care of all these things makes your kitchen seem like a magical place where your mom waves a wand and tea magically appears in a cup. The reality is much more complicated than that. The process of making a tea does end when you have sipped the tea and put the cup under your seat. It stops when you have washed, dried, and placed the cup back in the cupboard.
Managing a house is no less difficult than managing a company. A man has to respect what it takes. And you can only respect if you have tried to do these things yourself. If you don't then you will start to take these things for granted and your relationship will quickly go downhill.