Sundays are traditionally meant to be used for lazing. They are supposed to somehow legitimize the society’s need to make its workers aka citizens feel that killing themselves on the weekdays is OK as long as the Sunday is spent in lumbering stupor on a couch in front of the television.
We do have hardworking people who go out even on Sunday [ maybe because it means that extra income to support their families ]. Case in point, the boy and woman who knocked at my door on Sunday afternoon 1300hrs.
I asked them who they were with raised eyebrows, implying that they were not welcome. I was told “India Census”. Well alright – go on I grumbled, standing there in the doorway [ which was open just a crack to further let them know they weren’t welcome ].
They asked, “Aapkey ghar ke mukhiya ka naam bataaien.” [ Translation from Hindi : Who is the “head” of the household? ]
The thoughts and questions and one-liners in my head at that point were making my skull burst at the seams. I forced myself to stay composed and said, “What does that mean? How do you define a “mukhiya” / “head of the household”?
I was told it was the person in the house who is the oldest – in years / age.
My husband and I live together and there are no other “members of the household” AND my husband happens to be a year younger than I am. Expecting to be entertainment-of-the-day for the Census boy and woman, I told them as much. “I am the “mukhiya” / “head of household” in that case.” The woman giggled and said “But no father / husband?” I wanted to slap her at that point [ thankfully my saying this more a figure of speech than actual action ].
I told her my father didn’t live with me and my husband was a year younger. She giggled some more. I continued to stare instead of offering any more explanations. With raised eyebrows. The boy with the woman looked nonplussed – no smile / giggle either.
They proceeded to inform me, “But since he is husband, he is “mukhiya” / “head of household”.
I asked them how that was – since their definition was related to age and I was older. I was told it was also on the basis of who is the earning member and who earns more. Aha! I thought. I finally have something to disrupt their Census. “I earn more than my husband. Now are you going to write my name or what?”
The woman at this point had stopped giggling but smiled shyly and said, “Koi baat nahi, abhi nahin kamaatey toh kabhi toh kamaayengey.” [ Translation : No matter, if he doesn’t earn now, he will earn at some point. ]
The boy meanwhile looked at me and said, “Chaliye, apna naam bataaiye.” and got ready to write to down on the Census form. [ Translation : Ok, tell me your name. ]
I told them my name, they wrote it down, the women giggled a little more and they left. The shortest Census questionnaire ever. I’m not sure how it works but it felt like the the brief was “If it’s a woman, don’t do anything. Walk away.”
It took all my willpower to not slam the door behind them.
Men and women BOTH suffer from patriarchy. Tragic. And it take a lot of work to get out of the rut and see these things for what they are. Unfair to both the genders.