You learn to be self sufficient, Bangalore, India

You learn to be self sufficient, Bangalore, India
We in India have learned to be lazy with servants to do all our work. From the maali in the garden, to the man who cleans the cars and bikes and ofcourse the house help who handle all the work from cooking our meals to cleaning the house.

We forget how to do anything and just sit back and expect everything to get done – and it does, at a price. However, when the help does not arrive and this time for me it is for a month, then it is exceedingly hard to handle all the household chores, plus your own work. The men in India are even more helpless and grumble if asked to do anything extra.

But, slowly over the month I have learned to handle all the cooking and the cleaning with a little organising and a sergeant major voice. Cooking has always been easy for me as I am organised and finish in half an hour. Our regular north Indian meal of a lentil, which could be a channa or Rajma or even a simple dal, a vegetable foogath ( pref no masalas), a dry chicken dish and rice in the rice cooker. The only extra is the chappaties for breakfast, so I learned to mix enough dough for three days, roll out and keep the chappati squares and breakfast then was a quick and easy process.

One just has to get the flavours different and to my luck the tenant in my flat gave me large bags of masala from Mangalore with some really angry red chillies, but after my first try the chicken dish came out wonderfully well and the red was just a bright chillie which was not pungent. The sambhar powder is very different too and is a sort of dry mix in oil. That has to be carefully used as the first round I had to add a lot of tamarind to cut the pungency.

Sweeping and swabbing I decided to handle on alternate days as the wooden floors in the bedrooms keep well and are easy to maintain. The only problem was it would exhaust me so I cut out the morning jog and decided this was enough exercise for me for the day. The mop for some reason just seemed to dirty the floor more than clean it, so I use the swab and my foot which gave me the shining results I wanted. Parquet can look amazing if cleaned with a damp cloth rather than a soaking swab.

Dusting was the men’s job and watering the plants on the balconies. Had to be tough and insist it was done right away rather than them shirk the job, but every alternate day was fine. The second floor does not get that dusty.

But with a sweeping heat wave, the birds seemed to be thirsty and were dive bombing the pots put out in the balconies. Everyday they pecked out the compost and seemed to be looking for water messing up the whole balcony. A shallow plate with water seemed to do the trick and thankfully they stopped and headed only to the water to drink and bathe in.

The bathrooms were the next things to tackle on a daily basis so each were assigned one bathroom to bathe and clean up. The spray on the shower cubicles is easily wiped off just after a bath and the same for the large mirror which might have toothpaste spray. A squeezee helped to clean up the cubicle and the rest of the floor just wiped down with a swab. A little Harpic or just leaving a little bleach did the trick of keep the toilet bowl sparkling. Each of the men took turns in washing their socks which are banned from the washing machine.

And the machine was run once in three days as we are all adults and don’t have filthy clothes to be hosed down before being washed. If the machine is run when the breakfast is being organised then the men had to put the clothes out which was done in a jiffy with two pairs of hands.

We even had time to sort the kitchen cupboards and the linen cupboard which normally is done rarely when the help has a lighter day.

The Pyrex dishes with covers that Annika had given me a few years ago helped to hold left overs while the dekchis were scrubbed down by the men before going to bed. I could swear there were no cockroaches in the house, as we were becoming rather careful in the kitchen. The new addition were mothballs in all the drain openings in all toilets and kitchens which also helped.

Most homes in the West follow a system and its time we do too, because soon we are not going to get house help to do a number of chores that we have become too lazy to do ourselves. Ofcourse they do have cleaners coming in once a week and really giving the place a perfect once over, with all their machines and detergents.

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