Some countless weeks ago, when the entire country went under lockdown, P my elder one announced that he would be the newest Dishwashing executive of the Datta household. I, of course, nodded sagely, as only skeptical mothers would. Now P is the laziest young man I had encountered in a while and he had a sidekick—Jyo. Would P dump his duties on Jyo’s unsuspecting shoulders? Would the weeks ahead be filled with dramas and meltdowns? I was curious.
But here was where I was wrong. P might tell his brother to swat the fly on P’s cheek but he would never tell J to wage a war with an army of flies. Nah that was not his style. And so P embarked on his dish washing journey. We had arguments. I was more of “Wash every spoon, fork and knife the moment it landed in the sink” kind whereas P was the systems kind of guy. He would let the dishes pile in the sink to sky rocketing heights while all the time watching his favourite sitcom.
I had a problem with that. It was like walking into your favourite garden and realizing that instead of smelling the velvety roses, you are now wading through a mountain of dishes. And you are doing that so spontaneously that it has now become like your second heartbeat.
“Why don’t you wash them as and when they land there?” I asked him one afternoon.
“I have absolutely no problem doing a mountain of dishes,” P would calmly tell me, “I don’t see myself standing in front of the sink though and watch for any new spoon, fork, dish bowl to come into my waiting hands.”
“Amma…imagine how it would be if each one of us cut our portion of vegetables? Washed our portions of rice and cooked our portions of our meals? Why should everyone put efforts into everything?”
Dang. The guy was right.
I caved in. Anyway I also realized that a sparkling sink wouldn’t add any value to my on-going projects.
So I let the utensils land there. And remain there.
I would wake up every morning to a rack stacked with sparkling utensils. And as I would sip coffee, I would listen to the birdsong with more alacrity than ever. By the way, do you know that the Koel wakes up as early as 3AM? And sometimes even 2:30AM? Naughty, naughty bird.
Unbeknownst to me the boys started to research and delve deeper into this business of dishwashing. P started to coach and train J and also motivate him to come up with innovative strategies. What method ensured that you spent the least amount of time at the sink? How would you ensure that you do not consume more than an “N” number of tea spoons of the blessed liquid?And of course they had competitions. Whose utensils shone the more? Who finished “N” number of dishes in lesser time? I was happy to play the judge.
Our conversations also took a strange turn.
“P….” I would threaten him, “If you do not let me watch my movie in peace, I will cancel your order of your favourite dishwashing liquid on Big Basket.”
Yes, he had F.A.V.O.U.R.I.T.E.S.
Or like this, “Amma…how much time does Lakshmi Aunty take to do the dishes?”
Or on a phone call with my parents: “Gatatu…do you have an extra dishwashing sponge in your home?”
My father from the other end: “What is dishwashing sponge? Don’t you use the steel wool to do the dishes?” and P would immediately open Google to search for steel wool. I of course enjoyed this silent dishwashing movement that was spreading its roots in our home. Because that meant I could now listen to the squalor of the egrets and parakeets even as I whipped up a quick Rajma Chawal in my kitchen.
Anyway, I hadn’t realized how deeply this movement had seeped into the collective consciousness of our family until one day…
But before that a confession
By now my maternal instincts had awakened quite a bit as did my dormant internal worm. Together both these entities would start doing a wild dance like a conflicted queen cobra whenever they would spot a “tad” too many utensils in the sink. So I did the unthinkable. I would wash them immediately. And so the other day when we were having hot crispy Aalu parathas, P wondered aloud, “I am using so little of the dishwashing liquid everyday, how then did so much get over in the last 4 days?”
“I also use very little,” J said casually.
Both the boys turned to look at me.
“AMMA…” they both screamed out loudly.
“Hey…I use very little,” I mumbled unsure of what “little” meant.
“Amma….I track the dishwashing liquid every single day,” P went on, “It is like gold.”
“Of course, don’t I know? I pay for it young man,” I retorted defensively.
“Okay Amma, after dinner show me your dish washing strategy,” P said calmly.
“Okay,” I replied as though bracing myself for a combined Hindi-Math exam and that too under the piercing gaze of our School Principal.
Post dinner, all three of us marched to the sink. I dipped the sponge gingerly into the dishwashing liquid and started scouring the plate. The boys stared long and hard. And then scowled.
“Amma…you got the basics all wrong,” screamed J.
“You do not go to the liquid…you stay at the foam,” P muttered silently under his breath.
“What do you mean, I don’t go to the liquid. It is dam Vim Liquid for God’s sake,” I screamed through the sweat. Suddenly I was feeling like the back bencher who was hauled by the school teacher and made to answer the toughest question in the textbook.
“Amma…the liquid is dormant. It does not do the work. The foam does The bubbles do.”
“Amma you do not drown the scrub pad deep into the liquid. You gently skim the surface and catch the foam,” Jyo finished.
By now I had washed my hands and huffed and puffed my way to the sofa. P followed me.
“Amma…there is concentrated white foam and the diluted foam. The former I use for oily utensils, the latter I keep for glasses, cups and not so greasy bartan.
By now J also came running from the kitchen and plonked himself on the other side.
“Remember those ads Amma about the dishwashing liquids? They delete a very important piece. They tell us to dive straight into the liquid. They do not tell us that the power lies in the foam, and the bubbles. Remember the power LIES with the foam”
“So you just need to skim the surface of all that foam lightly to get a tiny bit of all that you need,” P continued
“Remember one to two drops of the foam.”
“And not the liquid,” finished P.
“Okay NEVER the liquid,” I repeated like a sullen child.
Currently, the boys have a bottle for generating foam. One of them flicks the foam over the utensils while the other scours the surface. The utensils emerge happy and shiny.
As for me, I am happy. My inner worm is sleeping peacefully at last. What if in the process, the house and the kitchen is filled with bubbles and smells of lemon?
How are you treating YOU during these times of lockdown? Tell me, I would love to know.
(C): Sridevi Datta