What is this sorcery? All my dishes, pots, pans and glasses, some stained turmeric yellow, some laced with leftover tea – are all bright and beautiful in the morning. And yet, my hands did not scrub or clean, there was no bending over the sink. What is this sorcery?
Four and half years ago when we moved to Reading, UK, my mother asked me – do you miss me? Mummy, I said, I miss you and Anitaben in equal measure. Anitaben is my mother’s helper and caretaker and apart from the many things she does, she also does our dishes.
When I lived with my mother, Anitaben wouldn’t let me do the dishes. If I would go anywhere the kitchen sink, she would be like, ‘No beta, do something else. Leave this to me.’ I used to stealthily do them when she went out to water the garden or when she would be out for groceries.
After my marriage, when I moved to Bangalore, we found Nirmala. Nirmala did my dishes, she helped me fold our laundry, chop the veggies. She spoke a little Hindi, but her mother tongue was Kannada. A lot of our communication happened in her broken Hindi, hand gestures and some Kannada. I remember one day, she said, No didi, no lunch. I looked at her puzzled. She wouldn’t chop the veggies, she wouldn’t let me make lunch. She asked me to wait. She did the other chores, went back home and in about an hour, came back with five or six plastic containers. In it, were a kind of a sweet roti (it had a jaggery and coconut filling), soft and moist dosas, a salad made of beans, coconut and cucumber, a curry, a subzi made from a green leafy vegetable, and payasaam. It was Ugadi. Her new year. I was so touched, and I was so happy and the food was so delicious – it still remains a most cherished meal and memory.
Now, a dishwasher cannot shower me with affection, or surprise me with a Ugadi meal. But boy, it is such a revelation! After nearly five years of doing the dishes by hand, having an apartment with a dishwasher is, for the lack of a better word, magical.
It is liberating. Maybe it is like the initial rushes of being in love. Maybe I am gushing because of the newness of it all. The joke in our household was – we have the ‘ShahSheth’ brand of dishwasher. It was a word play on our surnames – ‘Shah’ and ‘Sheth’ since my husband and me both used to share the washing up chores. Sometimes, the best gift he would give me was – ‘Don’t do the dishes. I will do them.’ This, in spite of the fact that he had done the dishes twice in a row that week. It worked better than ‘I love you’, or a gift.
I may miss those thoughtful and loving gestures, but I am certain I am not going to miss washing a load of dirty pans, pots, and dishes. I think the husband won’t either. But we will see. In the meantime, I thought I would write this ode to the dishwasher while the love is still new and going strong.