Learning from Bapu

Lockdown hit in March. Amidst all the mopping, sweeping, cleaning routine, I decided to clean my bookshelf. As I was dusting the rarely touched out-of-sight uppermost shelf, out fell a book that I had bought 20 years ago from a book fair. The date and venue of purchase neatly marked on the first page of the book, above the name ‘My Experiments With Truth.’

Bapu was smiling from the cover page. Let me ask him, I thought. Maybe he will show the way.

“Bapu, I want my kids to help me around the house, I want them to learn real-life skills apart from their subjects. But kids these days, you see, they are so reluctant to do any drudge work. They find it boring. What do I do?”

Bapu just smiled. “Wait for a few days and watch,” he said.

Bapu was right!

The third month into the lockdown and I see my 9 and 13 years old cheerfully picking up the broom and sweeping their rooms and sometimes other rooms too. My 9 y.o. boy wields the mop like Harry Potter and swishes it cheerfully around the house. His enthusiasm is so infectious that elder sister and father want to take turns, to not miss out on the fun. Plant care has completely been taken over by my daughter.  She waters and tends to the plants, even spends quality time talking to them! Bedspreads are neatly folded every morning, sheets are evened and the bed is made without a protest, by little hands. Laundry is picked, neatly folded and stacked in cupboards. No, I don’t promise them any goodies in return or any favours. They seem to be enjoying these activities. But this was not the case earlier. Then what happened? Magic? Extra time at hand because there’s no school? But we had weekends and vacations earlier too.

How? “Bapu Aap Great Ho!” I told Bapu.

Bapu was smiling again.

“You taught them.”

“Me? When? I have been trying to coax them, when did I teach?”

“You did.”

He smiled again and vanished into the pages of the book.

That afternoon I sat down to read the book again. As I turned page after page, it set me thinking and I did find the answer. At that moment I realised what had changed in my house.

Kids have been watching Mom and Dad do the chores happily. Since the house help is not coming, housework has become a part of our daily routine. We get a few chores done in the morning before we sit down in front of our screens for work or online classes. Having a clean house, clean clothes, clean dishes and clean toilets are basic and essential requirements for survival. Having a fresh meal on the table is non-negotiable. We need to get these done just the way we bathe and eat every day. We plan the tasks, divide housework and finish it happily, with pride, ourselves.

They understand that these tasks are as important as homework or office work. There’s a certain joy in every activity if we pause a bit and learn to enjoy them. Not everything we do needs to be achievement or entertainment-oriented.

Bapu, I know now what you meant. Practice what you preach. The best way to impart a lesson is to demonstrate and inspire. Thank You.

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