When restaurateur Vanika Choudhary was dating chartered accountant Dhaval Sanghavi, she decided to plan a romantic evening and surprise him by cooking a meal. But it was Choudhary who ended up being surprised.
“I remember how effortlessly he walked into the kitchen and set up the table,” she recalls. “And then, after the meal, he loaded up the dishwasher and did the dishes.”
In that moment, Choudhary realised how easy a relationship can be if there’s a partner who wants to contribute at home.
A popular online poll recently asked, what’s a five-word sentence all women want to hear? The answers got hilarious, steamy, or straight absurd but a popular bend was towards this sentence: Honey, I’ll do the chores.
Few Indian men participate in household chores, which makes Sanghavi a rarity. The learning for him came long before he got married. He recalls that he grew up in a house where everyone did whatever they could, but it was living abroad that taught him to do everything.
Now married and living in Mumbai, the couple holds on to the upbringing and tries to manage everything on their own. “We don’t have help except someone who cleans the house in the morning,” Sanghavi says. “You don’t need an army of people doing things when you can get up and get a glass of water yourself.”
Part of the decision is because the couple enjoys their privacy and undisturbed time, and part of it, Sanghavi says, “is because there’s little need”.
Choudhary loves to cook and Sanghavi takes charge of other tasks. Besides, he says, “there’s a washing machine for clothes and a dishwasher for the dishes”.
An important reason why Choudhary and Sanghavi manage to easily share household load is because they don’t divide chores based on gender, but on efficiency. “We’re never thinking that she’s the woman thus she should do it and I am never thinking that I am the man and thus I should do it,” Sanghavi says. “It’s just a question of who is better at what.”
Still, Choudhary is aware how easy it is to fall for stereotypes of what women or men should do, when none of it is a single person’s job. “The whole family must contribute,” she says. “Of course, we need men to participate in the household, but we also need to make sure that women are educated, are financially independent, and have a voice.”
Historically, the onus of speaking up has been on women when men can easily and quickly elevate the quality of the discourse. The couple concedes that they might need more help when they have a child, but Sanghavi is quick to add that he will also seek a paternity leave. “Or maybe,” he says, as Choudhary laughs, “I’ll be a stay-at-home dad”.