In Defense of the Indian Male

Responding to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that Indian men spend only 19 minutes a day on housework, Chandrahas Choudhury rises up in witty defense of the Indian male.

“Millions of Indian men do huge amounts of housework — but in single-man or all-male households. Three years ago, I spent a few weeks in Mumbai interviewing dozens of auto rickshaw drivers. . . . An overwhelming majority of them lived in all-male households, often sharing a single room and cooking for one another. It’s not just them. Millions of poor and lower-middle-class Indian men leave behind their villages and families every year to work in cities as daily wage laborers, construction workers, auto rickshaw or taxi drivers, security guards, fruit or vegetable sellers, waiters or domestics, transferring the small surplus incomes of their city lives into economic security for all of their dependents back in the village.” When he goes back home to his village, “he puts his feet up and doesn’t do even the 20 minutes of routine housework that would make him above average.”

With its focus on gender, the report misses an equally important factor: Class: “Much of the time, the routine, unpaid housework performed by a middle- or upper-class Indian woman might involve supervising the paid housework of a domestic servant (most often another woman, but sometimes a man) and herself being watched by an elder of the household, such as her mother-in-law . . . . When the man of the house comes home in the evening and switches on the TV, both women — though not jointly — present to him reports about the maid, and about each other.”

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