Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

Housework can sometimes be such a drudge!

Life is so dull when one is stuck at home, doing what housewives do in their houses. Somewhere between the Hoover and the washing machine, the doorbell rings. A nice young man wants to see the nice numbers on the nice meter the nice electricity company had installed in my living room. Somewhere between the dishes and the family pussy cat, Fathun calls about the fare on television and I worry about the fare in the oven. I don’t mind. After all, both were stuff in some electric box…. I was happy. My school-going daughter would come home soon. My thoughts turn to school. And to homework.

My children, or your children for that matter, go to school to attain that most desired, non-inheritable commodity called an education. They have to do that regardless of socio-economic background or age. So, we expect our children to be taught, and taught well. We expect them to be filled to the brim with nuggets of knowledge. We want them to be given wisdom. We expect them to be trained to fit into that complex machine called society. Somewhere along the way, we expect them to acquire the three r’s of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. En passant, we also expect them to tune into the three r’s of rhyme, rhythm and reason. Even if a bit of the other three r’s, that of rote learning, recitation and role-play, flavor the total concoction, I would not be unduly worried. And, of course, they must be given plenty of homework.

Suddenly, the door is flung open and Nish, my ten-year-old daughter, stood there with a glowing smile on her face. She waves a small white piece of paper in her hand and sings, “We gotta get some stuff for school, Mom! And fast!”

After the required hug, the welcome-home hug, the thank-you-mom hug and the customary ditching of the dirty sneakers, I set my daughter down to a pre-lunch snack and get a chance to read the contents of the ‘slip’ from the school. I hope it is the kind of homework I like; it is! I read:

Please send the following with your child tomorrow:
A full-color flag of Suriname printed on glossy or photo-quality paper.
A list of names and spouses of all presidents and prime ministers of Sri Lanka from 1925 to date.
Information on the diet of the last Neanderthal.
Three coconut shell

Also, please get your child to memorize the poem “Loafan Kujjege Hithuge Saabithukan” for recitation tomorrow.

There was a time when I would have panicked. That was when I was the mother of a first child in first grade. Today, I am a model parent as the school defines it; no matter what they do, no matter what they want me to do, I comply. But even today, some parents will complain! I can almost hear them:

“I am with the police service. I just came home. The shops are closed now. They will not open before my child goes to school tomorrow.,, And what shop sells undhulhi now anyway?”

“I have no idea what kind of dinosaur a Neanderthal is. I will have to call my friend Somapala at the National Museum in Sri Lanka! Maybe he will know.”

“Our internet connection is down. Now what? Is the school down as well?”

“What in the world would my ten-year-old do with a list of Sri Lankan leaders? Go back in time and assassinate them?”

But I, simple housewife, am more prepared. After all, I am a model parent. I help my child with homework. There was a time when I did not understand the English language. However, in the four years my daughter has been going to this wonderful school, I have acquired more than enough savvy to Google the dietary habits of the last lost tribe of the Amazon, or three different audio files of the mating call of the Siberian tit, Poecile cinctus!

There was a time when I asked some serious questions, classified as stupid by the school. Some of these: Doesn’t the school have a fast Internet connection? If so, why do they charge us for a computer class where they are supposed to teach our kids how to use the net? Is there no library in the school? Don’t the teachers acquire all the teaching aids? Alternatively, are all parents faster, better, more efficient and better trained at collecting and giving information to children? Why do parents have to put their lives on hold to collect all that information in a hurry?

But that was a long time ago. Now I know better. And I know a great deal about many things too, Neanderthals and ignorant housewives no exception, thanks to the same school. It has managed to educate not only my daughter, but good old me too, into the complexities of the Twenty-first Century. Undhulhi and Siberian Tits included!

I get everything ready in less than ten minutes, thanks to Google, some freely downloadable pictures, and a collection of Maldivian ‘traditional stuff’ I keep at home just in case the school needed them. The only problem is the poem my daughter needed to memorize. That we will try tonight.

Suddenly the phone rings. It is my twenty-year-old cousin Sham who is doing an advanced course in International Studies at a certain place nearby that I cannot name aloud in case they file a defamation suit against me. Sham has been told to collect as much information as she can on Semantic Morphology, Dialectical Materialism, Jungian Psychotherapy, Neo-Medieval Impressionism, the Industrial Revolution, and the Golden Triangle for three sessions tomorrow. She is panicking.

I try to calm her down. “Oh, relax! I will solve your problem for you in an hour. Come over for dinner tonight.”

The washing machine beeps, telling me that the final cycle on the load is over. The oven dings.

Blast it! Housework can sometimes be such a drudge!

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  • mysterystar  On February 13, 2011 at 4:39 am

    “I have no idea what kind of dinosaur a Neanderthal is. I will have to call my friend Somapala at the National Museum in Sri Lanka! Maybe he will know.” I laughed my head off!
    How about getting information getting in Dhivehi? When the schools start this is exactly what happen in overall houses of Maldives.= Je vais revenir =

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