I see you

I see you

Dear sister,

I know you love festivals, just like every one else. You love to dress up and celebrate and have a house full of friends and relatives.

It’s Rakshabandhan tomorrow and the children are excited as children are wont to be for almost anything at all. The husband is happy too at this break from work, looking forward to spending time at home. The in-laws, ma and papa, love the change in routine. It gives them something to think and talk about for days before and after.

Yet as the day draws close this year, I see your heart sink, just a little bit. You put away the feeling of course, overlook the fact that you really haven’t been feeling your best, dismiss it as the onset of menopause or something similar.

The evening before the festival, the day maid asks for leave. You try to persuade her to stay back, but you do it half heartedly because you know she needs to be home too. You ask her to come in for a little while and have to be grateful for that.

They day dawns, bright and sunny, a trifle humid as rainless August days often are. Soon enough the house is full of sisters across generations, some with their better halves and children in tow.

Amidst happy laughs, rakhis are tied and laddoos eaten. After the ceremony everyone settles down for long lazy conversations. Hot cups of tea arrive and soft drinks do the rounds. ACs are switched on and conversations continue as morning segues into noon.

I see you, dear sister…

……through it all, a smile on your face, that becomes increasingly mechanical as they day grows hotter. I see you readying the puja thalis, making sure the aarti is ready, checking the boxes of sweets. You add some extra rakhis because you know someone will certainly forget to carry their’s. Even as you are counting the gifts one last time you are calling out to the children, making sure they are bathed and ready in their crisp kurta-pajams. The tween tries your patience and the teen is no better.

I see you welcoming everyone, handing out cool glasses of water calling out to the teen to tie the dog because your 4-year-old nephew is scared of him, even as you hug and reassure the little one. Then you’re lighting the aarti, helping through the ceremony. I see you making and serving out those endless cups of tea, remembering precisely who wants it without sugar, who likes it black and who wants it green. You give out cold drinks – a not-so-cold one for the nephew who has a cold, chilled ones for the teens and a Frooti to the one allergic to soda. Oreos for the kids, roasted mixtures for the adults, fruits for the uncle who doesn’t have tea.

Chopping, heating, hugging, smiling, joking – you are at a hundred places at the same time.

‘Why don’t you sit down bhabhi. Take a break,’ says your sister-in-law, ‘Can I do something?’

‘No no, the maid came early and finished the cooking already,’ offers ma. ‘There’s nothing much to do.’

You nod and smile and carry on piling the cups onto the tray. You’re in the living room wiping away spilt juice and wondering when you can get started on the washing up when you hear someone call out, ‘Come on bhabhi, we’re having a family picture. We’re waiting for you.’
‘Come on,’ says the husband, ‘Don’t delay everyone.’

And you’re back, adjusting your smile, looking into the camera surrounded by your family, this family that you made your own.

As the day ends, I see you, waving to the departing guests. ‘It was a good day,’ says the husband. ‘It was,’ you echo, even while your mind is drifting to the sink full of dishes.

Don’t think of them now, dear sister, give yourself a break. I’m not even sure I’m qualified to hand out advice but I hate to see you ignore yourself so. I hate to see you exhausted. Festivals are for you as much as for the rest of the family.

Something is not right if festivals leave you mentally drained and physically exhausted. Click To Tweet

And if no one notices, maybe you have to get them to notice.

Ask for help.

  • Ask the husband to chip in.
  • Take help when the sister-in-law offers.
  • Call out to the tween to fetch and carry.
  • Let the teens get their own drinks.
  • Put them in-charge of the younger kids.
  • Order out.
  • Let the dishes pile up.
  • Eat a laddoo.

This festive season sit, talk, laugh, celebrate so your lips lift up in a genuine smile when it’s time for the family picture.


If you, like me are incredibly fortunate to have the freedom to mould celebrations the way you want to, you may think this is entirely a figment of my imagination. I know for a fact, however, that festivals, for scores of women, mean just so much work. And they remain unseen, unappreciated – invisible hands that get things done.

This one is for them.



Linking up with #Chatty Blogs from Shanaya Tales

26 Replies to “I see you”

  1. I have been there, done that, when in India. Which is why these days I mould the festivities so that the spirit (and the fun) of the festival is retained, but not the exhaustion. Indian festivals are too wonderful to come to dread them because of arbitrary gender expectations.

  2. I can very well relate to this because I am married in a family with a little more expectations then what you have penned darling and no matter how much I have tried to tweak the celebrations, twelve long years have lead me nowhere. Phew!! Thanks for bringing this one up.

    1. Welcome here Roma. I think most women can identify with this – specially of the generation of our mothers. It’s just worse if you are in a joint family because tweaking becomes difficult.

  3. Wow..Loved reading this post. Reminds me of the day we spend at our native mostly during festivals and how each and every one in the family contributes and distributes work among them. That makes festival even more colorful.

  4. This is the true picture about the woman of the house who wears a smile on her face but in reality us struggling to juggle the numerous things which come up when guests visit. I had done a similar post though my tone was not as sweet as you! The tips to bring a genuine smile on the face of the lady of the house are useful

    1. A lot of women do it willingly, without even pausing to think whether it is making them happy. I wish they would stop and think and protest just a little bit. Do leave the link to your post Akshata and I’ll drop by.

  5. Lovely! As you said, I have been fortunate enough to have a family that let’s me mould those festivities the way I want, but I know such women too and this is a beautiful ode for them

  6. So well written, Tulika. My mum, my aunt, my mil and so many other women I see who selflessly toil to make the festival beautiful for others. You and I, we do as much as we can handle. And yes, seek help. That is so important.

  7. I always tell my mom (and now wife) to go easy…don’t burden yourself with making too much! Enjoy the day rather than concentrating on making numerous delicacies!

  8. I hear you lady! I am victim to such festivals and get-togethers where I am caught between cooking, acting hostess, piled up sink and over-crammed refridgerator! I have come to fear festivals, no thanks to this sinking feeling that I associate with them. Loved this post. Resonated very strongly with me.

    1. Happy this resonated with you Kala. Even if one likes festivals along with the rituals and the entertaining, the stress puts one off. I remember my mom getting so very tired after Diwali. Where’s the point?

  9. Tulika you aced it with this post. How cooly you have recorded the emotions and activities of that one person who is somehow been given the responsibility to do it all in case of an ocassion or family get together – you name it and she is the slave or rather the genie who has to ensure everything is perfect and right for everyone! Never mind if it tires her out or leaves her gasping for air.
    You are right to say that if a festival or celebration leaves you exhausted, its time to re-evaluate whats going wrong.
    How I used to fight with my mom over this everytime we would have guests and she would be running around without any respite!
    Well expressed!

    1. Glad you agree Shalini. I hate it how the lady of the house is taken for granted, how no one bothers to lend a hand. People don’t even notice how much hard work goes into simple things like serving water to scores of people or in remembering who wants/likes what. This needs to change.

  10. Oh this was so so beautiful and empathetic, Tulika. How many women do we know who sacrifice their own time and energy so others can have a good time on festive days? I hope every struggling mom reads this and learns that a little help is all it takes. We don’t mind the work, but we’d love the help.

  11. Brilliantly expressed. Festivals become tough for the women. This is the same as I think that there is no point in celebrating a festival if it becomes physically challenging and exhausting. I, personally, do not have the nerves and the ocean of energy to dive into to celebrate festivals and I don’t get the philosophy also behind all of them (not even the Laxmi Puja on Diwali) and hence I don’t do them. I think from the spiritual angle that after getting exhausted with all the doing part, is there any mind space left to remember God with our feeling of gratitude. I like to have all my days stress free and my mind at peace. I don’t buy the thought – life is otherwise boring so we need to add colour to it with the festivals. My life is boring and I add colour to it with picture books.

    1. My point exactly. Where’s the point if you aren’t feeling happy about a festival? Where you dread the fact that there will be twenty people in the house expecting to be looked after and catered to? Oh I like festivals and I like that they add colour to our lives, my only problem is that they are just so unfair to the women, mostly the woman of the house. I do love the idea of getting colour from picture books too :-).

  12. You are right, Tulika, festivals or get together of any kind increases the woman of the house’s chores to many folds. Thankfully, I have a husband who helps around the house and I am not hesitant to ask for help. But yes, when we were kids, for Onam, Vishu and all my mom used to wake up in the wee hours to prepare the feast. It’s tiring, to say the least.

    1. Festivals shouldn’t be a pain for anyone, including the lady of the house. In nuclear setups like mine we have our way but I see the women struggling in a lot of traditional homes still.

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