When it comes to Indian women, leisure and sanskaar hardly go hand in hand. The unequal gender-gap in hours spent on housework makes carving time for leisure a perpetual struggle for women. This remains true for women who are full-time homemakers and for women who do paid work. Through the ages, the role of managing the household has somehow become the sole responsibility of women. As labour continues to be understood in masculinist terms, housework has hardly been considered “work” enough, which should rightfully be followed by rest. A 2019 report says, Indian women spent 577% more time in a day on housework than men. This makes women extremely time-poor, leaving them with very little time which can be spent on rest. So the question is, what does leisure look like for Indian women?
Leisure plays a crucial role in helping one cope through busy everydays, improving productivity, heath and creativity. It is the time spent as one pleases, carving an intimate corner amidst the daily grind. A project called “Basanti: Wome at Leisure'' wonderfully depicts how women across India find their personal moments of leisure. Some apply henna on their palms, others learn a new dance; some sink their feet in a sandy beach, others turn their living rooms into karaoke clubs. The lovely thing with leisure is, you can define it the way you want to. Whatever allows you to listen more closely to your desires and identify them, is leisure!
Not just spas, hotels and expensive face masks. It can be gleaned out of the most ordinary of circumstances. For instance, a feminist collective in Pakistan named “Girls at Dhabas” chronicles the simple but powerful act of women hanging around dhabas. To occupy public spaces, without having a place to go to or an agenda, is often considered to be the sole prerogative of men. Think about it! Women are hardly seen loitering around leisurely, part of an adda around street corners, or sipping chai at roadside eateries. For women, the fear of harassment and the constant scrutiny when they’re out in public robs them of safe access to public spaces — spaces which commonly serve as avenues of leisure for men.
TL;DR: Leisure becomes an uncommon luxury for women. But the thing is, women rightfully deserve leisure simply because, as W.H Davies writes, “What is this life if, full of care/ We have no time to stand and stare.”
Maybe what women really want is just the right to rest! What do you think? Reply to this email and let me know!