The mother of all adventures is at home, not outside

The notion that 'domesticity is drudgery' is the rich man's dogma.

 |  4-minute read |   18-04-2016
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On the last two occasions I wrote for DailyO, I dealt with political themes. Here is a change, lest we forget that there is more to life than politics.

Many have told me that home is a boring and oppressive place. That routine is drudgery. That duty deadens. That freedom and adventure are real only in the world out there. So, have we got it wrong in staying stuck to our stupid homes?

As a rule, everything is boring till you get to know what it is that you are doing and how best to do it. Imagine yourself chipping away at a log of wood, day after day. You are neither a sculptor nor a carpenter. And you don't know why you go on chipping. You can't be blamed if you, after a while, begin to feel that there is nothing more boring than working with wood.

But the problem is not with the wood, or that you have to work with it. The problem is that you do not know what you want to make; or, if you do, how to make it. Then you say, it is so much better to go gallivanting on the countryside! You are right. But you are not making a "right" statement about the work you are doing. Ask a sculptor. He will tell you a different story.

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People associate home, increasingly, with drudgery, and the world out there with pure adventure. This is odd. Life is the supreme adventure: the mother of all adventures. Life is nurtured only in homes. Not in the big, bold world out there. Strange, we do not associate home with even the hope of adventure or fulfilment.

adventure-trips-summ_041816034218.jpg The notion that "domesticity is drudgery" is the rich man's dogma, which brings us to the poverty of wealth. 

This stereotype has a long genealogy. Don Quixote sought his adventures away from his hearth and home. Robinson Crusoe had to get shipwrecked and marooned on an island. Anna Karenina had to look beyond her home for fulfilment and, of course, die crushed under a train. The Greek epic hero had to seduce the wife of another. But, after seducing her, what could he do? Bring her "home"! The adventure of seduction is then visited by the keener and costlier kicks of war. War devastates home. That story is millennia old. But it sounds spookily contemporary!

Then, as now, the notion that "domesticity is drudgery" is the rich man's dogma, which brings us to the poverty of wealth. An old Latin dictum stays, "If there is a thing, one person has the thing and, the other, the value of it." This means: the moment you come to own something, you lose its value. Only those who fail to get the thing retain its value. Married life is like a charmed circle, says a proverb. While those outside are eager to get in, those inside are dying to get out.

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Affluence plays its tricks on its minions. By taking away the value of what it gives (which includes the house of affluence), it reduces the rich man's house, de facto, to a glittering junkyard. Its sheer size and stocks dwarf him. Large mansions are too small to accommodate a sense of belonging. Belonging stems from domesticity. In the past, when institutions were academic families, they fostered a sense of bonding and belonging, which is today the exception than the rule.

Freedom and adventure are real only at home. Outside of it, you seek only serial, fleeting sensations. My idea of adventure may be different from yours. For me, seeking perfection is a steady, lifelong adventure. Making a cup of tea, for example. I experiment with the tea I make. This results in teas of rare flavours and diverse strengths. (Drinking the tea I make too is an adventure, given the outcomes!) Taste is a personal thing. Is it fair to expect a chef in a five-star hotel to know your taste better than you do yourself? As for freedom, I am free to go to my house half-clad like Gandhi. I remember being refused entry into Madras Club for being less than British in my dress.

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Let us tarry a little more with adventure. Married to a medic, who was rarely at home, I had the joy of raising my two adorable daughters and of turning that "drudgery" into an adventure. There never was a dull moment. As you participate in the unfolding mystery of life, you cease to be a worker and become a worshipper in the temple of life. I have had to invent. Innovate. Dig deep into my creativity. Hard work, but no drudgery! It's something I would not exchange for anything else.

The curse is homelessness, not domesticity. What harbours drudgery is not home. It is something else mistaken for home. So, could it be "sour grapes psychology" that motivates us, unawares, to denigrate domesticity?


Valson Thampu Valson Thampu

The writer is former principal of St Stephen's College, Delhi and former member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).

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