It has been seven years since Jahangir Hossain retired from work. He lives with his wife, who is also in advanced age, and a daughter who is a university student. His elder son lives abroad. He mostly lives with his wife only, as their daughter stays out most of the time. Both of them were largely dependent on their domestic help for household chores.
The couple is suffering from several age-related health problems. At the beginning of lockdown, fearing transmission of coronavirus as they had inherent health complications, they were advised to release their domestic help. They did as advised.
However, it did them more harm than good. The couple are not fit to perform all household chores. As one would imagine, their daughter had to start taking care of all the chores such as cooking and cleaning.
"We have a big house with three bedrooms. It was getting difficult for our daughter to carry out all the chores. So, we decided to retain our domestic help, Kulsum" said Jahangir.
As a precaution, they made sure she washes her hands properly when she comes to work. They disinfect her sandals with bleaching powder and make her wear a mask while working.
Like Jahangir Hossain, most of the people have released their domestic help to reduce their risk of getting infected. Some of them took partial responsibility by paying them or providing them with relief, but many did not.
The Business Standard talked to a few people on how they are coping without domestic helps.
Share the load
"In our household, we both worked even when we had domestic help. But now, the situation is a lot different. My wife is a doctor and she has to be in the hospital. I try to do the chores as much as possible so that it does not become a burden on her when she gets back home from work" said Lutful Huq, who is an Associate Professor in Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology, Gazipur.
He said his 13 year old daughter and sister take care of the dishes after every meal. He takes care of cleanliness and his wife cooks whenever possible. His brother-in-law, who is currently residing with them, sometimes assists them in cooking. Together, all the family members share the load.
Unequal distribution of work
Sadly, not every household is the same. There are cases where female members are suffering greatly for not having a domestic help. In fact, when the correspondent spoke to around 20 people, most of them said that women are being overburdened with household chores during this lockdown as men do not work to support them.
Reema is a private service-holder who is working from home. Since she is working from home, she has limited time to perform household chores. On the other hand, her father-in-law strictly forbade letting any domestic help in. "We will perform the chores ourselves", he said.
"But he barely does anything. I, my husband and my mother-in-law work all day while the only thing he does is find faults. My mother-in-law is an elderly woman, but she has to work the most, as per my father-in-law's demands" said Reema.
She explained, due to his age, no one asks her father-in-law to perform any chores, while he refuses to drink even a glass of water by himself and asks his wife for every little necessity, like finding his phone or spectacles for him.
"No one minds doing these in normal times. But in such a difficult time when we all are working, it creates an extra pressure on everyone" she said.
Reema said since her father-in-law never had to do any household chores, he is not habituated. Yet he is the one dictating the household, no questions asked.