Housewives of Substance

Housewives of Substance

Life of a traditional Indian housewife, even if she dwells in an urban setting, more or less revolves around her family. Realising a need for housewives to break out of this domestic monotony, Leela Joshi, an enthusiastic English Teacher from Thane, started a social women-only club for those living in and around Thane. The club, founded 29 years ago, is aptly called Sakhi Shezarini Mahila Mandal, which loosely translates into "Friends and Neighbours Club for Women." For the 300 life members aged between 30 years to over 70 years, the club is an excellent place for unwinding themselves and helping their all round development.

The members meet every month and discuss issues that face housewives. Kitchen issues, parenting, plant-care, spirituality and god, health and fitness, beauty and fashion and the like are the issues discussed. Prominent speakers, usually experts in their fields, are called in to address the members. Besides, interaction with so many women and experts speakers helps them improve their general knowledge quotient too.

A couple of weeks ago, women from the club got an opportunity to participate in contests that tested their knowledge and ability. Organised by the club in it’s own premises at Ghantali, there were in all four competitions. The first one was a quiz based on general knowledge – on how much they know about the goings-on around the world. As many as 45 women participated in this contest. The second competition was something of a memory test wherein the participants were required write something down as quickly as possible (like names of flowers or the lines of a song) in the time allotted to them. It was tougher than it seems, because women older than 60 years also participated. Yet, 50 women participated in this one.

The third and the most difficult of the lot was the elocution competition. Participants were asked to pick a chit which contained a topic and their task was to speak on the given topic for two minutes. They were given 30 minutes to prepare. Abstract topics such as "environment consciousness", "Who is God?" and "The person who shape my life" ensured that only 30 brave women contested. Unlike the first two, this was a subjective competition and therefore required judges. Sujata Bhide and Vinita Sharma did the umpiring.

The final contest was also subjective and was probably the closest to the hearts of most members. It was the recipe contest. The challenge here was to make a dish using chana dal (split Bengal gram), sweet or spicy. 50 women participated in the recipe contest which was judged by Uma Amrute and Lalita Chimote. One over-enthusiastic prepared 10 dishes for this contest. The winner in the Sweet Dish category was Vaishali Gupte who made a chana dal cake. The other winners were Shobha Kale who made sheera, and Sulabha Puranik who made laddoos.
In the spicy category, Sulabha Kulkarni won the first prize for her chana dal lollipop, much like the roasted chicken lollipop. Other winners were Rohini Damle, Malati Bhagwat and Jyotsna Phadke. A local restaurant had sponsored the prizes for this event.

Competitions such as the above add more meaning to the otherwise routine lives of women, especially housewives. As Joshi says, "The club activities motivate and inspire many members to get out of their houses and do something constructive. Most importantly, they get a platform to express their individual selves."

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