Handyman or man handy?

Those who say men don’t do housework should read this story. Or better still, meet the L&M. I am told today is International Men’s Day. How can I let this day go unmarked without paying my tributes to that great man I have married  – the best handyman…er…man handy  around the house?  Don’t know the difference? This post is definitely for you! 

Note: This is an old post – about a younger L&M. Watch  out for an update of the present-day-L&M!


The media is full of the ‘new man’ who is a perfect foil to a woman. These paragons  of virtue don’t think twice about pitching in with the housework. I read incredulously about men who change the baby’s diapers without batting an eyelid, carry a tray of bed tea for their working wives and get the kids ready for school. Some I hear, even gladly don the mantle of househusbands. I say ‘incredulously,’ because the L&M, believes in doing only certain things around the house — eating, sleeping, watching TV and eating some more.

But wait, I am being unfair to him. He is actually an understanding and  ‘adjusting’ husband, as my sisters in similar predicament would say in envy. He is ever ready to help around the house, when he is not engaged in one of the above mentioned activities, that is. ‘Shall I shop for vegetables?’, he asks solicitously. ‘Do you want me to put the clothes in the wash?’ he enquires lovingly. ‘Should I do the vessels?’ he asks concernedly. Never mind that I have a fridgeful of vegetables or that I have just straightened my aching back from folding away all the washed and dried clothes and that the vessels are dry and ready to be put away.

So when I refuse, L&M turns around and says with a hurt and accusing look, “See, I want to help, but you wouldn’t let me!” I have never ceased to wonder at how he picks up just the jobs that have already been completed.

Among the jobs I have listed,  he loves the ‘shopping for vegetables’ the best, probably because it has to do with eating. But I dread this as much as the other ‘jobs’ he offers to do. Because, he not only buys enough vegetables to feed a battalion but insists that I should cook them all.

It is worse when he offers to cut them for me. He is maddeningly precise — the cabbage has to be cut just so, the tomatoes only sliced lengthways, the pieces of the ladyfingers cut to the precise millimetre. And such precision work naturally takes time — lots of it. I still wouldn’t complain, if it weren’t for the fact that I have nothing to cook for lunch, for he has only just managed to arrange all the ladyfingers according to their size, prior to cutting by then. They are finally cut and ready by mid-evening and I directly cook dinner. The brats have devoured the pizzas and burgers that I’ve ordered out for them, by then.

What makes me madder is that he would cut three-fourths of the stuff and then say, “You finish the rest.” Grrrrrr.

And when I cook them all, the L&M, barely touches half the dishes. By the time the dishes are put in front of him, it is probably more like an anti-climax — he obviously has had enough of the vegetables, having spent nearly a whole day- and-a half in their company. So I am left with about a kilo of bhindi subzi and another kilo and half of cauliflower-and-beans stew. We end up having left-left-left-over in our house for days (weeks?) after one of L&M’s vegetable buying and cutting sprees.

I guess I am hard to please, as he is fond of telling me. Maybe I am. But then, he is the only person I know who only washes the clothes that he feels like washing. He wouldn’t touch small items like hankies or children’s underwear and socks. He also does not wash clothes that he doesn’t ‘like’. There is no particular rhyme or reason for his dislikes. It could be a particular dress in a colour he hates, or a pair of jeans that are too dirty.

Now the washing itself: the area around the washing machine looks as if a storm has passed through. This is disastrous since my washing machine is in my kitchen and the latter is smaller than a cupboard. As I slither and wade in and out of the pool of soapy water, the L&M complains that I am deliberately creating a scene to make him look inept!

Wash day by the L&M is followed by disaster day, when the brats invariably scream blue murder, because their socks are without their pairs (their father probably didn’t like one of the pair) or their school shirt has not been washed (because he didn’t like the looks of them). Needless to say, the L&M has a martyred look for his ungrateful family.

I told you earlier how ‘adjusting’ he is. He never complains when the house looks as if a dust storm has hit it or as if a typhoon has ravaged it. He happily plonks himself amidst all the mess and watches TV. If I complain, he turns romantic. “You look lovely when you are angry,” he says, eyes glued to the set, making me wonder if he is talking to me or repeating a dialogue from the tube.

With him, it is, ‘You don’t clean it, I won’t clean it. If someone else wants to, let them clean it.’ Obviously no one does, and my house ends up looking like a pigsty.

Not for L&M jobs like changing the fuse or taking the car for servicing or even hanging a picture on the wall. You see, he believes in women’s liberation and allows me to do all the above-mentioned chores and then some! He may offer to make me a cup of tea when I finish shifting the furniture, for instance. Of course, being the ‘man handy’, he does get our teenage son or the guests (sundry nephews/neices) to do some of the jobs, if I crib too much.

Oh, you don’t know what a ‘man handy’ means, do you? Well, you must have all heard of handymen, I suppose? These are the men who can be depended upon to set things right. For instance if your mixer has conked out, all you have to do is holler for the handyman and he would get it running in a jiffy. Cool, eh?

But the man handy — well, he is another kettle of fish altogether, and ‘cooler’ to boot.  He’d also have the mixer fixed — by someone else, usually an expert. He pleads, flatters, pretends to be ignorant, bullies and whines to get things done. Well, the man I am married to is this breed and an expert at that.

He uses the helpless angle, “I am so useless at these things. Can you try your hand?” or “I am in the middle of this important email, could you please do it? I owe you one;” or uses plain flattery. “I hear you are a whiz at fixing gadgets! Wow! I salute you, son/man/friend,” as the case may be. And lo and behold! Your mixer is fixed!

Come to think of it, my ‘man handy’ is a sight better than my friend’s ‘handyman’ husband, or so she tells me. She has nightmares about him coming to her rescue when something needs to be fixed. She has told me of the time there was a short circuit when he changed a bulb and another time when the main water pipe burst while he ‘fixed’ a leaky tap. She envies me my couch potato of a husband. Well, to each her own, I guess!

(A version of this post ‘How Handy are Handymen’ was originally published in TOI, March 22, 1997)

Homepage image courtesy: MercatorNet


  1. Haha.This was hilarious.I wonder if all men confer to discuss the best strategies. A secret place or an FB group where they discuss what approach to take – ignorance , women’s liberation , busy lifestyle or being a perfectionist !


    1. You know what? You have a point. A very good point that needs some research into it 🙂 I guess they inherit it from some rogue gene, don’t you agree? Maybe we would unearth a Stepford Wives like set up. Hope you have read the book by Ira Levin. The movie was all botched up with a female at the head of it all. The book was spooky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such a fun post to read. My dad, l remember, would not do a thing around the house but then he kept helpers for mum and also got thinks fixed promptly. My husband, on the other hand, is quite a handy man. He can fix so many things around the house — electrical, plumbing, carpentry name it. But there are things he will not do — hang out the laundry or load the dishwasher. He cooks sometimes and yes earlier he used to get huge quantities of veggies. Not so much anymore. Thankfully. ☺️


    1. So you have experience of both handyman and man handy, do you? 😀 Well, I am the handy woman around the house, or was, because nowadays with my poor vision I am not able to repair a plug or screw the shelf door properly. What I am saying is that the L&M only does what I can do easily but leaves the other fixing work to others 🙂


  3. […] this particular piece reminded me of my dad and […]


  4. lol! this again was hilarious!


    1. Thanks Varsh. This is the first time I have been tagged. So bear with me if i take a little time to respond! Promise to get down to it ASAP.


  5. oi mom … would have loved the burgers and pizzas for lunch … but dont recall ever getting them 😛

    It would be heart warming for you to know that I am turning into a bit of man handy myself … walking in the shoes of the great man, I must say 🙂


    1. Why do kid have such poor memories when it has to do with good things? Sigh…Just you wait till you are reminded of the other things you have devoured over the years and conveniently forgotten!

      Ha ha. It would warm the cockles of your dad’s (aka L&M) heart to hear that you are following in his footsteps!


  6. lol… the entire story is so familiar. its one of those cases which are roughly the same in every household we know. e.g. my dad loves lazing about when at home and hollering at us kids to get things done (he would be suspiciously polite with mum :P) apart from the days when he wants to cook. he is marvellous at it except he goes really easy on oil n haldi, loves bhindi (which i personally find despite the oil n all, one of the best I have had). yet should you ask him to just handle the controls of the washing machine he would stare at it helplessly (he is so clueless) and finally delegate it to one of us kids before disappearing into one of his naps or shopping sprees (always food :))

    the ‘new man’ has lil or no choice in doing the household chores. reasons:
    1. he has lived as a bachelor for too long and might actually be better than his better half at most of the chores – being lazy about it though offsets the above mentioned quality.
    2. girls today are no less than closet dragon ladies (or maybe its just my luck) – so like it or not, the chap has to help out.
    3. the chap really believes in chipping in with the household chores – man handy or handy man – whichever way it works.

    i personally am good for nothing and even if i wasn’t i would keep that a secret 😉 am just too lazy 😀


    1. I have never understood how the L&Ms can be whizzes at anything electronic or mechanical and electrical if it is to with their work, while they are clueless if it is a household gadget! It must be their way of avoiding the work, no doubt.

      Your observations on the new man merits a new post. Thanks for the ideas Sumit.


      1. in defense of my dad, I must say he is a serious technophobe. All modern gadgets leave him bewildered. His most difficult conquest has been his mobile 😀


        1. Wow! that’s better than my L&M who refuses to learn the predictable text in messaging and drives me nuts click clicking!


        2. i don’t predictive text either. 😛


          1. Oh! I am curious to know the reason, if you may be kind enough to enlighten me…


  7. I was laughing the whole time while reading this! Its like ‘ghar ghar ki kahani’ 🙂

    But true nevertheless…behave like you care and would like to be of some use..when actually you’re secretly trying to concentrate on the cricket match on TV…and when you do help…do it in such a way that no more help would ever be asked from you!

    Loved it!! 🙂


    1. Thank you Varsh. You have just got it right . The key words are ‘like you care’. And yes, they make sure we don’t dare call them for any assistance, the way they ‘render’ it the first time.


  8. Dats a delicious one!


  9. This was fun. Enjoyed it. As to the ‘new man’, I’m not sure he’s as honest as we think. Or may be I’m just too old to appreciate it 😉


    1. Thanks you anthonynorth. the new breed seems to be sincere, at least for the present. Let us hope they continue being so.


  10. 🙂 what a delight to visit your blog and read some heart warming stuff. My dad helped us a lot at home as mom was working too in fact my brother is a fab cook and now so are my sons. Trained in almost all the work at home so I have a little team od ” handy men” my boys and hubby. lol

    very “adjusting”

    lovely post. keep them coming. love


    1. Thanks for visiting and the comment Tikuli. What would we do without our handymen and men handy, eh?

      just voted for your post on your blog. way to go.


  11. lucky Vinnie… first things first, i adore ur writing and got the courage at last to write a comment… Great work amma…

    and lol at appa…. Reminds me of my own father and his “food from waste”.. that is he will use all the left overs to create something innovative and makes us all eat… of course we all used to dread such “dishes”… dosa from left over murukku *dont ask how*, paruppu podi from dried and ground tapioca *i got no clue* et al…

    and his fixing skills even better… fixing a leaky pipe means no water for next one week, coz it will be completely blocked.. lolzz

    Great post amma.. keep writing and rocking


    1. Oh thanks D Rat (isn’t that what you call yourself?) for the lovely comment. you write very well yourself. It is great to see similar stories emerge in response to my posts. keeps me going! Visit again!


      1. i got blogrolled?? yay!! i got blogrolled.. thanks amma…

        and yup i call myself Ratzzz 🙂 stuck with me since school time


        1. Hey, you make it sound like you have been road-rolled or something! You are welcome.

          The name brings to mind a snoozy rat!


  12. Siddharth · · Reply

    Another one of the hilarious L&M and brats series! Each one makes me look forward more to the next one 🙂 Ma’am please do let me know if you ever put out a compilation in book form or something!
    As for the post, pretty close to home this one as well. The thing is, we do want to help but often have no clue how to go about it. For instance, my dad thinks that the best way to help my mom while she’s shuttling between the washing machine and the kitchen busily is to turn off the tap while the machine is in the rinse cycle (“Oh but the water was coming out of the drain pipe!”). So when she returns after the buzzer on the machine goes off, she realises to her extreme annoyance that the clothes just went through a meaningless cycle with partially soapy water and that she’ll just have to repeat the whole process again.
    Of course, as they say, all is not lost. Ever since my grandmother stopped accompanying my mom for vegetable shopping, my dad took over. While he did lend valuable contribution through the driving and bag carrying services offered, obviously my mother thought it was not enough. So she taught him how to pick chillies (Yeah he loves chillies!). So now while my mother wanders around the neighbourhood Reliance Fresh rounding up all the vegetables he goes at the chillies with a vengeance, an attempt to reclaim the lost 50 years of his chilli picking career and by the end of the shopping trip we have enough chillies to feed a baraat, for a week!
    And then sometimes she ropes in my services for assisting my dad. I guess she doesn’t get the point that while we don’t get how to pick vegetables, once taught properly we still amount to two people’s worth of productivity. Often I have to stop picking chillies only because either the plastic bag exploded or there are about 20 people (women mind you, the men are too busy doing nothing) staring at us, stifling a laugh probably!


    1. lol I can just picture the pair of you stuffing the bag with chillies! The women probably were glaring at you for not leaving any for them!

      I would love to bring out a compilation. let’s see ….Thanks for the thought and the support.


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