It was a few days back when this incident happened. My family was busy in making proper arrangements to receive a guest, an acquaintance of my father. Women were busy in the kitchen making delicious dishes. Kids were ordered to make less noise and be presentable. The whole house was made neat and clean as if Diwali had come. Meanwhile, I had taken up my responsibility to make Palak Paneer and Kheer. After a lot of hard work which included burning my right hand a bit, I finished and arranged the dinner on the table. My mum made rotis and kept it in a hot box. Our guest came and he was immediately asked to feel at home. He talked and chatted happily recollecting his old memories with my dad. When dinner started, he ate quietly till I appeared with some more cold water. I was pouring it in his half empty glass when he suddenly started the following interview:
“So you have started cooking huh?” he smiled and asked with a boyish grin on his round face.
“Yes uncle, but not much” I answered quickly, not wanting him to assume that I had cooked the whole dinner.
“She made the Palak Paneer, you know” my father said proudly and pushed the Palak Paneer bowl in front of the guest to take some more.
“I cannot make round rotis like mummy yet. I have to still learn that” I confessed and was about to go into kitchen when uncle’s next words stopped me.
“Cannot make round rotis!” uncle exclaimed so loudly as if I had admitted to some heinous crime right before him.
“You must learn to make rotis. This vegetables and all anyone can make! What good is that if you cannot make rotis? A girl should learn that or else what is the use of being a girl anyway?” uncle said and went back to attacking Palak Paneer.
My father saw my angry expression and quickly intervened on my behalf.
“You know, gone are the days when women had to only work in kitchen and look after the kids. Today, they are educated and work outside. You cannot expect them to know everything about cooking in their 20s! Those days are gone!” my father explained as if it was as simple as learning A-B-C.
“My daughter can cook basic stuff. That is enough for now. Anyway, she is busy nowadays. What with her usual projects, she is always making presentations and what not. You know how our working culture is competitive right now” my father spoke in a final tone as if it would make our guest to stop further enquiring on my cooking skills. Uncle did stop. And I went in the kitchen, my sisters had gathered to discuss more on this topic. There was an instant uproar among my teenage sisters. And I was left to ponder on why I had wasted my time in preparing dishes in the kitchen for uncle instead of finishing my project work lying upstairs.
I had a small talk with my mother that night. She started telling me how she wasn’t an accomplished cook in the kitchen when she was newly married. But she was lucky to have a good mother-in-law who never taunted her for it. Eventually after a few months passed by, she could cook well after gaining some experience. But right now, in 21st century, women are supposed to fare well in everything. Do your job, earn salary and cook brilliantly in kitchen. It’s a one way of keeping your husband and in-laws happy. My mother said these words but it wasn’t enough for me.
When one of my relatives got married, I thought her life would be happy afterwards. She worked in a reputed company and her in-laws wanted a working woman like her. Everything was going nicely till the ultimate bitter truth of life fell on her. She got up at 4am in morning to complete her house hold work. Her in-laws were a joint family but nobody helped her. She finished making breakfast and lunch single-handedly and went to her job. After returning in the evening, she got into low spirits seeing the mess in the kitchen. Utensils were piled up for her to wash and nobody would clean the kitchen. She lost her appetite and used to work all evening till dinner time. Sometimes, in her hurry to go to office, she couldn’t cook rice well or the tea would become too sweet. The poor woman was tormented for this lack of concentration. One day, her in-laws called her own mother to complain about it. They were not happy with the way she was cooking and wanted to know what her maika walas had taught her! When this piece of news reached me, I wanted to ask them bluntly, have they wanted a daughter-in-law for their son or a maid servant?
Is a woman meant to cook since her childhood? Is it a crime if a girl does not want to become a great chef but just a humble housewife? Why are women in their 30s, who cannot cook properly, looked down upon? I agree that women must learn to cook but expecting young girls to become excellent cook and at the same time achieve first rank in their class is too much of a pressure. Some girls do have an excellent knack of cooking and they enjoy it. While some do not like it but still have to do it because they are women, no other choice. Indian women, my mother clarifies! They are compared with one another. A girl about to be married has to know everything that comes under cooking, especially every dish that her mother-in-law can make. What one fails to understand is that, a girl, newly married, has very less experience in cooking because she had her mother to cook for her in her maika. And working women spend more time in office than in kitchen, before they get married anyway. If they know basic cooking and aren’t letting anybody starve, people should be satisfied and be patient.
One of my friends hates to cook and therefore is labeled as ‘lazy’. The same person can make very good Hakka noodles if she gets into one of her tempers! My cousin sister cannot make Rice and Dal. Instead she likes making sandwiches and yummy chocolates at home. And for the record, I am 22 years old and can make rice, dal, vegetable curry, any dish including paneer and every other stuff which comes under ‘basic cooking’. But I am still under the process of learning to make round rotis. I just don’t understand, what is there between me and rotis, but I just don’t get it. I fail to make them round. My mother smiles sweetly at my attempts and encourages me. But still if anybody got a problem with that, then hell. I will order from the nearby restaurant for you :):)