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A writer muses on the lives of strangers she encounters at a vegetable shop. Their conversations tell her about their sexism that says, “Kitchen is women’s work!”
It was Sunday. The vegetable shop was buzzing. People eat well during the weekends or I should say that they stash well for the week. I manoeuvred myself to get to the stuff I wanted and so did the others.
A couple entered. A young chap with his lady and I presumed her to be his wife. The boy had Sony headphones on. I wondered why? with track pants and a casual red t-shirt. The girl was sweet with a smiling face. I like people who smile as it’s an instant attraction. They were newly married and it was written all over – too many bangles on her wrists, long slender manicured fingers, nail paint slightly worn off, a fancy salwar kameez (crumbled though) that she must have been gifted by some mausi or chacha. Her hair was slightly ruffled. They smiled at each other and this would tell us the tale of a night well spent.
The lady come and stood next to me. We smile at each other. She chooses vegetables immaculately, picking the fresh ones, leaving aside the dented ones. She was deft at it – she has been tutored well and she has learnt the art well too. She just knew and probably was conjuring the recipe in her mind. Yeh piyaj ke saath banau ki bina piyaj ke..! (Should I make it with onions or without?)
I saw a band-aid in her left thumb. A cut, hota hai. Working in the kitchen isn’t easy as some perceive it to be. She looked intermittently at her man, smiling. Then, she picked up some beetroot and showed it to him. He said No! She put it down and then she picked up lauki, he says no to that as well. She slumped, cutely though, “Fir kya lu mein?” (then what should I take?) she asked.
“Kuch bhi le lo na yaar” (Take anything!), he says.
“Aap bata de, kya khana pasand karoge” (Do tell me what you would like to eat), she asked him again.
The boy then came along and starts scavenging the vegetables. He was clearly clueless. He didn’t know a thing about buying vegetables and stuff. Forget cooking, he couldn’t even go beyond alu, gobbi, onions and bhindi. His discomfort was palpable. But he knew how to be fussy, expecting, choosy and finicky.
He was a pampered man, the ‘Babu Shona’ of the Bengali people or the ‘Raja beta’ of some Sharmaji or Vermaji’s household.
Why cannot a man be taught about what happens in the kitchen? Why does he have to be kept aside? Why does he grow up with a perception that he will just pay and the rest of it isn’t his domain? Oh wait. Maybe he has been tutored that now ‘biwi’ is there, he don’t have to do anything at all. Whatever he knew, he can forget that as well. Aish karo!
Be it my father, my husband, brother or few other men I am close to, they aren’t like this. They know how to fend themselves. Even if they doesn’t cook, they are not the men showing pucker face. They know how it works. I wish everyone knew it too. I respect them for being like this. You see, they will pick themselves up in their own eyes and also in others’. At least know vegetables, for god’s sake! Sabjiya, khane wali. Bahut difficult hai?
And, then as I walk off the store, I worry about one more stuff. Hope there is no one at home waiting to scrutinise the ‘Bahu’ based on the sabjis. That’s very dreadful.
That innocent smile will die a sad death then. Slowly, but surely, stealing glances at her man, she would never be able to sing again… “Muskurane ki wajah tum ho…”! (You are the reason for my smile…)
A version of this was first published on the author’s FB page.
Image source: YouTube
An avid reader, a blogger, a book reviewer, a freelancer writer and an aspiring author.
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