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‘Women belong in the kitchen, men don’t,’ is quite a common stereotype. However, the writer’s father broke this stereotype, by helping out in the kitchen.
My paternal grandmother Numma would often bow down to the patriarchal forces and the misogynistic activities in the household. And these were brought in primarily by Dada, my paternal grandfather. However, if someone from his tribe would disagree to it and stand as a non-conformist, it was Baba! And he still remains one.
Long ago, when feminism hadn’t entered the common man’s world, Baba was one such feminist. And he would go out of his way to help Maa in everything that was deemed a woman’s job. He was already breaking the shackles of patriarchy that made the kitchen the woman’s primary domain.
Baba would (and still does) make the morning’s first cuppa. This gave Maa some relief till she found herself engaged in the crazy morning rituals!
‘Of course, that was her job,’ they said but Baba refused. I remember Sundays where he would offer help in the kitchen with the meals of the day that the other men relished.
This quality of Baba’s makes him different from the rest of tribe. And that can be attributed to Numma’s teachings. She ensured that her daughters-in-law didn’t have to have the same fate she did.
The days when we were neither modern or privileged, our kitchen had clay stoves. These took a lot of patience to light up. And being an orthodox household, any non-vegetarian item (primarily fish) would be cooked outside the house, in the courtyard.
As a child, I remember seeing the women often choking due to the clay stoves. This continued till one day Baba installed the modern gas stove. Once again, proving that he was different from the rest.
The women of the house were given the most laborious, time consuming chores as they didn’t have much to contribute other than feeding and procreation. And one of these tasks was cleaning and gutting the fish. However, Baba changed it all. Till date, he cleans the fish before Maa cooks it. Another such task was peeling the banana fruit or ‘mocha’ as us Bengali’s call it. It takes hours to get ready before it can be cooked. Thankfully, these days, it is often available- peeled, cleaned and well packed. However, when it wasn’t so, Baba used to do it for Maa.
A man does not become a man simply by the virtue of his physiology. I believe that a man becomes a man only when he believes in treating women as other humans. A real man is not about the brawn or masculinity, but about uplifting the opposite gender and not infringing upon their basic rights.
I call Baba a feminist, because I have seen him fight for the basic rights of the women in his house and the ones he knew.
And isn’t that what feminism stands for? Isn’t that what breaking the stereotypes is?
Picture credits: YouTube
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