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Household work, cooking included, is not gender-dependant. It is high time we stopped behaving as if it were, and taught everyone to cook and clean for themselves.
Once, on the happy occasion of my cousin receiving top marks for her 10th board exams, we were invited to their home to celebrate. While everybody was talking of exciting professions that she could pursue, one aunt interrupted all of us – “you now need to learn cooking from your mother.”
My cousin nodded in reply.
We sisters couldn’t decipher what a board exam topper had to do with cooking then! None of our cousin brothers who topped exams were given this nugget of advice from this aunt, after all. Most of our cousin brothers, on the other hand, took pride in believing that in the Indian culture, women were expected to do the chores for them. Since girls are not allowed to argue, and the manly men didn’t find anything wrong with the comment, nothing was said. A voice can be silenced. But a mind cant. It doesn’t recognize societal rules.
Hence, this article.
Everybody loves home-cooked meals. However, there is a price that women pay to satisfy the gluttony of people she calls her family (what they treat her like, is an entirely different topic of conversation).
The best wife is one who toils away at home, cooking, doing all the household chores without any complaints. The more she keeps the rest of the family away from household work, the more sparkly her halo becomes. This, of course, is the age-old practice of putting women on a high pedestal and not accepting anything less – the big trap.
She is the first to wake up and the last to sleep. Yet, ask her if she has the time to scan the newspaper like her husband, listen to the news, pursue a hobby, or even exercise, you will get an answer in the negative. Her family, of course, won’t miss out on a chance to ridicule her on how little she knows about current affairs or even a slight glitch in the running of the household.
Ask yourself why your mother is ill-informed about what’s happening around the world – ask yourself where she was while you were reading the paper or watching the news. Then there is a popular opinion that when your mother gets old and is tired of working for you, it’s time for the sons to get married. The cycle, thus, continues.
It’s not only the women who suffer. While many kids focus on pursuing their dreams by traveling far and wide to achieve what they want, many others choose to settle for something close to home. All the better to enjoy their mother’s culinary skills and the comfort of having other people to do their chores for them! When their parents get old for that – voila! Time to get married!
There’s another way to do things- the less popular opinion. The entire household could wake up together and take charge (not help) of the household chores, so that everybody leaves for work together, watches the news together, enjoys their hobbies, and gets enough sleep! It is not impossible, but it’s just not done.
Faced with the pressure of learning how to cook in a style that would satisfy my future husband and in-laws, while juggling a job, connecting with a new person who would be my future partner, and preparing for an exam a few months away, my friend gave me some golden advice- all you need to cook is YouTube and your mother on the phone.
One year into my marriage, this rings true. A detailed recipe and a non-judgemental relative/friend to call up in times of kitchen duress are all you need. And of course, an emotionally safe environment to experiment in. Does cooking need to be glorified? No. Just like how mixing the correct reagents in the correct proportion could give you the desired result in the chemistry lab, it is the same with cooking. Do young girls need to take time away from their studies and fields of interest to perfect the art? Again, no!
So. Do girls need to know cooking? Yes. So do boys. Just like kids need to be taught basic life skills like cleaning their own plates and washing their own undergarments, irrespective of gender.
Cooking does not mean training them to be master chefs. It just means cooking a few basics – especially the things that they like, to empower them to follow their dreams, wherever they want in the world. Without their insufficiencies pulling them back, chaining them to the confines of their home, while they were destined to fly.
Top image is a still from the Malayalam movie The Great Indian Kitchen
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Before expecting the daughter in law to love, respect and accept the new family, it is only fair that the family demonstrates all of these first.
If you are a married Indian woman, one of the first words you hear from your in laws is that you are now a daughter of the house. How true is that statement though? Are daughters in law really treated as daughters or is this only lip service?
A friend recently confided how hurt she felt when she wanted to visit her in-laws along with her husband but was told not to, because the in-laws wanted time alone with their son. Naturally, she was taken aback since she had always been fed this trope – that she was the daughter, not the daughter in law. Why then this sudden keeping at arm’s distance? Would a son in law ever be told not to accompany his wife on her visit to her parents because they wanted quality time with their daughter? That is unimaginable in a patriarchal society.
It is ok to want time alone with the married offspring but how does that meld into the Indian family system, where independent choices are less important than the whole family coming together?
My husband returns home tired after working & travelling. I, like other working women, return home refreshed after enjoying full day at office!
I am a working woman and mother of a 2 year old daughter. People say I am irresponsible and lazy because I have a house-help.
Yes, I’m irresponsible and don’t have any work. Except checking what groceries needs to be refilled and ordering them for home delivery, washing my and my husband’s clothes, drying and folding them, getting the work-wear clothes ironed, keeping clothes in place, cleaning bathrooms and toilets, changing bedsheets, dusting windows occasionally, hand washing my daughter’s soiled clothes in hot water, bathing my daughter twice, feeding my daughter breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Rest other work like cooking and house cleaning done by the house-help and my husband takes care of getting fruits and vegetables from the market every week. So I don’t have any work except those few mentioned earlier.
We grew up hearing girls were equal to boys. We were taught to be better than the boys, while picking up after them. Not exactly fair, was it?
We grew up hearing girls were equal to boys. We were taught to be better than the boys, while still picking up after them. Not exactly fair, was it?
If you grew up in India in the 2000’s, you might remember being told that as girls, we were on the same level as the boys. You can do everything a guy can! We were told, ‘we are raising our girls who can walk alongside, or even overtake men’.
But what we weren’t told was that we get to do all that – after finishing our duties in the kitchen, cleaning our house, taking care of our obligatory duties as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law…
If you enjoy cooking, good for you. But for women who don't, to have cook three meals a day, day in and day out, all of their lives is nothing more than torture.
If you enjoy cooking, good for you. But for women who don’t, to have to cook three meals a day, day in and day out, all of their lives is nothing more than torture.
Cooking is a scam perpetuated on women by the patriarchy.
Just typing that down makes me feel like a deflated balloon. So relieved.