While juggling multiple roles, don’t forget you are important too. Make yourself a priority because no one else will with #KhayaalRakhna
I had to do all the cooking for my parents and grandparents when they were in isolation for COVID at home, and boy, it was a whole new thing altogether!
As I wrap a tissue around my right index finger that been cut for the 64 millionth time (no band aid at home!), I realize that I am absolutely frustrated, need a vacation (actually just a drink), and I currently absolutely hate my family.
It all started a week ago when I was in another city with my nani, enjoying her cajoling after the longest time. That’s when my mum called me saying that my father and grandmother had tested positive for the virus, and she was in isolation with her result due in 24 hrs. I was expected to return that very day to take care of the house and be their caregiver.
Much to my dismay I returned, leaving behind my brother so there would be one less person to care for. From then on I’ve been pretty much on my toes (and I say this as a measurement of my toes for I’ve never undertaken handling so many people at once!)
Breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothes, visiting the market, it’s all endless, not to mention the regular feedback from the men of the house.
Now when I think of it, my mother has been doing this for half of her life! And while this week made me reiterate to myself that I am never going to have a family or kids, it made me wonder why I didn’t wish for people around me to change and share domestic workload. Perhaps because subconsciously I know this isn’t possible (Covid – remember?)!
I was privileged enough to not know how to cook – mum or dadi took care of that or we could afford to order out.
My aversion to the kitchen mostly developed because my mom kept talking about how she hated the kitchen, and also because it seemed like a gendered role and I just wanted to rebel against that. I knew basics like ‘Maggi’ (arranged marriage ladka starter pack), rotis (don’t know if I should be proud but my rotis turn out to be pretty well shaped), simplest aloo sabji, tea and baking with the help of youtube videos.
But cooking for 5 people who are sick is another task! Quite a distasteful task (no pun intended). Besides, running around to different rooms at different times, while trying to maintain the temperature of the food and not catching the virus was an added level.
The first morning involved me figuring out how to perfectly boil potatoes – that took 700 youtube videos and 400 websites (please don’t trust my numbers, they’re as fake as COVID ones). I had to ensure that everything was perfect so my fussy father would eat it properly in his state of sickness.
As the days passed, the dishes got more complicated and so did my youtube and google searches – thank god for Tarla Dalal and Swathi’s recipe!
My recipe search would be interrupted by me googling one of the steps. Cutting each vegetable was alien to me. By the time one meal would be cooked, the kitchen would be a mess, the slab would have 5 million things spilt on it, the milk would be curdled, a trail of ants would be following a chunk of sugar, a toast would have been burnt!
Using the pressure cooker for the first time was overcoming another kind of fear! it required hours of mental preparation and so many google searches on the substitutes of a pressure cooker!
Honestly, cleaning the entire mess and clearing it for the next meal was damn tedious! As one person, I could have simply survived on one set of paranthas, or bread or just fruits. But here were 4 and a half sick people (counting my grandfather as a bored displaced man who had access to the public space of the house but not the public) who were extremely fazed by their sickness. They needed something to get them going and food was one of them!
Burning a finger or two and having a hand with invisible cuts on them is when I realized how essential cooking as a skill is, irrespective of gender or privilege! It’s a survival skill, food literally keeps people going.
But that’s the question, did my parents expect me to come back and handle everything in the house because I am 18 or because I am a girl? I was speaking to a friend and he told me how his grandmom didn’t even think he was capable of cleaning the pooja room, and honestly my brother is 15 and I don’t see my parents expecting the same from him at 18. I mean how would they, my 70 year old grandfather doesn’t know the K of Kitchen.
As women we are expected to be responsible and born Michelin star chefs – which is untrue! I learnt how to cook through experimenting this week, I wasn’t born with the skill nor did my uterus give me an upperhand on the ‘consistency’ of the dal. (My dad had entire conversations with me every night, discussing the consistency of my dal, and I resisted saying ‘khud banalo’)!
This entire trope of maa ke haath ka khana being a blessing and love in disguise and the best in the world etc etc is extremely stupid, just another assumption of the privileged male writers. If you work in the kitchen for one meal and come out with time hanging like a sword on your neck, you’ll know you feel no affection or love towards anyone, just this intense feeling of figuring out how to get away with murder. No Maa is a born star chef, she is forced to master this craft according to the taste of her family – imagine the number of fingers she’s burnt or cut!
Cooking can be a leisure activity but only when you don’t have to do it every single day – as a task waiting for a deadline or a project that gets mandatory feedback. Nonetheless it is essential for everyone to get a hang of it, so in the time of crisis you aren’t running here and there for a band aid while a forgotten toast is being cremated in the kitchen.
Oh shit! I left the tea on a turned on gas! Be right back.
Image source: owngarden from Getty Images Signature Free for Canva Pro
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views. Individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times. If you have a complementary or differing point of view, sign up and start sharing your views too!
I'm just really scared, I'll never become anything!
Still exploring, trying to put
As A Daughter-In-Law, Why Is My Sleep Of No Importance To Anyone Else?
As A Freelancer, How Do You Deal With All The Stress And Chaos Of Having Everyone At Home?
But You Haven’t Healed Yet, Mom… How Could I Tell You?
Confessions Of A ‘Fat Girl’: “I Am Mocked, Ridiculed And Forgotten”
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!