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Men Are Served First; Women Finish The Leftovers In The Kitchen… Why?!

My mother in law went to the kitchen and served herself, saying that there was no need to eat kheer in a fancy bowl - any plate is Ok. Why? I didn't ask, she didn't tell.

My mother in law went to the kitchen and served herself, saying that there was no need to eat kheer in a fancy bowl – any plate is Ok. Why? I didn’t ask, she didn’t tell.

Translated from the original in Hindi.

It was my first day in my in-laws’ kitchen. According to the tradition of a new bride, I made kheer, and started setting it out it in glass bowls brought from my mother’s house, after which my elder sister-in-law told me that it would be good if I could serve the people at the dining table myself, as there was also the tradition of neg.

I walked up to the dining table, and realised that only the men of the family were sitting there; even my mother-in-law was sitting on the ground. I realized how important men are in the house, even if it was a fourth grade kid.

Well, everyone appreciated the kheer, and not only gave me the neg, but also the responsibility of picking up the messy bowls. I picked up each bowl, washed it, wiped it and put it away. Handling of glass needs a lot of care, and maybe men’s egos too.

About half an hour later the women started eating. My mother in law went to the kitchen and served herself, saying that there was no need to eat kheer in a fancy bowl – any plate is Ok. Why? I didn’t ask, she didn’t tell.

“Anything will do for us” Why?!

The next day more than half the guests were leaving. Women were engaged in the kitchen since the morning. Morning breakfast, tea, packed breakfast for the travel, lunch, everything was prepared by the women together in the kitchen, and the men ate all the meals like the night before, at the dining room.

Women also ate, but some sat down on the floor, while some ate standing in the kitchen. Meanwhile, it was the responsibility of the younger women like me to get back the dirty utensils of the men from the dining table, and to stand up and serve the men.

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The wedding guests started leaving one by one, after eating and drinking, and the house slowly became empty. At last my youngest sister-in-law had to go. She served food to her husband, removed his plate after he had finished, then she fed her children, after which she picked up her bag and got ready to go and after picking up the bag.

I was surprised at this. She had done a lot of work while cooking, but was now going without eating food! I insisted that she eat first, and began putting food for her on a plate – she quickly came to the kitchen, took some rice in a big bowl, poured dal over it, added some vegetables on top and began eating while standing in the kitchen.

I asked her, “Didi, have you ever seen your husband eating like this?”

“Oh no,” she said, “He will throw away his food if I don’t serve it well!”

“Then why are you eating like this?” I asked.

“It’s Ok, it’s only us,” she replied, “Anything will do.”

She ate, washed her bowl and put it aside to drain, saying that it was what she always did anyway. Long after she had left, her words kept echoing in my head. “What about us? Anything will do.”

Really? Should “anything do” for us, just because we’re women? Serving the men hot food, picking up the messy plates after they had eaten their fill and left them there, eating like this, standing up, yourself, and spending the day in the kitchen. Should “anything do” for us? And why?

When we ourselves normalise these things and do not object, then why should those who benefit by all this ever object on our behalf?

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