An epilogue for “The great Indian kitchen”

The movie is becoming much discussed and for all the right reasons. I don’t want to talk about much about it any more than, “Go and watch it!” I would rather jump into the thoughts that were triggered inside my head following the watch.

I don’t know about you, but marriage is a scary concept for me. My parents have put in their fair share of effort into conditioning me to the unavoidable destiny of ‘going to another house.’ They are a good pair of parents to an Indian girl child. Therefore, dear world, please do not judge them. The problem was in me. Instead of being a meek subject to their attempts, I spotted that something was odd about the whole deal. ‘Entho thakaraarundallo .. ‘ Because the initial, foundational four years of my life were spent in the company of my maternal grandparents, I have unconsciously imbibed some of their best virtues. For instance, if something seems amiss, it raises blatant red alerts everywhere inside my head, much like it happens with my Grandfather.

Entho thakaraarundallo..(Something is askew..)

While doing dishes, when Mom advised me to apply minimal torque to the tap, so that instead of gushing out, the water streams out shyly, I would have understood it if it was because the water in our tank was running out or because the liquid in question is a precious resource that the planet should try to save up. But the aforementioned torque level was prescribed because in the “house I will ‘go’ into” water might not be freely flowing entity. I felt, ‘Entho thakararundallo’. Nevertheless, till date, I can simply not do dishes under water that is wildly pouring out of the tap. This is a wonderful habit, I can hear Mother Earth thank Mother Mine for the training.

Not all instructions were such that they were eventually useful for the larger picture regardless of the intentions that motivated them. For instance, when I was spotted adding Masala powder into the curry directly from the package (like I saw them do in some Masala commercials), I was advised to use a spoon. Not because precision cooking is better cooking. But because this method of improper measurement might be frowned upon in the “house I will ‘go’ into”, even though it is not a big deal in our home. Today, when it comes to powders in cooking, my thumb, forefinger and my intuition are my trusted tools. When I was trained to take my plate and glass and wash it and place it in the rack when visiting someone, I thought this was a good idea: lets help the hosts by making it a little less work for them! I did not think ‘something was askew’ with this habit until the day a bunch of us from my Masters visited a male classmate’s home and while the boys in the lot left their plates on their table after eating, I picked up mine, washed and placed it in its perfect place and the hosts (the classmate’s Mom and Aunt) did not even try to establish order by pretending that this was unnecessary. I became a ‘good girl’ in front of them, I did what my Mom had taught me to do and in the process made her an invisible, but ‘good mother’, even though I writhed with discomfort at the differential expectations out of a bunch of students based on nothing but their gender. Just so you know, my male classmates were not judged poorly for their lack of contribution towards reducing the pressures of hosting. Unlike me, they were not visiting the house for the first time, because they were close friends of the host. Now, I still follow the principle and do my dishes when visiting someone, so that the end of the day is a little less tiring for them, but I go a step ahead and observe the men who were guests just like me, and if the same courtesy is lacking in them, I severely judge them as well as their parents inside my head. Not that my judgement matters unless the man in question is going home with me, but this is my harmless way of getting even with the bitter world that would ruthlessly judge me and my Mom if I forgot the courtesy.

Having mentioned some instances of preparatory exercises which were simply lacking in logic or harmlessly stupid, let me briefly mention some others which were vicious enough to scar my relationship with my loved ones, perhaps (hopefully not) forever. I am talking about that evening when my mom corrected me ‘Your house? This is not your house’ when I gleefully asked for the keys so that I can unlock ‘my house’. I am also talking about the time when I was casually reminded by one of them that I would be busy doing ‘Chakki Pisna’ right now, if it had not been for their ‘progressiveness’ in permitting me to follow and work for my dreams. Going from scattered feelings that ‘something is odd’ I had unlocked new levels of uneasiness in my relationship with what is considered the most important thing in the world – the family.

How many of these advices/statements have you, dear male reader, received from your family? What kind of steps have been taken by them to prepare you to live with a partner after marriage? Have you perhaps heard a whole different set of advices related to life, which you have found illogical? I am very curious.

Everything is justified.

I have a tendency to diminish the intensity of my sadnesses in comparison with that of the rest of the world. Therefore, terrible as it may sound, it does seem that many out there experience worse formats of conditioning in the name of being an Indian girl who one day inevitably will have to ‘go’ out of the family and ‘into another house.’ This seems to be a possible explanation for a specific variety of sudden rudeness that parents sometimes throw on their girl child out of nowhere. Other times these are carefully calculated. It looks like they use these acts as a way to condition themselves as well. They seem to be preparing themselves for the impending moment when they will have to ‘send’ their daughter away, when she will turn from being their kid to the ‘daughter of another house’. They may be doing or saying certain things to develop a distance so that that moment is slightly easier? I am not sure. But does this justify what is happening to their relationship, or in the minds of the daughters who keep hearing this? Definitely not.

A little after I grew up I realised that the feeling of ‘entho thakaraarundallo’ was really my mind spotting mild consequences of patriarchy. Why is it established without question that a marriage leads to the girl ‘going to another home’? You might argue that in modern times married couples make their own lives, share their own home and each set of family are equally present in their life. That is indeed a picture fair and worth celebrating! Clap Clap Clap. Now you please justify to me, the years worth of conditioning in an Indian girl’s life. Please explain to me why the Moms of daughters live with the anxiety that they will be held responsible for not teaching things to their daughters. Please justify to me the immense pressure Mothers, Daughters, and their relationships undergo in the name of preparation for life after marriage. Why does the girl break down into tears while ‘bidding farewell’ to her family members before entering her new husband’s car and all he has to do is watch the scene and put her in the vehicle and close the door when it is over? Is it just an outdated ritual or is it a silent establishment that, things might be different, times may have changed but marriage is still largely a lost game for the Indian woman? While we are thinking about it, perhaps we will also understand Grandma’s sigh, that goes with, ‘Is it a girl’ when a baby girl is born.

The convention of taking the girl home after marriage has been around for so long that it is now normalised and no one finds it odd that when two people decide to come together to share a life, one of them is being demanded to sacrifice her entire comfort and take up a new family. She is deliberately trained for this transfer of ownership (in the words of DQ in some movie). She might have a roof over her head and people to call family, but emotionally she is rendered homeless by this custom. Why has it not yet been called out as evil? Why doesn’t people see the partisanship at play? At the basic level, a girl loses the place where she could lounge around reading with her feet up against the couch backrest or walk around and break into a dance without qualms, the place which she has known since her birth and has to develop that comfort at a brand new place amidst brand new people. Why does she have to be the one to endure that? Why doesn’t she deserve to keep what is already hers and make equal efforts as her partner would put in, to belong with the new?

A lot need to be thought about. There is a long way to go before marriage becomes a less scary phenomenon to cases like me. While we wait for that to happen, dear friends, try to find some time, a couple of years, for yourself, when you work, cook, feed and look after yourselves. Shopping for your own groceries, pampering yourselves with good food you cooked for yourselves, cleaning up after yourself, doing your own dishes, and in your spare time, indulging in activities that bring you joy. Every man and woman deserves this time alone. Trust me, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that it is possible to do things for yourself, possible as well as joyful. If you are a woman, take a moment to notice that if you can do it, so can a man. So, if he doesn’t, it is because he has been raised to believe that he doesn’t have to, by virtue of his gender. Dear world, if you are going to be judgemental, at least be fair in the process! If you are going to criticise a girl for not knowing something and her Mom for not teaching her, then call out on the family of the boy for not teaching him the same.

Once we have identified the pleasure in being alone, being together will assume the beautiful meaning it is originally supposed to have. And in my dictionary it means, two people who are perfectly capable of existing on their own coming together to make it better. Clearly, the deal is mutual, in every aspect.

GLOSSARY:

  1. ‘entho thakararundallo’ – Malayalam, roughly translates to ‘Something is fishy’
  2. DQ – Dulquer Salman
  3. Chakki Pisna – I think is Hindi for kneading the dough for Roti.

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Anjana View All →

A twenty something feeling her way through life.

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