While my daily struggles in the kitchen have brought both humor and frustration in our lives, I cannot help but wonder why the male child in Indian households is not kitchen-trained at an early age the way female children are. By the time they are nine or ten, girls are pushed into the kitchen by default and are taught and expected to help mom in cooking and house work.
Boys though are expected to be boys, playing outdoors or studying or watching TV or doing more ‘intelligent’ stuff with dad, and expecting a variety food to be automatically served at the appointed time every day and the house to be neat and clean at all times.
I think this culture obtains even today to a very great extent, both in the US and India. Even today, if a family of four come back from vacation, the women automatically head to the kitchen and the broom, while the men head to the PC or the TV. Its like a law of nature, a default rule, something burned into the genes over centuries.
I myself, like most men of my generation, am
a product of that culture. Which explains my kitchen ordeals of today. I wish my mom had taught me the basics of cooking, cleaning and housekeeping like she taught my sister. I wish I had been expected to automatically share my sister’s and my mom’s daily burdens and become as proficient in these skills as they were. My mom not only managed the kitchen and the house, and four growing totally insensitive children, but also did many of the outdoor errands. I never even had to wash a kerchief till she was around. It was not only that it never ever occurred to me, it never ever occurred to her either. Like I said, its been programmed into our genes.
I wish my mom had said to me the things that my sister had to listen to so often. ‘Tomorrow you will get married and go to somebody else’s house. There you will have to do all these things for that family. They will expect you to know all this’. Why didn’t she tell me ‘Tomorrow you will get married to a woman who will have her own dreams and aspirations to fulfill. She may want to study or work and be independent. You should be able to shoulder your share of the kitchen and the household work and support her and make sure she has the time and the energy to pursue her dreams’. Why do moms and dads never say that to their male children?
It is just not a matter of sharing and support and learning skills. It is basically unfair and disrespectful to women, a culture of exploitation and discrimination that has been quietly normalized in our male oriented culture since the beginning of time. It has to be changed, it has to stop. Lockdown that culture. Now.
Luckily, my dad was a cooking enthusiast and some of that rubbed off on me. I like to cook, thanks to my dad, though it takes me much longer than it should, thanks to my mom.
I wish my mom had made me cut vegetables the right way, cook without making the kitchen look like a hurricane went through it and of course, make those infernal phulkas phulao! I would have been far more helpful to my wife today and in the years gone by.
Yeah, yeah, my beloved wife, I know, I know, you don’t have to rub it in. Here, take your two non-phulela phulkas and be content. And blame Indian culture for the unidentifiable shape , not me.