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February 24, 2021

The Great Indian Kitchen & Division of labor

Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on Pexels.

A movie that’s currently making rounds is the Great Indian Kitchen. The woman (actress) in this movie gets married via an arranged marriage, does everything for the house, right from making food to cleaning, to bearing with the stupid rituals, bad habits, disgust that comes along. She is gas-lighted for being bad in the bed too. What more do you need to get out of the relationship ?

Oh, wait. Maybe you need to wait until you have a child because somewhere in your mind you think things will be fine once there is a baby. Are you sure, you thought of this ? Or did you keep hearing this from your people around you ?

& where exactly did you get the idea of giving yourself completely for the house you get married into ? To loose self completely ? whether an arranged or love marriage or love cum marriage ? Did you happen to see it via your relatives doing so ? Did you happen to see your mom being there and doing a little more of the housework than your dad ? Did you see disgrace expressed by your dad’s friends when he worked on the house chores ? Maybe yes.

I remember my mother telling me I should know how to give myself to the family so that I have a great family life. Today, when I am on my own and I invite an unmarried colleague, she insists on cleaning the kitchen after eating since she thinks it is good manners. When I told her that she should not make this as a priority she is flabbergasted by what I just said. May be I am flabbergasted by what I just wrote too !

My father tried to learn cooking since my mom was not keeping well. He had invited his friend for lunch. His friend had come with his daughter. The moment he saw my father was making the roti’s instead of my mom, he was very upset and made his daughter do the roti’s. This memory inscribed in my mind since I was in 5th / 6th will never fade. Also, yes, my Dad did make the roti’s but that act came with a pompous description of his ability unlike any women doing the roti’s. Needless to say.

I also did the same. Juggled between the house, tried to get a perfect picture, took care of the baby, took care of a full time job, gave money to the family and tried to survive. Because I believed that was my ikigai. That was my duty to take care of the home. While the in laws & husband had all the privilege to simply keep judging everything I did. I actually looked for their approval. Learnt ways of cooking, cleaning, taking care, what not, to get that approval. When actually I could have simply walked out. I actually thought that adjusting a littttttlle more will help. & a little more. But nothing actually did. Things worsened.

A girl is asked if she can cook, clean. Is the guy asked if he is capable enough other than what he earns ?

Is this something that is only happening in the Indian Kitchen ? No it isn’t. I am sure this happens in various parts of the world. The current decline in women in the paid workforce is a proof.

This division of labour of the women being the primary care givers and caretakers of the home is a little too stretched. This can actually be compared to the patriarchy metaphor. The shoe metaphor. These unsaid rules of work in the kitchen are like the shoe on the neck. Some feel the burden of it, never say anything about it. Some know that it exists and love the existence there. Some women in fact take pride (some is an understatement) in showcasing their home & the so called perfectness. Some women complain about other women, why do they don’t take care of the shoe on the neck. There is conclusive judgement for all the single women – she could not take care of the house, that why this happened to her. & then there are men who say, hey we never kept the shoe there, women are not supposed to do all the house work, blah blah, & ask – whats there for dinner ? & have a pompous show when they cook one single dish, or even enter the kitchen. That should always look like an award winning show everywhere. The little kids happen to pick this division of labour a little sooner and then practice it for the life.

Today, I see, that young married women are little more aware about all this. I have seen them walking out a little earlier, to understand their rights, their frustrations better and move out earlier.

I am glad this change is happening. It needs to.

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