I grew up in a household where gender norms were pre-decided. My father went to work, and my mother took care of the house. Imagine my surprise when I got married into a gender-neutral home. On Day 1, my husband woke me up with bed-tea. And when I offered to make dinner, my mother-in-law said: ‘Don’t you bother, beta. Let papa make it. After all, no one makes better mattar-paneer than my husband.’
That night, for probably the first time in my life, I had papa ke haath ka khaana. My mother-in-law helped, but it was Papaji who was clearly the star, and Mummyji the assistant. The gravy simmered in the Wonderchef aluminium kadhai while on the other side, my husband fluffed up a roti he just took off the tawa and on to the stove. I stood smiling, feeling silently proud.
To me, this took some time getting used to. For someone who once got rejected by a potential shaadi ka rishta because she only knew how to make maggi, sandwiches and eggs, or who was always told to help in the kitchen because she had to go to her ‘sasural someday’- all of this was a new experience! The kitchen in my sasural is truly everyone’s zone. Because the wonderful appliances that make cooking so easy, make it so. They don’t differentiate. For any additional assistance, ghar wale hai na.
You see, I grew up in a family where my aunts and uncles claimed to be very ‘modern’ and ‘broad minded’. Yet, certain household and kitchen responsibilities were always limited to women.
You see, I grew up in a family where my aunts and uncles claimed to be very ‘modern’ and ‘broad minded’. Yet, certain household and kitchen responsibilities were always limited to women. The ghar ki bahu was always expected to wake up early in the morning and make chai for herself and the male members of the family. Followed by packing tiffin boxes for the children, and breakfast and lunch for everyone. She was expected not just to cook, but also to serve. Even if that meant eating thanda khaana after everyone had eaten.
I can understand this being the expected norm 50 years ago when gender roles for men and women were almost clearly defined. But today, the concept of gender roles is as stale as day-old baasi khaana; it needs to be taken off the stove and out of the kitchen.
The lockdown last year acted as a huge leveller in many ways. Forced by compulsion, either due to the absence of domestic house help, or not being able to afford cooked food at the simple swipe of an app, many individuals, couples, and families realised the importance of doing and dividing household chores. And while that did help get men a little more involved at home, the onus of kitchen work always lay on women. It seems their part of the chores were restricted to doing ‘manly’ things like getting the groceries, teaching the kids math, lifting and rearranging things, and cleaning the pankha—ladko wale kaam.
But let’s be honest, cooking is a lot easier and convenient these days. Many new age appliances are high-tech, automated, foolproof, and take the guesswork out of cooking. Brands like Wonderchef go the extra mile with their millennial-friendly range of cookware that’s as functional as it is good looking.
My personal favourite is the Nutriblend. Getting my husband to whip up our breakfast oats cheela batter while I get the non-stick pan hot and ready on the stove, has never been easier! It’s such a great bonding activity too. I can think of so many memories we’ve created around our food experiments—some winners, some fails, all of them fun! My suggestion, on the next date night with your partner, instead of going out to dinner at the plush new Italian restaurant in town, why not stay in and plan date night cooking instead? Dinner ka dinner, and equal responsibility for all. Cheaper and more romantic—don’t you think? And a bigger win is the precedent it sets in the long run. Imagine raising kids who will look up to this new dynamic between men and women as romantic partners. A healthy relationship of equals, in the boardroom and the kitchen.
Brands like Wonderchef go the extra mile with their millennial-friendly range of cookware that’s as functional as it is good looking.
And as far as my family is concerned, Papaji is still the in-house chef. When Mummyji wants to get romantic, she calls him her Kitchen King playfully. He’s quick to reply that he prefers Sanjeev Kapoor instead. Pyaar bhi, swaad anusar!
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