The movie, The Great Indian Kitchen currently streaming on Amazon Prime, has set off some sparks in the old household as it should. The movie is required watching for every man and woman especially of Indian origin. Indian cooking has been hailed as amazing, tasty, and a host of other adjectives that are all throughly deserving no doubt, but the adj I use are: pesky, demanding, grueling and painful.
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On several occasions, I have been heard to make the passionate plea for communal cooking wherein a household is only in charge of cooking for a few meals a week in a communal kitchen, and all meals are served there for the whole community. If ever you want to build a community, there is your chance, and it takes the burden away from the shoulders away from the women of the house, and every person learns the value of shared work, whether they like to do so or not.
The Great Indian Kitchen does an amazing job of capturing the loneliness of the housewife as she goes about her duties. The family unit can be an isolating one for the housewife. Even when men are present, there is an inherent assumption that the men have their own lives separate from those of their counterparts, and the interactions when they do occur, rarely have that intellectual spark that one wants to see in people in love.
The story is of a typical patriarchal household where the men are polite enough in conversation, but do not care to know about the lives of people they live with. The new bride arrives into the home with a wish to fit in, and gets along well enough with her mother-in-law. When her mother-in-law leaves to tend to her daughters pregnancy, the situation rapidly unravels. The increasing workload, the callous expectations of the men, and the regressive customs drive the bride to take life in her own hands.
If anything, the movie looks at a best-case scenario where things unravel pretty quickly – possibly within 6 months. The husband in question makes no attempt to endear himself to his new wife, and communication between them is hardly there. So, she is at liberty to take stock of her life. Unfortunately that is not how it happens for the most part Is it? There is usually just enough Chemistry between the couple for the thing to sustain and before we know it, a few children are in the mix, by which time the girl has lost all marketable skills if any, and life is a drudge from one day to the next.
The movie sparkles with some scenes such as the husband teaching a Sociology class. The class in which he actually has the ability to self-reflect and assess the impact of lives in society, he instead devotes to blindly parroting useless things from the textbook. “The family is a universal unit. ”
We all know those uncles who love a certain type of dish paired with a certain other type of dish, without pausing to think about the effort that is behind the scenes. In Indian households, the kitchens are tucked away from the main scene unlike the kitchens in the US. Even when the kitchen and family room are joined, and the center of the family life, there is a certain disconnect between the food prep, and consumption. Now imagine, tucking away the factory and presenting hot piping meals at every meal. It is hardly surprising that the men are kept well away from the work spaces.
Go Women Ninjas!
Which brings me back to the question of communal kitchens. There are many places in which we pay a fee to belong. In the same way, you pay a fee to belong to a kitchen, and help out with that kitchen’s duties. Procurement, reorder, stock taking, inventory, cleaning all need to be shared by all members of the kitchen. You can pick the slots in which you would like to contribute, with the caveat only being that every eating member over the age of 5 and under the age of 70 has to help for at least 3 meals a week – and you cannot pick and choose the tasks you like. For before you know it, the men would have snagged the budgetary aspects, and give the cleaning, cutting part bunk. No Sir!
It would do the old enablers some good, to actually see what goes into making a good meal instead of sitting around and making jokes about the quality of the food in front of them.
Studies show the disparity in time spent on average household chores by gender.
- Indian women are high on that list spending a good 5 hr & 51 m Vs Men who only spend 1 hr 19 minutes of unpaid work.
In every country, men have more leisure time each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework.
I am not sure whether Robert Frost was thinking of social iniquities when he wrote the poem , Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, Robert Frost
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
We do have miles to go before we sleep. We have the universe to traverse in the simple act of knowing the lives of one another.