In India, cooking is seen more as a duty rather than a skill. This leads to various tensions in gender and class politics. Even if cooking is one’s passion, it still is perceived as a dutiful job of women, resulting in an unenjoyable experience.
The idea of enjoying cooking is mostly unimaginable and is kept for only certain gender or class. Urban Indians now are disrupting the binary between passionate cooking and cooking as a dutiful chore.
Cooking Synonymous With Crisis
The Swaddle reports on feminist activist Ananya Chakraborty, from Guwahati, who equates cooking with some crisis. Chakraborty had to enter the kitchen at a young age due to a medical emergency at home. Chakraborty recounts, “If I have to cook, it means something is wrong around me. The last time I was in the kitchen cooking regularly, the world was hit by a pandemic.”
Chakraborty’s experience shows that cooking is mostly seen as a duty or surviving process. This is far from the urban Indian view of cooking as a passion and a meditative process, where one enjoys the experience of being in the kitchen.
Cooking Restricted To Duty Of Women
Food blogger Shirin Mehrotra says that she had an undying love for the kitchen, but she started despising it as it became expected of her to cook because she had become a wife and a daughter-in-law. “I refused to do it.”
Prerna Kundalia, an aspiring writer, hails from Calcutta-based Rajasthani family. She tells The Swaddle, “As a kid when I started to grow a little older, I began using the kitchen as an escape from the family.
[B]ut then the family began talking about how it’s a good thing that I am finding my space in the kitchen, that it would be good for the family and for my future prospects. I found it regressive, so eventually, at some point, I stopped wanting to cook at home.”
This shows that because of the gendered approach of society, distancing oneself from cooking and the kitchen is a courageous statement, but it also leads to killing one’s passion. Mehrotra started cooking again after her marriage ended.
She was clear that she will cook, not because she is supposed to do that, but because she loves to cook. Kundalia says that she resumed cooking once she moved out of her home, to study in Delhi. Now, she enjoys it as a meditative process.
Cooking As Labour
Dinesh Kumar, the operator of a cart selling rolls near the University of Delhi, is mechanical at work. He says, “I almost feel like I am a machine while operating the cart.” As cooking is his livelihood and means of sustenance, he cannot imagine himself loving it.
However, he accepts that on his visits to his village in Haryana when he cooks food for himself and his community, he feels the joy of cooking. He also tries to find new dishes on Youtube to cook.
Though there are economical barriers in Kumar’s case, all these experiences have a basic premise- to have the agency to cook what they want and have the space to refuse cooking. Cooking has a thereupatic value for some, for some, it is the intuition-enhancing process.
Cooking has various forms to it, and restricting it to binaries is an injustice to the art of cooking. A primary question arises- All the verbs and processes in the societies are restricted in binaries. When will society come out of these binaries of black and white?
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This post is tagged under: cooking, urban, Indians, binaries, gendered, duty, role, labour, survival, young age, crisis, meditative, women, machine, economic barrier, passion, gender, class, politics, enjoyable
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