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The Choices women make

Deepa Krishnan

Author: Deepa Krishnan

Date: Tue, 2017-03-07 22:08

When my sister and I were growing up, the kitchen clearly seemed to be the arch-enemy of self-respecting women.

Around me, there appeared to be only two types of women: nondescript mousy housewives who did nothing but cook, and gloriously glamorous ones who went to that exciting place called "office".

Housewives. Sweaty slaves of the kitchen fires! They woke up at unearthly hours, muttered ancient prayers, and produced breakfasts, lunches and dinners in endless succession. They wore faded cotton sarees, their blouses damp with sweat. They chased and scolded and cajoled children. "Home makers" they might be - but when their husbands summoned them by name...Kamalaaaaaaa...they dropped everything else, and jumped to attention. Perhaps it was time for the next round of coffee. Perhaps there was a visitor who needed to be fed. Whatever. Clearly once the household woke up, the housewife's time was not her own.

But the women who worked - ah. They seemed to live in a separate world. Their sarees were crisp, pinned neatly at the shoulder with little golden pins. Their blouses actually matched the colour of the saree. They powdered their faces. Their bindis were neat stick-ons, not streaky sindoor that ran when you sweated. One of my earliest memories is of visiting an aunt who worked in a bank. How wonderful the bank was! Several women sat at desks, with important looking files around them. The fans whirled high above their heads; everything was cool and pleasant. Outside, customers sat on wooden seats, patiently waiting their turn. Inside, competent looking women counted money, totalled cheques and wrote in ledgers. Tringgg! The ringing of a bell would summon a peon. "Give Rekha madam this file", he would be told in an authoritative voice. Surely this was the good life! So much better than the kitchen!

There were other examples. At school, the Teachers Room was filled with all-powerful women. Since my mother was a teacher, I was witness to their camaraderie. I saw women sharing jokes, laughing over school politics, and debating what the annual day program should showcase. How much more interesting than housewifely discussions of rasam and sambaar at the local temple!

Clearly, those who wanted to be anything at all, had to forsake the kitchen. They had to study. They had to go to college, and make a place for themselves in the world of career women. My mum dreamt this dream for us, and kept us out of the kitchen. While other girls my age were chopping vegetables and learning to tell tuar dal from lal masur, I grew up with my head buried in books. I drew and painted and played marbles and flew kites. I got my MBA. I travelled. I earned money. But somewhere along the way, I also learnt to cook.

It was motherhood, of course, that forced me to learn. Starting from simple "koozhu" and boiled vegetables, I graduated to complex delicacies. I had a child who loved good food. At the age of 10, she could tell one subtle flavour from another. As my skills grew, so did my desire to entertain. All of a sudden, visits by family members became opportunities for me to experiment with food. I discovered and was totally trapped in the atavistic pleasures of feeding an appreciative audience. In the process, I came to understand that those glamorous working women of my childhood - the ones with the crisp sarees - woke up at unearthly hours too. They too cajoled their children, they too pandered to demanding husbands and in-laws. But their kitchens were not always hateful prisons to them. While their work life provided them with independence and confidence, cooking and feeding people gave them deep satisfaction too.

Today my kitchen is home to several recipe books. My spice box is rich and inviting, and tempts me often to create new dishes. When I travel abroad on my consulting assignments, I raid specialty stores for delicacies. I've launched bazaar walks and cuisine tours in Mumbai and Delhi. Great-aunts and old female relatives have become a source of inspiration, and mum and I have conversations around food. Cooking has become a truly creative, rewarding part of my life.

Life is funny, I tell you. Twenty five years ago, I would have laughed at the very thought of cooking. Today, I'm doing food shows on TV! 

 

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Comments

Wonderful article you have here mam. I could relate to this, as my mom quite resembles the early waking, sacrificed her time for family kind of woman you have described in the article. Mom prepared my sis and me to aim big in life and work towards it. At the same time, dad, our own master chef, prepared us to explore our food interests and experiment with dishes. We were taught very early that the reason we do most of what we do is to feed ourselves and never to cut cost on food, and also a healthy body though a healthy stomach breads a healthy mind. But most people today forget the reason they are going out to earn. Bad choices and eating habits and lifestyle, takes a toll on family health sooner or later. For some working woman ‘not knowing to cook’ is a style statement. Hope they realize the importance of self-cooked home food sooner.

Dear Ma’am, Your article has depicted the two kinds of women India in a very clear manner. The first type reminds me of my mother who spent all her day and night taking care of the house and us. I believe the job of a housewife is the most difficult job in the world. I remember watching a video where a few people were asked questions randomly if they would work at a place 24 hours a day where they don’t get time to sit or breathe. The job entails running around all day and completely forgetting about their life so that they can dedicate their time and life to a few other people. The salary paid for this job was zero and they were asked if they would accept this offer. Everyone rejected it and also said that no one in the world would accept this offer yet we see about half the population doing this job lovingly and giving it their all. Each mom in this world is an example of this employee taking up an impossible job without batting an eyelid. Hats off to all of them.

Dear Ma'am, First of all i would like to congratulate you on penning down your thoughts so clearly. The article beautifully depicts the life of two types of women that most of us have come across . How easily we form an impression of the life that one might be leading simply based on what part of their life we are exposed to. My mother always kept me out of the kitchen and the only job I had as a growing up teenager was to study. While reading the story of your childhood, I was reminded of how my distant relatives would talk about me and more than that how strongly Maa would answer anyone who would ask her what all I can cook. However, I believe its not just the women who are being judged. Men who cook for their wives/family are judged as well. We are still far from the ideal world. Nevertheless, I am optimistic and hopeful about getting to live in a society where gender does not define the interests and hobbies of an individual.

Ma’am your article gives an overwhelming insight of the transition towards 21st century. I would like to share my perspective as a millennial and what are the important decisions a millennial woman make. A woman is considered a complete world in herself. She unknowingly realizes this at an early age and fosters everyone around her - brother, father, husband & son throughout her life. It’s like they say ‘ladkiyan jaldi badi ho jaati hain’. Whether fetching water without asking for her exhausted father returned from work or crying like hell when her brother is being thrashed for his mischief, she becomes a nurturer and a protector from a very young age. It’s not the connotation of old Indian society that makes her so but it’s the part of being women itself that makes her more sensitive and empathetic than her male counterparts. My purpose of bringing this up here is that we come from an age of millennials from urban/semi-urban India who have never seen her peers cook meals at home at school going age. All of my friends and colleagues had very progressive parents. The difference between a boy and a girl existed only in grandma’s stories. Neither we were told, nor encouraged to only stay at home and do household work, except during festivals like Diwali when we equally participated with our brothers to do chores as basic as dusting, decorating etc. Our parents understand the importance of financial independence in our lives and so do we, thus aspiring for a successful career becomes de-facto. We also understand our role as a family maker and that’s why two of our life’s decisions become very important - choosing the right path for our career and choosing a sorted out life partner who believes in our dreams & aspirations. Today’s woman is not ready to compromise on either; she wants to compete head on in the corporate world irrespective of gender. On the other hand she also looks out for a life-partner who is amiable enough to help her balance the work-life equation. As time changes so does the people, the things change, priorities also change but sadly the expectations from women have changed little. Managing the expectations is the most imperial task that has beautifully been carried out by women from centuries and will continue till time unknown.

Dear Ma’am, your article very subtly reminds each one of us the superhero we have in our home, whom more than often we take for granted. I grew up watching my mother impeccably managing the house and her work and only now can I understand the sheer hard work she would have put in. Needless to say, my father has been a great support to her all along, motivating, appreciating and helping her in the daily chores. These very acts by my parents shaped my mind set, breaking the societal stereotypes which bar females from making their choices. I grew up in an environment which encouraged me to make my own decisions, own up to them and to be knowledgeable enough to make those decisions. I am also aware of the very fact that thousands of women across the globe are deprived of such choices and thus I value it all the more. It should be the prerogative of a women to make her own decisions. On a lighter note, cooking a meal never interested my mother though my father loves to cook.

Hi Deepa Ma’am, This wonderful article of yours made me emotional and travel back in time to my school days when the biggest aim and worry of my mom’s life was if my stomach fill or no. Perhaps all Indian mothers will be able to fit one of the two types of women you have described. There is this unique fire in every mother to come up with tasty and healthy food for their kids. My mother gave up her teaching job twice so that she be available for us round the clock. At times my dad asked my mom to join back teaching but she happily refused to. It is now, when I have to eat the sad mess food, that I realise the reasons behind her decisions. Whatever little I am, I can proudly say that is because of the fact that my mother was always around me to teach, play and serve awesomely cooked food.

The article above has beautifully dealt with the subject of working women and homemakers. Deepa Krishnan Ma’am touches upon this topic with great poise and goes to great lengths to describe how each of them operates at the opposite ends of the spectrum. We all have seen both these types of women, be it our mothers, aunts or grandmothers. As mentioned in this article, the older generation primarily comprised of homemakers however over the years we have come to see that women juggle both roles that of a homemaker and of a working independent woman with aplomb. The article talks about how working women also have to attend to daily chores and spend some time in the kitchen but they view it more as a recreational activity rather than something that has been forced down their throat. Taking nothing away from homemakers, it is one of the toughest jobs that exist as it requires women to be omnipresent and take care of everything that happens at home and does it on a recurring basis. Housewives don’t get leaves, they don’t even get paid for the work they put in and yet go about doing it with a smile on their faces. It would be unfair for me to choose which one of the two is a tougher deal as they both require enormous amounts of resilience and grit and it is only a woman who can don either of these hats and produce the results that they do every day. I would like to salute the spirit of each and every woman for taking it on the way they do and making our lives simpler in the bargain.

Times have changed from when I was a child. I myself have watched my mother play the housewife who cooked, cleaned and ran after two boys who were more interested in disemboweling each other. The boys in this are my brother who is the younger sibling and I. In this day and age I have seen my fair share of sneers towards women who are house wives. While it may be aspirational and even a woman’s right to have a career I realized that the role of a housewife has been greatly undermined. My mother who was a college graduate, let go of her career at a very nascent stage to raise both me and my brother. It is only very late in life that I realized how difficult that job was. The realization set in when I moved out of the house and relocated to Delhi for my first job. The biggest issue was that I didn’t know how to cook. This is where the mother who was a house wife came into play. Overnight phone calls of what to do with burnt or watery dal, congealed rice and overcooked chicken were met with a certain calm and a clear set of instructions of what needed to be done. I realized that the concepts of leadership that we learn about the work place was in play every day right in front of our eyes in our own home. From budgeting for the month for supplies, school fees and entertainment to setting up schedules for our trips to school, convincing the father for a bigger budget for the next month’s expenses and mentoring, the house wife was playing the equivalent role of a CFO, CEO ,COO and HR all at the same time. This was vital job because it ensured the family’s health, comfort and most of all its survival just as managers would ensure for their organisation. Now that my brother and I are on our own path equipped with the leanings and skills passed down to us from the housewife who took care of us for over 18 years, my mother went back to her first career choice of teaching disabled children. She now moved onto being an entrepreneur and runs her own school for children with autism. I would say that being a housewife is also a career. Albeit with no remuneration, these women are looking for rewards that are not purely monetary. It is just for us to realize that the choice women make be it a formal career at a firm or one that involves taking care of their children and running a home should be backed with unconditional support from the people most important to them.

In middle class families, a good education for a girl child is viewed as a method for securing a good groom. Marriage is viewed as a definitive objective and post marriage losing herself in home management. A career is not the top priority. Many say that the empowered women can settle on a decision between family and profession out of their own accord and they of their own free will pic the former. But there is a paradox in this situation. Since the time of their birth, girls are conditioned to think that the house is a lady's utmost important duty and thus when the time comes for them to decide, they "pick" home above profession as a moulded reaction. Becoming a mother is the most valuable experience for a woman but she is then considered the 24 hour caretaker of the child. Parenthood does not carry with it even a question mark for a man's vocation, yet for a lady it regularly accompanies a big full-stop. In the event that a woman continues on her profession way, she should be a logistical genius. She needs to juggle household and profession at the same time and is expected to be on the top of her game at both fronts. Her profession, actually, experiences these diversions, particularly on the off chance that she happens to travel. Her work always comes second to her household duties. You may call it a matter of decision, yet in my eyes, it is sheer false reverence. A profession is not restricted to simply having an occupation and acquiring some income. It additionally intends to seek development and better positions according to your education, knowledge and exertion. Most parents give their daughters a decent education with the goal that they can be independent and remain on their feet "if required". Education is thus exigent. We have supported the wrong thought for a considerable length of time and noticeably adapted to it. It is time this chain is broken. Both men and ladies must have their parts in the public eye re-scripted. It ought to be worthy and typical for conventional parts to be exchanged. Men needn't be suppliers. They can remain home and be essential parental figures for kids while the woman works and earns enough to keep the ship running. We have been talking about women's rights for quite a while, yet insufficient movements have been take to achieve the goals. It’s time we change that.

Your article is reflection of one of my personal experiences. I come from a business family & my cousins would usually join the family business after they graduated. But, I loved to paint. I was a creative child and wanted to pursue a career in arts. So much against my family's wish, I pursued design & went on to become a product designer. As a part of my job, Initially I was only responsible for designing products, but later as I grew up the corporate ladder, I was held accountable for product sales as well. I enjoyed my stint thoroughly. I came to realize that at the end of the day, it is all about business either or mine or someone else's. I soon applied for a short leave at office and went on to help my uncle setup a crafts business, which he intended to venture into since a long time. I worked with him alongside my job and the business was up and running in a matter of six months. It was time for me to focus back at my job, but I realized that it didn't satisfy me anymore as it did before. I decided to get my MBA and join my family business post it. Needless to say that my family is excited as I plan to join family business like my other cousins!

I admire this beautifully articulated write-up. Choices are difficult to make in life. Some women choose to be home-makers and others come out of the house to work, breaking all the shackles. I’m reminded of an old movie “Umbartha”, depicting a woman’s trade-off. She establishes her identity by pursuing her career, even at the risk of alienation from her family. No choice is wrong or right, choices are circumstantial. You have nicely portrayed the transition from our grandmas’ times to those of our generation. My mom, though she completed Master’s degree, chose to invest her valuable time in raising me and my sister instead of taking up a job. My parents encouraged us to explore the world, learn from our own experiences and make our own choices. They never pushed us to enter kitchen and strive for a perfectly circular chapatti. I am glad that today’s world is changing. Today, many women are liberated and have successfully earned their status in the society. However, challenges are different now. We have gone out to walk the extra mile of success but left behind our tradition at home. I always enjoy home cooked food. It’s not the Indian spices but the care of mother’s hand that makes the dish lip-smacking. Our generation lacks the patience and time to cook our traditional dishes at home. Kitchens are mostly left at the disposal of cook-maids and the luscious dishes have been replaced with pizzas and pastas. The culture of eating out is spreading virally because our women are giving away the control of the kitchen. However, it is unfair to demand so much from her. We want her to work, raise kids, negotiate with sabji-walas and maids, cook food and what not. I hope the next era comes when “Dad-cooked food” will be more popular than “Mom-cooked food”. Balancing of household responsibilities between the two genders is much needed. Personally, I love to cook. It’s an art and a stress-buster for me. I cook only to see the satisfaction on the face of others after feasting on the dish I cooked.

Dear Deepa Ma’am, Your article really caught my attention. The two types of women that you talked about, I grew up looking at women through the same frame, and watching a lot of “Kamlas” spring up in action as soon as they were summoned by their husbands. During my childhood, my parents’ and my aspirations had already painted a picture in head of which of the two types of women I would represent when I grow up. In today’s age and in the large spectrum of the society, I think the aforesaid categorization is getting blurred, as educated and well-informed women now have more and more choices. An increasing number of women today are voluntarily choosing to stay at home especially during the early years of motherhood. Technology has opened new avenues of unconventional job opportunities where working from home part or full time is now also an option.

Very well penned; keeping the article very simple yet portraying a very strong message. Food shows on TV; that’s really great! Congratulations!!! I could reflect the housewife & a working woman as a coin having two sides & relate to my own experiences in somewhat akin manner. I born & brought up in a very poor family. My mother was a housewife who raised me & my three siblings. The attire of house wife you exhibited that is cotton saree & damped blouse with sweat; I have observed my mother wearing the same. This brought back many childhood memories. She was only 4th standard passed but had a vision that me & my sister to become independent that too financially so that we will not be dependent on our husbands in future. This thought of become financially independent, she imbibed in us when I was very young. She always used to tell me that don’t become like me, you learn as much as you can & become an officer. If you don’t learn you will have to become housewife & will have to cook & clean the mess; nothing else (In Marathi she used to say randha , wadha , ushti kadha… meaning cooking, serving & cleaning the mess). When I read your article all these memories came in my mind which made me nostalgic. In earlier days women were not empowered & forced to stay back home raising the kids & taking care of home. But in today’s scenario of inflation, economic changes, and nuclear families; it’s imperative for a woman to go out & work which would help the family. But still, there are my women who can’t make their own choice. The name of your article is choices women make, but is it true that everywoman does get a chance to make a choice to choose between home & a career? I have seen many of my friends who graduated from engineering colleges but forced to become a housewife because of many situations. You have touched very essential topic of cooking. One day my son told me “I like hot chapattis to eat but I have to eat cold chapattis as you cook the food in the morning before going to office, why can’t you serve me hot food like Idhant’s mom (his friend’s mom who is a housewife). I got deeply saddened by his statement & felt guilty that I could not take good care of my son. But my husband consoled me that he is small kid & he will understand it soon. In fact many working women face this guilt that they can’t give the time to their children like housewives; but yes they do give the quality time. During weekly off I manage to serve hot food to my family; which gives me a satisfaction too. My husband also started cooking & now he does better cooking than me. At times I feel if I was a housewife I would have taken better care of my family by spending lot of time with them….there are housewives who feel that if they were a working women they would have taken better care of their family by supporting them financially……. TWO SIDES OF A COIN!!! NO SIDE IS RIGHT OR WRONG!!!

Thank-you for penning down the day to day life story of an Indian women in a subtle manner. My mother, she is the base of our family, she is our homemaker, she is known for expeditious handling of matter. When I was a kid I always used to wonder that how amazingly she does everything for us. I believe, "words aren't enough to express the unconditional love that exists between a mother and her child." We all have dreams for us and I am sure that our mothers have also dreamt something in their lives. When it comes to motherhood, mom sacrifice all her dreams for children. She always want to put our dreams and aspirations first and make sure we achieve all the milestones. Mothers have all the qualities of a true manager. She is patient with superb decision making power & creative, when to complete the last minutes homework or what "special" to make for their children's lunch. The corporate life for a women has its own pros and cons. Truly said that one has to be always tiptop while at work but no wonder there also women faces several issue. Recently I have read an article about gender gap where it was mentioned that according to the world economic forum, there isn't a single country on earth where women make as much as men for the same work. It would take another 170 years to close the global pay gap between men and women as per their global gender report, 2016. The trend now is changing. Even the male members are making an effort to help their wives/mothers in kitchen. They would cook when their wives are going for an extra mile in their corporate life. I think now it's time that we should start looking at things differently to make it convinent for women to balance both their work life and personal life.

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The article caught my attention and made me ponder about the discrimination that exists in the society. Every woman should do what she wants to do as an individual. The society should not label a woman as Housewife or Working women, raising children and managing a family is also a full-time job. The world will be determined by what kind of mothers we have today. Hence, it should not be that a woman is only doing something valuable if she earns money. My mother played an active role in what I am and it was defined by the ambience that she set for me. She gave up her career to set that ambience, that has been the most important thing she did for me. Why would anybody think this is not an important job? In my childhood, I was never concerned about anything as I was aware that she is there for me. Woman today play a double role of managing a family and having a successful career. Lastly, I will conclude by saying if you want to remove the discrimination existing in the society you need to lead by example.

When I read this blog, I had no idea how to react. It hit so deep with female sentiments. I too was born to a working woman (a Teacher just like Deepa Ma’am). I too was made forced to focus just on studies during my childhood and I too have grown a love for cooking. This blog makes me think about how much our life affected by decision our parents think is right and if it is wrong, it take us time to realise the same. I remember when I was just a child, how my mother used to battle with her chores in the morning with little bit help from my father- our food, our grandparent’s food, getting us ready and getting herself ready and when circumstances made me do fraction of what she did in the morning during my childhood years- my love and respect for her grew. Indian society has defined specific gender roles and people who call themselves feminists try to question these roles- but no one realises working or cooking or doing both is a woman’s choice. She need to take decision for herself and choice is always hers. Let’s take a different example of my friend- It was grilled in her since childhood being a teacher is easiest job for a female and she should aim for it. The rebel she was this career option was thrown out of the window without even giving a thought. When circumstances gave her a chance to teach in an NGO she realised she liked this job. She debated between her beliefs and what she liked to do for a long time, eventually choosing what she loves to do – even now.

I grew up with two important woman personalities in my life. One is my mom and other is my grandma. They relationship is much more than just a mother and daughter. As you said I have seen both types i.e., the one Housewife and working woman. My grandma is a housewife and my mother is working. She is a nurse. If we talk about choices, I feel that many times the choices we make are based upon the influence we have. My grandma with whom I used to spend sixteen hours of the day, which is three times the time, I could spend with my mother. My grandma who chose to keep herself engaged in a kitchen and stood by my mother in every important decision. As mom was working she had to choose work over family many times. Mom cooks delicious food but it is given lower priority on her to do list. However, she happily prepares special dishes for us on weekends. Being a girl when my batch mates in school started cooking I didn’t even know how to make tea or for that sake let’s say, Maggi. It is not that I didn’t like cooking or never wanted to try hands on it. But, I never got an opportunity to actually do it. My mother was always a strong headed in this matter and she always had point that no matter how unlikely it feels now but when you need to cook it automatically happens with a little help from others in initial days be it a boy or girl. Today, when I am preparing to fly to Europe for my education till date I haven’t cooked anything without grandma’s help. But, I am confident that I will be through this once it comes to me automatically. And look forward to seeing myself as a good cook.

Thank you for bringing out the beauty of women with so simple yet impactful words. The way you have portrayed the women, gave me glimpse of some old bollywood movie scene going in my head. It really kept me engaged to find out your opinion about them. Your description of a working women and home maker, from your earlier childhood, reminds me of the stories my mother shares about her early days. Being born in an orthodox family, from an early age, she was expected to cook and learn household chores, with a little or no importance given to her wish to learn and educate herself. She being a determined and persistent woman, kept on fighting for her right to educate herself and completed her post graduate study facing all the resistance from her parents. Despite of being well educated and looking forward to a career in academia, she decided to be a home maker and look after her children. It was her choice. She learnt how to cook new dishes as and when we wanted to have new dishes. Often, we discuss her decision and she says that, it was her right to get education, so she got it and it was her decision and wish to give all her time to her children, so she did it. She says liberty of making a choice is more important than the choice itself. Adding to your point, I think, as the time is changing, so is the perspective about cooking is changing. Earlier, it was tagged as the responsibility of women who lived whole day at home looking after the family. Now, cooking is evolving more as a concept of being independent. While I was encouraged to study higher and work, I was always asked to learn how to cook. My mother said that it may come handy when I move for a job to another city. The same is now applicable for men as well. I have come across men who take pride in their culinary skills. This is the choice they make. With the growth in number of women who are working and an increase in the concept of nuclear families, the role of home maker and bread earner is no longer gender specific. Managing home, cooking and household chores are responsibility of both men and women equally. In my opinion, responsibility of converging these roles lies on the choices, women make. If women chose to educate themselves, make a living and being financially independent, they can change the whole perspective prevailing about home makers in our society. Hence, I strongly feel, we women have the responsibility of changing our way of life, through the choice we make.

Thank you, ma’am, for such an amazing article which highlights the importance of women and the choices that they make considering their family. The way you explained the daily chores of a housewife gave me a picturesque view of exactly what my grandmother used to do. You have beautifully explained the activities done by housewives and the office goers highlighting their dedication towards the family. Earlier women made a sincere attempt to play a dual role of being housewives and office makers so that they can fulfill their responsibility as a manager, wife, mother, daughter etc without letting down anyone. However, a question of how many women of today’s generation would get to play such dual roles especially when household chores are taken over by domestic help; haunts me always. There are many women today who despite having skills are unemployed either by choice or lack of opportunities. My mother is a housewife by choice despite being well educated and being the only person having the postgraduate degree in our house. She adopted this role of being a housewife because she wanted to look after her daughters and enable them to make better choices that also fulfilled their dreams. Was it easy for her to make such choice? Probably yes, because back in 90’s women were family centric and they didn’t have much of the opportunities to explore because of comparatively more orthodox society. Is it easy for me or today’s generation to make such choices? Probably not. With increasing monetary power and helpers at disposal, it is affordable to have a domestic helper. Statistics state that every 1 amongst 4 houses in India has a domestic helper to carry out the domestic chores. Their activities include washing clothes, utensils and cooking food. Along with the increasing aspirations of women towards their career, they compromise with the activities like feeding their kids, cooking sumptuous food for guests etc that gave them deep satisfaction. To meet the deadlines set by the managers they put deadlines to love their children and leave them with the nanny or at day care centers. They might take up a meeting with clients at the office but they do struggle meeting guests in the house. The house is made up only on weekends and weekdays are just rush days. While they have team dinners and lunch, family dinner is planned only on weekends. There are celebrations in office for an excellent delivery but just-in-time planning for upcoming festivals. Many of us do not cook because maid is there to help us out. Our choices are not because we want them, but because the society demands them for working women. Our family responsibilities are now tied up with office responsibilities. Are we running family for work or work for family – a question still, to ponder upon.

The title itself had me hooked on to this article. Any article which remotely hints at the varied choices that women are faced with at each point in their lives, reminds me of my mother. In your article, you have not only beautifully depicted the distinction between the two types of women but have also cajoled me into reflecting once again about the endless sacrifices that my mother has made to ensure the rest of the family goes to bed with a smile. Although my mother is a housewife, I find her embodying both types of women. She would be the one with the faded cotton sari in the kitchen but what set her apart is the smile she wore. She enjoys her time in the kitchen and each time her delicacies are appreciated, her eyes lit up. In addition to this, I always found people turning towards her for advice and comfort. She is in complete control of the situation and manages to provide solace and effective advice to all who turn to her for help. That is when she resembles the women with the crisp sari – who command authority and control. Coming from a nuclear family and settling into a household of fourteen is no small feat. It was all the more difficult for my mother because she made a choice to quit her job as a teacher when she decided to get married. I personally think that it is the only decision which she still regrets because she realizes the importance of being self-sufficient irrespective of whether it is the need of the hour or not. This has played a major role in my upbringing wherein she has constantly reiterated the importance of education and being independent. Being the only child, I always lead a well cocooned life wherein I did not find the compulsion to navigate into the kitchen at any point. But when I was to leave my city for my job, my mother’s words of wisdom seemed to hark at me. I realized that in order to be completely independent, I needed to master the art of cooking. Starting with a simple cup of tea to making Bengali delicacies with finesse, I think I have come a long way in this journey. It surprises me that each time I visit my hometown, I insist on being in the kitchen to prepare the meal for my family. I think somewhere at the back of my mind, I know the fact that I resemble my mother in more than one way. I believe that it is the smile and pride on their faces, each time they taste a dish that I prepare, that ensures my eyes lit up. I agree with the fact, that cooking cannot be something which is associated with mousy housewives only. It is a necessary skill set which needs to be inculcated by one and all in order to be truly independent, and who knows you might just fall in love with it like those zillion housewives out there!

Dear Ma’am, while going through your article nostalgia struck me and took me to the days when my father used to scold me for working in the kitchen. Cooking is a stress buster for me but my parents thought if I work in the kitchen, I won’t be able to perform well in my studies. But with time I created a balance between my passion for cooking and studies. Since ages, women are expected to be an expert in cooking so that they can find the perfect groom, but today this mentality has changed as my parents also created a knowledge rich environment for me to excel in professional life. I feel girls should have a freedom to choose what they desire to do. There are various aspects where society has preconceived notions for girls to behave and dress in a certain way. The choice of dressing style of a girl doesn’t define her character and I feel even if she walks without any clothes it doesn’t give anyone the right to rape her. I do not want to present a negative picture of men and berate them; the question here is about equality. Why a woman is being questioned when she chooses to get married at the age of 35 or decides not to have children of her own. Why is she even expected to maintain a balance between her household and her professional life? In the 21st century, girls are attaining the same level of education as boys are but when their partner has to move abroad for work it's being taken for granted that girls will quit their job. It’s always a girl who is expected to bond with her in- laws and a boy can always get a way without making any adjustments after marriage. Girls should not be asked to pay price for following their heart. It’s harder for women to prove their worth and there are certain gender stereotyped roles for them at the professional level. The attitude of people has changed towards women at the workplace but still, 45% of the adult population says that society still favors men over women. Similarly, we should not expect a man to take the responsibility of all household expenses and make him feel guilty when he fails to do so. Today man and woman need to respect each other without putting all burden on one partner for a set role. It should be a prerogative for women to make their own choices and fulfill their dreams without doing any compromises. We need to understand that between work and household chores there can never be a balance and it will always be like a see-saw, so man and woman can always interchange their roles. I can proudly say that in our family my brother being a manager is a great cook and my sister in law is an amazing HR head.

Elegantly written, the article describes the scenes in such details that the readers can clearly picture it in their heads. We have all seen and lived amongst this divide between two types of women, only to realise they are not really as different as we thought. It isn’t that the women who chose to pursue a job or a career are any less involved in the household tasks, especially when it comes to the kitchen which has typically been considered a woman’s domain. I had the opportunity to witness this in my home while I was growing up. My mother, who worked as a professor, contributed equally to the running of the kitchen as my aunt, who was a homemaker, did. This was a choice she made, as she did not wish to give up her chosen profession of teaching. While she did it out of a sense of duty most of the time, I found I am more able to relate to cooking the same way as in this article. When it comes to cooking, I agree with you ma’am wholeheartedly to say it is such an immense source of joy and satisfaction. Growing up as a part of a joint family, I was always surrounded by my mother, aunts, and grandmother. So, all of us kids in the house never really contributed to the kitchen as much and never learnt how to cook. It was when I started my career and moved out to live on my own that I realised what an absolutely essential life skill it is to know how to cook a meal. Not just for women, but for everyone. Fortunately, I met a very dear friend who introduced me to this wonderful world of flavours and fragrances. A naturally gifted cook, he taught me how to distinguish between different flavours, how to taste a dish and identify the ingredients that have gone in it and how to think of that one missing ingredient that would bring everything together. Watching him cook, I learnt how to tell just by the aroma of a dish weather it needs something else or if it’s perfect. He would seldom taste what he was making, but always judge by the fragrance. I picked up this art from him and learnt how to cook instinctively without the help of a recipe book. In today’s world, when everyone is running around behind targets and deadlines, it is very important to find that one soothing, calming activity that also re-energizes us. For me it is the joy of cooking and baking. And I am pleased to notice that the kitchen is no longer just a woman’s domain these days. Especially among the millennials, where both men and women are working at the same jobs, more and more men are contributing to the household chores and helping in tasks such as cooking. Since cooking is such a crucial survival skill, I only hope this trend increases in the future.

Dear Deepa Ma’am, Thank you for penning down such a wonderful article. Your article has really moved me and made me emotional. I could resonate with the examples of working women that you have mentioned. It has prompted me to travel back to my childhood memory lane and made me nostalgic. In the contemporary world, we have plenty of examples of women who have excelled in balancing motherhood and working outside the home. Working mothers of today not only fulfill family responsibilities but also try to remain fully involved in their careers, coping up with the competing demand of their multiple roles. My mother who is also a school teacher has served more than 20 years in the education sector and still she continues to serve with utmost dedication and to the best of her abilities. I remember that as soon as my sister passed out of preschool, my mother decided to follow her passion of teaching. She was offered a teaching position of “TGT-Mathematics” when she joined “Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan”. As she is a central government employee, it means frequent transfers and relocating from one place to another. She made a conscious decision that both her children will stay with her. I remember my mother waking up at unearthly hours to prepare lunchboxes for herself and for us. She has been doing so for the past 12 years, up until the time both me and my sister passed out of school and started our college life. All I would say is that we become wiser as we get older. I regret the days I brought back my lunchbox unfinished just because I didn’t like what was in it. Today, I really feel indebted to my mother who selflessly devoted her life to serve and make a difference in hundreds of students’ lives and at the same time raising both of her children with good values and morals to face this world. I would like to share one more example that I personally know of. My aunt chose to follow her passion. She always dreamt of becoming a “Banker”. She has been associated with Apex Bank in Bhopal for more than 15 years. She doesn’t let her hectic schedule and work pressures consume her. Though she can hire a helping hand, yet she never misses any chance to cook delicacies for her guests. Not only does she wake up at unearthly hours to prepare lunch for my cousin, but also she makes time every year to go on a family trip. The work life balance that she has maintained in her life has made me really respect her and at the same time I am in awe of her delicacies. Working mothers not only fulfill their economic needs which have made them independent with identifiable social status but those have also made them successfully juggle between two domains of life- work and family. To sum up, unlike a coin where the outcome is fixed i.e. heads or tails, I believe that the working mothers have made a proper balance between their family and professional lives.

I would like to thank you Professor Deepa for this wonderful article and walking me down a beautiful memory lane. The article very gracefully tells us how easily we form perceptions about working women and housewives. I always used to compare my mother with my aunt who was a government officer. I used to feel why my mother can’t have an office car and a servant. Ma’am, your article’s Kamla reminds me of my mother who used to cook for us from morning to night and used to provide my father with tea and water on a single call. She was a Biology professor before my birth but sacrificed her career for the sake of her children. However, she tells me that nobody forced her to do so, she had the right to make her own choices and she says she enjoyed teaching her own children and raising them with utmost care and attention. The story of my mother teaches me not to be afraid of making my own choices and stand by my choices no matter what people think about me. The article says teachers apparently have more interesting talks about annual days than housewives who discuss sambhar and rasam at temples. I slightly differ from the view presented in the article and believe that people discuss things that they find interesting irrespective of their professions. We easily form perceptions about other people. For example, people think that men can’t cook and even jokingly tell girls not to let go off the guys who can cook well. Times are changing and so are the challenges of the people. More men are successful chefs at famous restaurants, more men are ready to stay at home to raise children and help their wives in their career growth. As correctly pointed out in the article, there was a time when “those who wanted to be anything at all, had to forsake the kitchen”. Now, the culture has changed. People have moved from joint-families to nuclear families and from families to living independently alone, students have moved abroad for studies. So in today’s time I have a slightly different opinion and one has to study/work and learn cooking irrespective of gender to have basic homemade meal. I was delighted to read the end part of the article when Deepa Ma’am doesn’t hesitate to say that she really likes cooking now and enjoys the contrast of her life. It illustrates that with time we all have to make certain choices and we should proudly stand by the decisions that we make.

The article touches some or the other nerve for all of us. In my head, I could visualize the two kinds of women you talked about. The first one represents the role that I always despised as a child. You talked about having to forsake kitchen and developing interest in cooking through the journey as a woman. I want to present a slightly different story here or I would say, an extension to your views from the eyes of an ambitious girl, growing up in a progressive household where these women still carters to the whims of the family but the daughters are expected to study and stand on their own grounds. I feel that in the journey of keeping us out of the kitchen, pushing us toward progressive society, some of us might have gone too far and kitchen has started being associated with regressive thinking and shackles being placed on their freedom. If my brother is not supposed to cook food and make tea for the guests, asking me to do it, even occasionally, didn’t seem fair. Kitchen was not the place for an ambitious girl, wanting to become a CEO eventually, it was for the homely girls, who didn’t want to progress in their career. Girls eventually come out of house, live outside in hostels and flats but for some, kitchen never holds too much of attraction. They would eventually learn to cook for themselves, to survive in the world of all the “aasha bais” who would feed you tasteless food. At this point when they can hardly carry burden for one, marriage puts them into even more difficult situation; now you are expected to feed two of you, pack delicious lunches and host family gatherings where relatives would judge you on the quality of your mutter paneer. Let us not forget that all this while the girl-turned-women is tirelessly working in office, maybe a rising star in her chosen field, struggling to meet deadlines every day, before coming home and looking sadly at the kitchen; the husband wants to have pyaaj ke pakode tonight. Some of them are in a better situation, the husbands understand their pains and help them out in the chores; these husbands are the ideal ones, a rare breed who would help their tired wives, every girl wishing for one of these. The kitchen remains a burden, a responsibility to be born because she was born a girl. I am beginning to believe that in the shout out for equality, women might have taken a bit too much in their plates. The new ideal for women are being considered those who not only excel in their career path, but also manage to somehow handle their kitchen. While most of us are now working tirelessly in office, the kitchen is still a place we should know our way about. The revolution that is undertaking the corporate world has still a long way to go, to reach an average Indian household.

Thankyou ma’am for sharing your thoughts on a topic that over the years has not been given enough importance. The categorization of women into two types: homemakers and working professionals, is something we all have done. However, viewing something as black or white restricts us from understanding the complete picture of what is happening. We tend to associate women in either of the two categories and expect them to adhere to the roles and responsibilities that entail within. But as we can see through the example of Deepa Ma’am herself, the field of interest of any person is a mix of several categories instead of just one. It is said that the kitchen is the heart of every home. For years, women have assumed the responsibilities of the kitchen, and all that comes with the category of a homemaker. A woman has cajoled her children, given into her family’s demands, obeyed her husband and in-laws and given up her freedom by restricting herself to the home. The second category of woman- a powerful working woman, who is put together and who makes a mark by doing important work and earning money is seemingly away from the duties of the home and the kitchen. Ma’am, through the course of life, has found herself to be a mix of the two categories of women, of which she believed a woman has to pick only one. Ma’am never saw the kitchen as a place she wanted to spend much time in when she was younger. As she learnt and evolved, she let go of the need to place herself in the category of the working woman, who doesn’t step foot in the kitchen. She did what gave her pleasure, and chose to do it as often as she wanted. She demonstrated that she doesn’t need to be one or the other, she can be who she wants. She can be her own type of woman who works, cajoles her children, and wants to spend time in the kitchen. In my opinion, the decision of being a part of any one category should be that of the individual itself. Also, this decision needs to be taken only after experiencing various activities. It is only when we open our minds, enlighten ourselves through education, books, travel, activities that we begin to understand who we truly are and what we find pleasurable. However, I feel that this topic should not just be restricted just to women. Categorization has been done with men too. How many times have we heard that men have to earn the bread and butter for the house? How many times have people sacrificed their interests and passion in order to do a safe job to provide for the family? By categorizing men as the sole providers of the house, we tend to kill many dreams and aspirations people might have. In this modern age, everyone should be given the choice to be part of one category, several categories or even no category at all. I take the liberty of extending this evolution to my own family. My mother, a teacher, has never been fond of cooking. Whereas, it has been my father who has truly loved cooking and experimenting with food. He never saw cooking as a chore, and found himself spending more and more time in the kitchen as time went on. He also forsook the tendency to categorized himself as a man who orders his wife around to bring him food, thus, finding pleasure in the kitchen.

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