I don’t find cooking very interesting. Well there’s nothing in this to pop your eyeballs out, is there? Not really, but things do change slightly if you are married to a Gujarati. It matters now. And matters a lot. It did help that the husband is uber supportive, although, given a choice, he would always opt for my cooking. But frankly I didn’t give him much of a choice. Since we both were consulting galley slaves with hardly any compartmentalisation of work and life, we chose to have a cook who would redeem us, rather me, from this mundane chore. And I dreamt of waking up to an aroma filled home. Hot breakfast and lunch ready on the table. Freshly cooked dinner after a stressful day…mmmm what joy.
After a couple of trial and errors we did manage to find the right cook who would go on to help us for over two years. Not the best of cooks, though, but didn’t give us much to complain either. So there we were, trying not to give in to the whims of eating out, despite an extremely stressful job. Priding ourselves on getting our own dabbas to office. Despite being newly married, and just having settled into a nuclear setup in a new city. But what I had not braced myself for, was the animosity I would face on this ‘cook’ topic. And that the animosity would come from so many mutually exclusive quarters. All of whom were women. Let me start with the one closest to my heart.
My mother, a devout Tam-Brahm, for whom a house help entering through the main door itself causes a slight upheaval, who wouldn’t dream of someone else entering her sacred abode. My idea of a cook was met with mixed reaction. Mixed because she couldn’t accept the idea of a stranger cooking in her daughter’s kitchen. But she couldn’t let her beloved daughter down either. This was the easiest nut to crack.
We used to do occasional trips to Mumbai, where my father in law stayed. It was there that I, the new Madrasi bride, was subjected to intense scrutiny by some of the female and elderly (a lethal combination) Gujarati relatives.
“So what time you have to go to work?”
“I have to leave around 830 aunty”
“And K (the husband)?”
“We leave around the same time”
“And what time do you get back home?”
“Cant say, there’s usually lot of work, so depends..” (there is no question of when K gets back, as that is totally irrelevant you see)
“Aur dabba? Do you cook before leaving?”
(Now I can’t hide it any longer) “No we have a cook.”
“You mean just for lunch?”
“No for breakfast and dinner as well.”
“Does she cook well?”
Now if you have ever tasted authentic homemade Gujarati food, you would rather not answer this in an affirmative tone. Reason being, Gujaratis just love their food. Men love their wives for cooking them great food. And the wives love their husbands for giving them a chance to cook great food. And so it goes…their standards of good food, cooking etc are way way above that of lesser mortals like me who can churn out the banal food just enough to keep one’s vital stats unaffected.
So I meekly say “yes, quite decent food”
“Decentttttt bole che!!!!”, guffaws a particulary loud woman who has been eyeing me suspiciously from the very start of this conversation. And they all have a hearty laugh. And I am almost the college girl being ragged there by a bunch of irate seniors. I pretend to look at my mobile and attend a non-existent call.
Visiting my cousin’s wife, again a Tam-Brahm, but yes, she’s from my generation, and so I was off- guard.
“Hey, so you have a cook?”, she asks.
“Yes, luckily. How else to manage man?”
Pause. “Even he told me to keep a cook yaar. But I refused.”
The same story then. Quickly collecting myself, I ask, “So you manage all the cooking before leaving to work?”
“Yeah, luckily I have a habit of getting up early you know so I can finish off all the stuff before heading to work.”
“Oh…he also helps you maybe? “(I have already made up my mind to berate the husband for not helping me in the kitchen only and only because of which we have to resort to a cook)
“No no…He can’t even boil water” (giggles like a schoolgirl)
I am stuck between my feminist sentiments and the cook saga. While I am still wondering what to say next, she pips in, “I dont like anyone else entering my kitchen yaar, that’s why. I only have a lady for making chapattis. She comes every morning and night.”
The above post is my entry to the ‘Just married, please excuse’ contest, around the release of Yashodhara Lal’s new book (http://www.yashodharalal.com/2012/08/the-just-married-please-excuse-contest.html)