A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for January 6th, 2015

Where she came from

Posted by Pepper on January 6, 2015

We’ve been looking out for a good cook now that we have begun setting up the kitchen in our new house. Although I seem to enjoy cooking sometimes, neither I, nor Mint has the time or inclination to do it on a daily basis. We did it in the US when we *had* to, but now that we have the option of hiring somebody for the job, we would rather do that and use the time we free up to focus on other things. Infact, we’ve always had a cook since the time we started living on our own in India. The setup works quite well for us.

While talking to my mom in law on phone, I mentioned to her that we were looking for a cook. She let out a small laugh and asked me why we wanted a cook. Does Mint dislike the food I cook? I took a deep breath before responding to her. This one has always been a sore point. My MIL does not understand why I cannot take on the entire responsibility of cooking on a daily basis. The assumption that I am and should be the self appointed cook while my husband should do nothing other than judging my abilities and skills obviously pisses me off.

I told her calmly that I cannot be the one responsible for cooking because my office is quite far from where we live, and it is too late to start cooking after I get back home. I let out another laugh and told her, that if at all, she should be telling Mint to cook because his commute is less tiring and he gets home sooner than I do. We were both silent after that.

Here is the thing. I know my MIL secretly agrees with me. She understands logic and reason. But she has spent her entire life living by the norms set by the world. She always wants to ‘fit in’. Her family is full of unreasonable and rigid women who actually believe their daughters in law should be sweating it out in the kitchen, dishing out and serving hot dosas to the rest of the family, no matter what. That is the kind of stuff ‘good’ daughters in law are made of. But most of those women aren’t capable of logical reasoning. Their minds aren’t trained to think. They aren’t very educated.

My MIL is different. At times, I think she is caught in two very different worlds. I’ve tried to understand where she comes from, several times. She was born in Madurai. She was highly interested in education and was a class topper all her life. She completed her BSc in Nutrition. Since she wanted to do her Masters, she was granted permission by her father to do her MSc. After completing that, she set her sights on an MBA. Women completing their MBA in those days was very uncommon. Since she was of marriageable age by then, her father told her that she could start doing her MBA while they were looking out for suitable grooms. If they found any good match, it would be upto the guy to decide whether she could continue her MBA or not.

Her match was arranged. My FIL permitted her to complete her MBA after they got married. They lived away from each other for the first 9 months of their marriage because my MIL was still studying. After that, she moved in with my FIL and that is how they began their married life. Equipped with an MSc and an MBA degree, she considered working for sometime. But she had married into a highly conservative family in which women did not work. In my FIL’s family. almost everybody had chosen to marry within the family. Crazy, in my opinion. But apparently, marrying your cousins and your uncles wasn’t very uncommon in South India back then. My FIL was the only sensible one who put his foot down and insisted on marrying an ‘outsider’.

She began her married life as an ‘outsider’. She tried hard to not be seen as one by the rest of the family. But that tag never left her. Given the circumstances,  she did not want to do anything that set her apart from the rest. Obviously, going out to work wouldn’t get her any brownie points. So the idea was nipped in the bud. Soon, she was pregnant with Mint. And then, with Oregano. She devoted her entire life taking care of her husband and sons. She served them with utmost sincerity, their health and well being being her priority.

That is how she has lived her life. Pleasing and obeying the men and serving her family. Sometimes, I wonder how her life would have shaped had she gotten adequate opportunities. If you talk to her, you’ll know she is a very intelligent individual. She is very knowledgeable and has a strong sense of logic. She has a good command over the English language and is also very well read. So when I speak logic to her, when I talk about feminism and equality with her, I know she gets it, even though she doesn’t say it.

And yet, she will try and persuade me to cook without any help, to look after her son, to strive to be a better homemaker and do everything that we consider to be highly sexist. She is surrounded by conservative, close minded individuals and she has been made to idolise their way of life. She has been made to believe it is the only right way. But sometimes, I wonder if she acknowledges the recurrent clash between logic and belief.

Posted in Gender, Meet the family | 10 Comments »

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