Indian mothers are a special group of people. They are dexterous, diligent and shoulder a variety of household responsibilities like managing the finances, getting the linen clean, cleaning the house, packing off kids to school, helping them with the homework and, most importantly, cooking. Household involvement of mothers of people in the age-group of, say 18-35, is very high because most of these mothers do not work or have a job. Not being the wage-earner, their role is limited to the household chores. I like to call this group of mothers as the Great Indian Mothers.
Whenever I meet a Great Indian Mother, I realize a striking similarity – all these mothers can cook very well and cook a wide variety of dishes right from pav-bhaji to dosa, chole-bhature to naan-matar-paneer, savoury sweets to namkeens, golgappas to pizza and so on. The main responsibility of the mother being the household chores and, in particular, khana-peena, the mother tries to do a really good job of it, thus cultivating versatility in them. They don’t want the family to have a routine dose of carbohydrates and proteins, instead they go all-out to ensure that ghar ka khana is good fun. These thoughts and virtues are clearly an outcome of focus and responsibility.
The other day, while having dinner with a friend in a small dhaba (I have been eating outside for about 18 years now – an outcome of staying in hostels, paying guest etc.), I wondered if I stand any chance to enjoy ghar ka khana, once I get “settled down”. Going back to my earlier post, where I talked about how people would get busy in their work lives and have no time for marriage or kids, I felt that my chances were, at best, minimal. As we move towards a socio-economic setup, where more and more women enter the Indian workforce, I see the “versatile cook” heading towards a slow, but sure, extinction. As women start shouldering financial responsibilities and managing their careers, focus on the household would be divided. I do not intend to say that the underlying inclination to get involved in household work, in particular cooking, would decline. Women, by cultural programming, are attuned to take on these responsibilities, but they would be constrained to do so in the future. So the future mothers residing in urban India, who work and shoulder financial responsibilities, will turn into “Utility Cooks“.
They would know to cook only routine fare (chaawal-dal-roti et al) to feed the household. They would not have the time to develop versatility in cooking. Whenever the family feels a need to indulge in variety, they would go to eateries to savour gastronomical delights. There will be a complete division of labour, where the task of cooking delicacies will be largely outsourced to more specialized participants in the economy.