Out of all childhood memories, one that particularly stands out, is of me as a little girl, holding on to my mama’s saree as she went about cooking daily meals for a 15 member joint family. And as she single-handedly achieved this feat, I looked at my superwoman in awe and kept asking her to teach me how to make perfect round chapattis or when to know that the dal was cooked or how much water did the rice need???All of it seemed so intricate and interesting to me.I believed Ma enjoyed it as much as I did and was equally thrilled when the pressure cook gave out the whistle or when the chapatti came out all fluffy and round.
However, I also recall Ma abruptly ending my rendezvous with cookery and rushing me out of the kitchen and putting a book of alphabets in my hand and telling me, “Beta, You will learn to cook someday, it’s a survival instinct, if not delicacies you will definitely manage a decent meal for yourself but now is your time to gather knowledge, learn as much and absorb all of it.I want you to grow up into a woman who is an individual and not a mere appendage to a man”.
As much as I disliked this about her, I quickly gave in to save myself from any further lecturing and tip-toed to my study loudly singing the alphabets as if to announce my entry into the kingdom of knowledge and learning.
With the strike of puberty, for the first time it was made clear to me that I was different from boys and believe me it was not the monthly visits of Aunt Flo, rather it was the way my family and people around me treated me. All of a sudden I had two purposes to fulfil, unlike my brother who just had one.I had to study to be a writer and “groom” myself to be a marriageable young lady while my brother could solely focus on being a doctor.
But, we women have it in our DNA to multi-task and though I did not understand exactly what to do to make myself more acceptable as a wife to someone in future, I tried and did the best I could, which was, reading and enriching myself and cultivating my interests only to realise years later that I had got it all wrong.
When I was little older Iunderstood what Ma meant, I felt how she had dreams besides the ones in the closed four walls of household (though we had a loving family, it never struck anyone that she could want things differently).
Whenever I saw Ma, I felt pangs within and I consoled myself that times have changed and when i grow up the society would not have the same expectations from me.
Now, I’m 34, still waiting for love and wedlock, I am looked at suspiciously at work by both male and female colleagues who try to figure out what’s wrong with me, rumours of alleged link-ups follow me like a shadow, my marital status is more interesting than my credentials. Phew. That day when i shared this over dinner with Ma, she gave me a patient hearing and then with her eyes still lowered she said, “Beta, if you want to move about freely in society, tie yourself in wedlock”.
I finished my meal slowly; we didn’t talk much after that.
I couldn’t get much sleep that night either.