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Kitchen konfession ! August 4, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in life, reminisces-1990s.

Natasha writes about her experiences in the kitchen..or perhaps the lack of it. I have a completely different story to relate. I put it here because its rather unusual and I know very few boys who can relate to this.

For those who dont know me, we are 4 at home – my brother (+3 yrs), dad and mom and myself.

I have a confession to make.

I have been cooking rice, dal, 2 different types of rasam, 2 different of sambhar, several different flavored curries, Puri and Chapatis, Bhaji, Dosas, bhel puri in addition to the usual salad, omlettes, tea, coffee, fruit juices etc. all (except dosas) from scratch without ever reading out from a written recipe ! I have helped mom roll papads, swept the house and mopped the floor when my parents have been away/maid servant wasnt aroud or just because I felt like. I have helped my father in gardening – digging pits of different dimensions, planting and caring for plants, climbing shorter coconut trees, peeling coconuts with the axe (at a peak rate of over 1 per min and 300 per month in 1994), painting window bars, varnishing furniture and even tried my hand at using the sewing machine and helped my father in painting the house using the Vacuum cleaner!


And I started doing some of these at a “ripe old age” of 9 years ( Class III ) and by age 12 yrs, I could do all of the above. And whatever I could do, my brother could do, would do, at times only better ! Ditto for my dad (he makes better chapatis than anyone else at home ). Everything was completely voluntary and untrained, no child labor this (!!) and learnt just by observation and experimentation. There was but one slightly more than minor accident when I spilt hot water on my body in 1990 when my parents were away at Bhatkal – the gas stove was too high for me.


First cooked a lunch and dinner for my friends – Ashith and Prakash in Oct, 1996 – Class X at age 15; next day was Rajaram – and since then several times for different sets of people. Have since visited friends and cooked lunches for them at their house, on a couple of occasions for their entire family; helped my friend’s mom with a recipe. I guess I am comfortable in any Indian kitchen – to find my way around, know what is what, what might be kept where (Da kitchen code if you might call it ) and cook a good lunch. Some of my best memories of childhood are of buying and bargaining for vegetables (mostly in Manipal and in Guwahati, Assam (pre 1993)). Even today, I love shopping for vegetables. The only thing in this class of ‘domestic work’ I loathed (and still do) was washing clothes.


I am a boy ofcourse who grew up in a town. I don’t ever remember my parents discouraging me from doing any of this. The only thing I remember being prevented from doing was helping the mason mix cement ( I still managed to do it at times ! ). One of the reasons for this level of interest is that we didn’t like traveling to different places, relatives, functions etc. and so it would be my brother and me managing the house for 2-7 days at a stretch all on our own as my parents attended functions elsewhere. So, it was partly a necessity !


In spite of all this I still was doing everything else that my peers did – playing outdoors (mostly badminton, occasionally cricket and football), not doing bad at school, not being a social outcaste or ridiculed by friends and did some voracious reading of newspapers and other non-fiction material. In fact I haven’t learnt any new such skill in the last 12 years baring some new and not dramatically different recipes. Too bad !


Over the years I realized the ‘advantage’ I had over my peers – advantage towards what end was something I was not sure of, other than perhaps of embarassing my girl-friends and girl-cousins. Or maybe I just felt good about all these sets of skills in my repertoire that would enable me right from my early teens to lead an independent existence. (although I would not rationalize it as a drive for independence – its more of a consequence than a motivation I think ). But then I would think much of this is pretty normal among Americans and Europeans (except American and much of European food is not that complicated.) It is just that in a largely feudal India, division of labor in this sphere of life is rather fine and walls are high. Boys would not do something because they are not expected to and other boys don’t – how lame ! Girls, because they are expected to, will either do something or simply rebel so that they can be rebellious like all their other friends. (does that still make them a rebel ?)

As you realize, it wasn’t about stereotyping or counter-stereotyping/anti-stereotyping ; it was just being able to do so many things and getting a certain high doing them, even if on several occasions because most others you knew couldn’t.



1. aquarianalien - August 4, 2006

doesnt seem like much of a “confession” :P!!

2. Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance « Epistles - November 18, 2007

[…] working with my hands versus the mind, would prefer the latter (exception being my love of cooking (an earlier konfession). It was not always like this – my free time as a young teenager was spent in the garden digging […]

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