Saturday, April 03, 2021

The women of the past generation...


They were always in a rush- every cell of their body was trained to move in haste as if on wheels.

Fear, devotion, deference and servility were their hallmarks in all situations.  

Moreover, society had already convinced them that their foremost duty, responsibility and above all love towards the family could be demonstrated only through untiring service day in and day out.  Their very existence was built around these notions. If questioned, they would emphatically insist that they nursed no grievance, no complaints and bore no resentment or bitterness. It was all about complicit compliance. 

They would be in the grip of fear and anxiety in most circumstances. They dreaded being the cause for any delay- they shuddered at the thought of being admonished and humiliated in public and were ready to go to any lengths to escape the wrath of the men in charge. Often, they wouldn’t be given time to even dress properly- and there were occasions when they wouldn’t even have had the time to wear their slippers when stepping out of the house!

And in spite of taking all precautions, it was still possible that some obscure reason would be found to upbraid them- and this they would endure with a profound sense of self-reproach,  fully believing that they deserved to be admonished.  

They enumerate with immense pride and sense of achievement, stories of the umpteen number of  dishes they have cooked, the innumerable guests they have served, and the countless vessels they have washed for years together.


They laud and encourage  other women who have lived similar lives- they believe that however huge a responsibility or post a woman might hold professionally, it is still desirable that she displays exemplary culinary skills, rejoices in celebrating festivals, entertaining guests, extending impeccable hospitality at every possible opportunity.


It is highly probable that the women of the erstwhile generation would condemn the movie ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’. After all, it would not be easy for them to let go of these deeply embedded values overnight – values that they had been holding close for years together with utmost commitment. Besides, it would mean negating a lifetime of toil and care – why -the very purpose of their existence would be invalidated!  

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.😉

It was no longer her battle. The kitchen was no longer a platform to prove her efficiency as a homemaker. To cook or not to cook was purely her choice. But it had not been like this always.  Watching the movie- 'The Great Indian Kitchen' brought to the surface the memories that had been buried for years now-

How she was reprimanded for not remembering to keep the jug of water on the dining table- at lunchtime.

How she was shamed because the buckets were not sparkling.

How the ladies had to remain in ‘attendance’ while the men were eating and not  be chatting shamelessly with one another in the kitchen- delaying to serve crispy hot dosas straight from the pan.

How one had to bathe early in the morning- dress up well with the bindi and thaali mala in place and not look dishevelled in spite of the chores.

How the entire day was about planning the menu for the next meal-   in elaborate detail. Life was all about – only about and nothing but about planning the menu, cooking, eating and cleaning up. Reading, writing, singing, dancing, drawing- why- even thinking and dreaming was out of bounds...🥴

How by the time the last of the ladies finished lunch it would be time for tea and snacks for the first set of gentlemen! 😀

How after a long tiring journey, one had to immediately sit down to chop and cut humongous jackfruits ('gifted' by loving relatives) to make chips, jam and whatever. While the gents would be resting!

How she was trained to make pickles- while being reminded that she had not been taught such an important life skill at her home, and God forbid if it was festival time or family functions. Waking up at ungodly hours to chop vegetables, scrape and grind coconuts endlessly for the umpteen number of dishes to be cooked.🤦🏽‍♀️

How the very next day after her wedding she was asked to pour idli batter into the idli moulds- while being watched if she managed to do it without spilling it. They were afraid she would make a mess of it- but it was announced: “She needs to be trained”!

How there was the tradition to have the latest recruit/ bride serve the guests during the family function to ensure she knew how to do it right. 

How it was sacrilegious if one's left hand touched the serving dish inadvertently while serving,  how one had to collect and balance the used banana leaves precariously, how one had to pick up the leftovers spilt on the floor, then sprinkle water in one direction- wipe it out with the palm in another- and then the final swab with the assigned piece of cloth- all this under the watchful eyes of critical was harrowing! 😅

Not being able to slurp one's way through the flowing payasam from the banana leaf was also an unforgivable lapse. 😋😋

How she was called into the office room by well-meaning uncles- and given a dressing down on how to plan her daily chores- maintain a ‘timetable’.

How she was handed a letter- explaining to her in the ‘kindest’ of words that she was being a bad homemaker- bad daughter in law- because sometimes her sulks showed. Because she had to cook full course feast spreads almost every day- and cater to visitors cheerfully.

How even when casual visitors dropped in, they were persuaded to stay back for lunch/ dinner- elaborate ones at that, so much so that relatives used to schedule their shopping expeditions in the city such that they would land up in their house for food knowing very well that they were going to be persuaded to stay for meals. And revelling in the great slogan- ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’, the glory of serving food to people- and special brownie points if they happened to be brahmins! 😇

How she shouldn’t be listening to music as she worked.

How another relative brushed his finger across the shelf and showed her the dust on it...

How she was asked to prepare tea just as she was about to sit thinking the day’s chores were finally done-

How one had to cool the piping hot tea- and then reheat it again because it was a wee bit too cool!

How, if one  handed over the tea a little earlier than usual, one was chided, 'trying to finish off the chores soon eh?"🥴

How one had to prepare the same dish in different ways- with lots of coconut, with a little coconut and with no coconut.😅

How there had to be three types of curds with varying degrees of sourness.😅

How the new sheets had to be changed because they smelt ‘new’!😆🥴

How she used to clean her house top to bottom frantically-  because visitors were arriving the next day- and the thoughtful ‘visitors’ would rearrange every single thing that she had to hunt for things in her own home. And how she was expected to be grateful for this kindness.

How she was ‘taught’ to make sambharam- buttermilk  the right way- with the right ingredients- in the right measure- and then when she prepared the same for another elder- he gave her another lecture on how she had done it all wrong and proceeded to give her another recipe- for preparing buttermilk. 🤷🏾‍♀️🥴

Watching this movie- made her stomach go queasy! She wanted to scream from the rooftops- those well-meaning elders- some had already crossed the threshold- and the others were too old- no point in waging any battle- proving any point  and yet how she wished this movie had been made around 30 years ago…🙄

A girl gets married to the Kitchen- The Great Indian Kitchen!🤭

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

NaPoWriMo 27

So the tortoise is still at Prompt 27: 

We challenge you to pick a card (any card) from this online guide to the tarot, and then to write a poem inspired either by the card or by the images or ideas that are associated with it.

This is the card that I picked : 

I was not sure how to go about it. I began by actually describing what I saw and then it evolved into a message about saving the Earth. I don't think it was a conscious process. So this is what I came up with :

Daughter of The Sun

Where has she gone?
Did we send her on exile?

Seated she was
On scarlet velvet cushions
Wearing a tiara of starry gems
Robed in satin silky sheen
Falling about her stockinged feet
in downy ripples

A benign smile adorned
her firm and gentle countenance
eyes swimming with kindness and resilience
The shield of Venus abounding
in love, vitality and courage
lay by the side
Holding aloft a marble sceptre
Hand raised in blessing
Bestowing Power and fortitude
Bequeathing lushness of grain
And abundance of water

We need to find her and reclaim her
We need to cajole, coax , convince her 
Never again shall we disregard her
Never again shall we plunder her
We need to bring back her regime
Before the day of Doom
Gains upon us!

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

NaPoWriMo Day 26.

Had been traveling. The poetry challenge is over, but I wish to try out the various prompts. Today I attempt this one:

"Write a poem that includes images that engage all five senses. Try to be as concrete and exact as possible with the “feel” of what the poem invites the reader to see, smell, touch, taste and hear."
And then I was reminded of a translation that I did of my cousin's poem a few months back. Since I feel that this poem is replete with the 5 sensations, I present the same. The original was in Malayalam. 

Do you converse with the walls?
They may have no arms, but they can
bind you fast between their expansive, sleek veneers.

Keep up the chatter and
They might end up reaching out to our dialect
and we might end up living in theirs
And some might pierce through our warmth
Imbuing their concrete chill…

Be warned though of Ancient walls –
They might ensconce you deep
into their decrepit slumbering leaves
Taunt you with memories of bygone youth
Making you shudder in chagrin
Before their towering vainglory

The new pristine walls through a forgotten switch
may gently graze your brows
with sizzling current;
Caress your forehead with
the dust off a Picture frame

A distressing odour of the paint
clings all over
and whispers into your ears: “WE”!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

NaPoWriMo18 Prompt 3

My writing is all disorderly. So today I work with the Day 3 prompt which says:  "Write a poem that plays with voice. For example, you might try writing a stanza that recounts something in the first-person, followed by a stanza recounting the same incident in the second-person, followed by a stanza that treats the incident from a third-person point of view. Or you might try a poem in the form of a dialogue, which necessarily has two “I” speakers, addressing two “you”s. Another way to go is to take an existing poem of yours or someone else’s, and try rewriting it in a different voice. The point is just to play with who is speaking to who and how. 

SHE : ( 3rd person)  

She struts about like she is royal
Her nose up in the air
She looks you in the eye
And answers like she dared you      
There is no smile
on her little upturned lips
She shrugs her mane
like the wind was her play thing…         
PC: from the www
She twirls her pretty little fingers
Drawing graceful arcs in the air
She sashays past ,with  cheeky impudence
swinging her arms, 
her head in the clouds
You can’t help but
Stand by star gazed…
How can she be so forthright
It is not  her time yet
She needs to wait, she needs to learn
Before she earns her worth

I : ( 1st person)

I am just a young girl
Searching for my bearings
I wish you looked at me
A little more kindly
With a little more understanding
But I shall not ask, I shall not plead
Don’t judge me by the way I walk, talk or look
PC: from the www
Don’t look at me with scorn in your eye
Don’t look at me like I know nothing about life     
I may not, but I am learning
I shall not cower nor crouch
I am not afraid to learn
I too have my fears, I too have my doubts
But  I don’t let them
mirror in my eye
Pacing with steady steps
Looking at the world straight in the eye
Gives me the strength
To deal with what comes on life’s platter
You think you’ve got me all sorted
But let me tell you
The story may be different from
What strikes the eye…

YOU : ( 2nd person)

Don’t you see?
She is a child woman
She is evolving
She is vulnerable
She is fragile
The fingers of life
are reaching out to her
Sometimes in gentle caresses          
PC: from the www
And sometimes in shoves
Be gentle, be kind
Don’t you remember?
How you longed to be understood
To be accepted, to be liked
Don’t you see a little you and me
In her eyes, in her words
And in her deeds?
Is it really not so easy
To cast the gaze of love
To stride along unobtrusively
With a gentle pat, a tender hug
To just let her know you care
Just to be there
If and when needed…

( all images are from the internet. ) 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

NaPoWriMo 18: Prompt 25 : Warning Label

Today, we challenge you to write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself!


Handle with kid gloves!

Tread with care !
Waterworks in progress!

Take Diversion!
Explosive terrain ahead!

Searing Sarcasm Expert!
Thick skinned apparel advised!

Specialist in Cold shoulder treatment
Prudence recommended!

Shhhh! Silence mode!
Breathe only if absolutely essential!

Introspective Mode!
Don’t disturb!

Brainstorming session
Participation mandatory!

Loving cap on
Abject surrender Imperative !

NaPoWriMo 18 : Prompt (1) : Secret Pleasure/ Secret Shame

1. Write a poem that is based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure

A secret shame or a secret pleasure?
The secret shames or the secret pleasures?
This one or that one
So many buried under the avalanche of memories
Sometimes I rake one up
Some harmless, innocent ones
And some not so pleasant
Some real awkward that I shudder with shame
And some bring a smile
On my face
And then I realize
One just cannot grow up too soon
One shall commit the deeds of
Folly of innocence and ignorance
There is no skipping to maturity
One stumbles and falls
Before one takes steps of
Confidence and cognizance!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

NaPoWriMo Prompt 24

And from Prompt 1, I jump straight onto Prompt 24! Why? Because  Prompt 24 says: 

Today’s craft resource is a long-ish essay by Hyejung Kook regarding how poetry can be created from absence, or in the wake of loss, and how awareness of mortality drives a desire to produce art, people, poems.
Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

And since I had already written something a few years ago on these lines, I thought I might as well post it here. It is about a very special person who left in 2010.  

To someone who left...

Hi, are you there? Are you listening?
I want to tell you something
I am angry, very angry
But sometimes I miss you, lots…
But let me also tell you that
sometimes I don’t…
You know,
Sometimes I want to talk to you
Sometimes I just want to listen to you
And sometimes I don’t know what I actually wish-
Sometimes I think I should wipe out every memory,
every thought of you…
And sometimes I want
to cling to even the tiniest moment
And don’t want to let go ever…
Sometimes I ask why, how..
Sometimes I just don’t care…
Sometimes I think
I’m getting used to your absence
And sometimes I feel its unbearable
Sometimes I think I’ll get over you…
And everything will be fine,I’ll keep moving on
And sometimes I’m stuck, I am lost
Sucked into a bottomless vortex
Struggling to stay afloat

Sometimes suddenly I get the feeling you are right here
Right in front of me or by my side
And when I reach out
Colliding into the emptiness and the silence
A sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach
A wrench in my heart, a sob in my throat
Reminding me that you are not here nor anywhere
Sometimes I think I heard you giggle
I fancy I saw you here or there
And I forget you are elsewhere or nowhere
And then when it dawns yet again

It is another stab for the millionth time
Knowing that the past will never come back…
It is so hard to believe that
That which was is no longer is …
Sometimes I can accept, and sometimes it hurts
in some place that cannot be seen, heard or touched

Sometimes I want to call out your name Loud, loudly…
Sometimes I want to hear you call out my name Loud, louder
And I want to answer
And then I realize with a shudder
I’m forgetting how your voice sounded
I keep looking for remnants of your voice, of your touch
And I drown in an abyss of despair and desolation
Of helplessness, of hopelessness
And yet, there is an absurd sense of relief
A weird reassurance
That you still exist- in my memories
Because I’m terrified of letting myself forget you
Because if I forget you then that will be the true end
And that I can’t bear
When you flash in my memory
It means you still are, and that you remain
I want to talk about you without my eyes welling up
I want to smile when I think about you
And for me to go on
I need to know that you are watching, listening,smiling too
I want to let the waves of your memories wash over me
I want to drown in them
I keep reliving those moments,
keep retelling those stories
In a frenzy to keep you here

Of how you chided me
How you teased me
How you annoyed me,
How your eyes crinkled when you smiled,
How you waggled your finger in mock anger
How you laughed, how you rolled your eyes
You said this, you did that…
The calendar is now marked forever
As before you left, and after
You just picked up and left
No goodbyes, no farewells
The onus on us left behind
To trudge through the quicksand of life
I always knew you’d leave
But when you did
I realized I was hoping you’d stay…

Hey ! Are you there? Are you listening?
I want to tell you something
I am angry, very angry- but
Did I tell you how much I have loved you
Did you know how much you meant to me?
Wait, I cannot let you go yet
I refuse to think you are not here
You are still here amidst us
In our words, in our thoughts
Now and forever…

NaPoWriMo 2018 ( Prompt 1- Early Bird)

NaPoWriMo 2018

I am very late to the party. But no worries. Let me start from Day 1prompt

Day 1 Prompt  :  to write a poem in the form of a love letter . . . to an object. Ideally, the poem will be a kind of riddle, where it’s not totally obvious that the addressee is your beloved childhood pogo stick, or a dish of pad thai from your favorite restaurant, until near the end.  A great opportunity to play with some of the clichés and tropes of love poetry.

You were a gift

A very thoughtful one

You looked very strange

And yet I liked you

From the very beginning

You sang the sweetest songs

Your voice like the tinkle of bells.

I held  you in my arms

day in and out

Never wanting to let go

You were mine and  only mine  

And then one day

It happened

Everything changed

We had a fall out

I lashed out

In mad, blind fury

You were shattered

You whimpered

In feeble, garbled tones

And then you went silent

Silent forever

I’ve often wondered

What became of you

(Music Box : p.c: Internet)
I still remember the songs

That you sung

Your tinkling sound

Continues to Haunt my dreams