People often talk about their Mothers as the reason behind their success. Especially in India, ‘Maa’ is just not a word. It brings to mind a long trail of words that give this short term a more significant meaning. Maa means care; it means to love; it brings with it thoughts of good, nourishing food. Maa means endless blessings and prayers for loved ones. Maa means a lava of emotions – she cries when she’s happy and sheds tears when sad. In short, Maa means a cosy home. We have poems and songs in praise of Maa, so many of them.
But what about Dad? Why is Dad left behind? A lot of descriptive phrases are associated with this three-letter word adding to his existing colossal image. He is ‘the head of the family’; he is ‘the protector’, ‘the bread earner’ and gives financial security. He decides what to do and what not to do, solving all dilemmas, making life easier for the rest of the family members.
A Dad’s life is tough. If he’s sad, he doesn’t cry, and if he’s stressed, he doesn’t tell. Nobody knows why, at times, he suddenly loses his cool, but he is expected to carry a confident, bold face, always, no matter how nervous he is. I guess he has a lot on his shoulders, though that doesn’t justify his unexplained behaviour patterns.
Whatever the reason, a Dad is somebody that sons and daughters look up to. Nobody looks up to a mom. Who wants to be a homemaker rolling out ‘chapatis’ and doing household chores?
As a child, I often pictured myself like my father, sitting on my office chair behind my huge table with immaculate stationery items. Computers weren’t a part of my dream table as they were not used at that time. It wasn’t until grade ten when I did my first computer course in MS-DOS, Word star and Lotus. Yep, I’m that old, from the days of MS-DOS.
At six years, I had my own little set up that emulated my Dad’s office. I never wanted to lead my life doing endless, thankless home chores, which generally go unnoticed and unappreciated because nobody values them, but definitely are taken for granted. All three meals should be served on time, clothes should be washed regularly and ironed and stacked in everyone’s respective almirahs and other endless stuff, with no Sunday breaks. In short, I was an ambitious little kid who wanted to work outside all of this and I also believed in having lots of fun.
My Dad is no more, but I never looked at him as just the provider or the decision-maker of the house. To me, he was more than that. Simply put, I thought of him as ‘My Papa’. I quite fondly remember him as somebody who loved spending time with his family. We enjoyed his company during a game of chess or carrom. I learnt table tennis from him. He liked watching movies with us. Making a snowman during winters was so much fun with him. Moreover, he was ambitious about me, that I should have a career and be financially independent.
Well, to your surprise, and to my friends’ surprise (those who knew me well), and to my own surprise as well, I ended up doing just the opposite. I was spending most part of my day at home with those never-ending, unapplauded gigs in my musical kitchen. Well, I had to make my choices, right? And yet, I don’t know if they worked well for me. I was composing music with the clatter of ‘bartans’, the whirring of the washing machine and the clanging of the big and small spoons. I made great music along with the humming of the dishwasher. Don’t worry! I made great food too. My mother prepared me well…for this day, I guess. I should be able to take good care of myself and, more than that, take care of others. All Indian mothers are worried about their daughters. They need to go to another house where the expectations will be higher as they turn from daughters to daughters-in-law and a wife and then, a mum. Mothers know well what lies ahead and try to overprepare them, while the sons are pretty much ignored and underprepared in this field. I don’t know if they really care about how much goes into bringing a whole meal on the table, apart from eating it.
It wasn’t really a big deal for me, as cooking was a passion when I was somewhat younger. Making each dish was like a story to me; plating was an art. I cooked well and experimented in my mum’s lab where I often got rebuked by her for spilling the ingredients and messing with her dishes; after all, it was her domain and rightfully hers.
After marriage, everyone loved my food. I even had suggestions from people to open up a small restaurant at one point. But it was a BIG NO for me. The restaurant idea ruins everything for me. I cook for myself and my family, with a lot of love and time at hand. Along with the ingredients, a lot of love and patience go into making it a finger-licking food.
As years have passed, today, I feel just cooking for the family isn’t really enough. Monotony seems to have stepped in, and I feel a compelling need to step out.
Some part of me feels empty. I learned a lot from my mum and practised it, but I undervalued the ‘lessons from my Dad’. That young, ambitious kid emulated her Dad in his office but forgot to keep her Dad’s footprints.
Today, I want to create music outside my kitchen. I call it mine, and rightfully so. Though I am free to mess around and experiment in my territory with my own tools, I wish and long to explore other unchartered territories.
I want to create and, this time, with a different set of tools.
Wish me Luck so I can gather fragments of my dream.