Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Kitchen

- by Janaki Krishnan

As a teenager, watching my mother toiling in the kitchen all day long, I visualized for myself the life of an educated working woman. I would live in comfort, having nothing to do with the drudgery of the kitchen.

Sixty years of life as a Mumbaikar, married into a Tamil Brahmin family, juggling career and home, children and in-laws, racing against time and battling the space crunch in a tiny flat, have totally changed my perception about life, leisure and happiness.

Strangely, it is the kitchen that is now a source of comfort, a place of solace and quiet.

As I enter it in the morning, the clean L-shaped granite platform seems to welcome me. The white tiles, my appliances, my multi-coloured labelled jars; they all fill me with a quiet satisfaction. Everything in my kitchen is designed for comfort. Frequently used items are sensibly placed within arms' reach. Every inch of space is utilised cleverly to accommodate my spoonstands, coffee tumblers, utensils and plates.

As I boil the morning milk, I enjoy the sight of the tall green Tusli and Kadipatta plants watered and nurtured by my husband. I love green; it reminds me of fertility and freshness. The porcelain Chinaman, holding the kitchen knives and gas lighter in his bulging belly, warns me against overeating. My little notepad hangs from the hook, and helps my husband to run the kitchen in my absence. My shopping bag hangs on a hook next to it. Everything has its own place and purpose, and there is pleasure in entering this orderly calm world.

But there is another, more meaningful aspect of my kitchen - my mini-temple. A small enclosure with arches and pillars of marble houses all the Gods of the Hindu pantheon and their spouses. The Om symbol is placed at the top. There is a small brass lamp that I light at dawn and dusk, to dispel ignorance about the “real Me”.

A quote from the Upanishads says “brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahmakarma samadhina”. One who sees Brahman in all actions verily reaches Brahman. Whatever I cook, I first offer to Brahman and then eat. This simple gesture transforms my kitchen from a mere cooking area, into a place where even my mundane actions have a deeper meaning.

Thus at 72, I enter my kitchen with a feeling of contentment and joy. I gladly prepare my granddaughters' favourite dishes, unmindful of the heat or strain. Now I understand why my mother ungrudgingly stuck to her kitchen. To her, it was not just a place of toil. It was also a place of inner meaning and joy.

Note: Photos courtesy my sister Radha and her new camera!

20 comments:

Kievas said...

Your kitchen is so organized! Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.

mompriest said...

The spirituality of a kitchen...nice!

Cherez said...

wonderful post...and yes, your kitchen looks so neat & organized!

radha said...

Lovely kitchen. And a very nice post. Your grand daughter is very lucky. I am sure you are passing on good values to her.

Sheena said...

beautiful post

डा०रूपेश श्रीवास्तव said...

अम्मा,रसोईघर और आपको देख कर अनायास ही माताजी का स्मरण हो आया क्योंकि आपका अंदाज भी ठीक वैसा ही दिख रहा है,लेखन और जीवन दोनो में.........

Guruprasad said...

hi deepa :

loved the posts & the pics! pls tell your mom that i am eagerly waiting to meet her and have some of the coffee from her kitchen :)

i also loved the post on 'visiting graandparents'. here's one of my posts on some of the people i've met on flights - http://guruprasad.blogspot.com/2008/02/suited-and-booted.html

masalamagic said...

Beautiful post Mrs.Krishnan! Your kitchen looks organized and spic and span. I am with you. For me, my kitchen is my safe haven, a place where I unwind while i cook the day's meal. And its seems like the kitchen and the surrounding dining area in my house sees the most action.
Thanks for sharing.

Anju said...

your kitchen is so organized and neat, periamma!

Seeker said...

I love your transformation of the every day into the sacred. You have inspired me to attend more to those tasks we may feel too common to warrant sacred attention...in reality, it is all aacred. Thank you for the reminder and to Kievas for leading me to you blog!

Rose Growing Gal said...

What a beautiful entry. Made me nostalgic for our small family kitchen back in Russia, where I grew up and made me miss my dear grandmother. Sigh...
God bless you

JKBalaji said...

I was stunned to look at your snap in the kitchen - for a moment I thought it was my mother's photo! from the side pose, there is such a startling resemblance.

Besides that, your blog is quite nice and interesting.

mridula das said...

beautiful thought. really an insight into what is the haven for many indian women...even today.

Anonymous said...

Well written. A kitchen of the house speaks volumes about the households. I am also blessed to learn from Janaki Ma'am. She was my economics teacher, a lady who command respect. May lord almighty keep her in good health and spirit- Bob Mathew

sum123 said...

I feel much the same about my kitchen, but it's not about Brahman for me. Cooking is like a puja or yagyan which is performed with love to quench the fire of hunger from the bodies of my family members. It is meant to keep them healthy , happy n satisfied. I would like to add that I always keep green branches which give out roots in plain water in glass bottles on the balcony parapet of my kitchen. The balcony gets a lot of sun each season as it is the south direction.. I have also the idols of Goddess Laxmi n Lord Jagannath in my kitchen cabinet. I also keep flower sticks in small vases on my oven , window sill . I regard my kitchen as a place of relaxation as I keep my favourite music flowing from my mobile while I cook. Otherwise I am always busy in reading, writing, research, laptop. So my kitchen gives me rest from work n takes me away from mundane worries. More importantly my kitchen window opens to the main road . As I live in the first floor I get a wide view of the outside world. People coming fron n going to work, children, mothes, college students walking by hand in hand enjoying, gossiping, ladies going for shopping or yoga classes in groups , young girls riding bikes, besides cows n dogs on their regular trips in search of food, dog owners guiding their pets of different breeds for their potty, working class woman with cheap tiffin carriers hanging from their hands walking very fast keeping pace with their male partners, and a lot more activities. Apart from all these what makes my kitchen a heavenly Eden for me is that it's window opens to my garden with numerous colorful n scented flowers n the fragrance of the champak , jasmine, rose , and so many more flowers whose names in English I don't know permeate the kitchen with a bowerlike ambience. I love my kitchen though it is smaller in comparison to all my other rooms. I love this sunny, scented, well ventilated n organized space as a holy place. Thanx for sharing this post,

sum123 said...

I feel much the same about my kitchen, but it's not about Brahman for me. Cooking is like a puja or yagyan which is performed with love to quench the fire of hunger from the bodies of my family members. It is meant to keep them healthy , happy n satisfied. I would like to add that I always keep green branches which give out roots in plain water in glass bottles on the balcony parapet of my kitchen. The balcony gets a lot of sun each season as it is the south direction.. I have also the idols of Goddess Laxmi n Lord Jagannath in my kitchen cabinet. I also keep flower sticks in small vases on my oven , window sill . I regard my kitchen as a place of relaxation as I keep my favourite music flowing from my mobile while I cook. Otherwise I am always busy in reading, writing, research, laptop. So my kitchen gives me rest from work n takes me away from mundane worries. More importantly my kitchen window opens to the main road . As I live in the first floor I get a wide view of the outside world. People coming fron n going to work, children, mothes, college students walking by hand in hand enjoying, gossiping, ladies going for shopping or yoga classes in groups , young girls riding bikes, besides cows n dogs on their regular trips in search of food, dog owners guiding their pets of different breeds for their potty, working class woman with cheap tiffin carriers hanging from their hands walking very fast keeping pace with their male partners, and a lot more activities. Apart from all these what makes my kitchen a heavenly Eden for me is that it's window opens to my garden with numerous colorful n scented flowers n the fragrance of the champak , jasmine, rose , and so many more flowers whose names in English I don't know permeate the kitchen with a bowerlike ambience. I love my kitchen though it is smaller in comparison to all my other rooms. I love this sunny, scented, well ventilated n organized space as a holy place. Thanx for sharing this post,

Poornima Sivaraman said...

Very nicely penned
Yes a neat clean kitchen to enter in the morning to get going is a must
SIES means a lot as I have passed out from here in 1967

As it so many years ago,I am sorry if madam has taught us

Thank u for the post
Mrs Poornima Sivaraman

During school years I was Ponnamma Seshadri

Unknown said...

A kitchen reveals a character more than what a thousand words could. A delightful piece.

jaishree said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading it...despite some constraints finding happiness in what little things you do in kitchen is comnendable..you have found your own space to be joyful,thank you Janaki teacher

Malini Iyer said...

Wonderful narration!! Only a teacher can speak her so eloquently as you have done!! And yes, it is my Siddanth, if your mind is at it happy best and you prepare a dish lovingly, it has to turn out delicious!!! God Bless you, Janaki teacher, with a long, happy and fulfilled life!!!