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!