Silent kitchens

Everyone has a favourite place in the house. Mine has always been the kitchen. I still remember how, when I was young, I would eagerly wait for summer holidays and all my visiting relatives to turn this tiny space into one big, chaotic space. The thought of a new biryani recipe being improvised amidst all the masala gossip of aunts, still tickles my memory wet. We always managed to squeeze into the crowd, occasionally being allowed some real fun by kneading the dough, and cutting it into round shapes by using inverted bowls. Even off seasons, without the visiting relatives around, the kitchen was a very lively affair. Daily plans were discussed over breakfast eggs, much as bad days forgotten after a spoonful of the evening dessert.

Then the clamour of fast life invaded our kitchens. Slow at first with its low notes, it gathered decibels over the years, and has now smothered them with the buzz of our ultra nuclear, touch-screen-obsessed, not-a-second-to-lose lives. So, unlike in the olden times, when long hours were often spent together on Sunday mornings in the run up to the family brunch, we now prefer the lobbies of posh Michelin-starred hotels, their dishes with mysterious nomenclatures (which twist our tongues more than the pasta), and the handsome tipping that inflates thy status. Besides, eating out is not just a matter of convenience anymore. It is a style statement, one you would be regarded as dumb to miss.

I wouldn’t conclude that our kitchens are totally defunct. Of course, when the IT couple is out designing new software in the office, the bai is busy with a different sort of designing, while clanking the kitchen hardware in a hurry. Someday, if we are unlucky to be ditched by her, the kitchens get lucky as we end up using one odd utensil to heat the ready-to-eat food packets ourselves. Home delivery, with its plastic accoutrements, is perhaps the only exception that gives the luxury of skipping the kitchen altogether, allowing us to dig in right away at the doorstep (with perhaps a bit of assistance from the microwave, in case the food arrives cold.) For majority of the kitchen slabs still occupied with activity, the sole participant is our time-pressed, multitasking dear Mommy, who is busy packing lunch boxes, readying school bags, and simultaneously ticking off a to-do list that is forever stuck on the fridge door.

The silent kitchen has done a lot more than just reduce the crowd inside. There was a whole string of episodes binding together an entire family even before the curry was put to simmer. Fighting over dinner menus, the trip to sabzi mandi with its bargaining delights, scribbling recipes while your distant aunt slowly recollected and dictated; all that is silent as well. I don’t recall a moment more sad in the history of the Indian kitchen.

Don’t get me wrong. I will never attempt to hide a smile when after a tiring day, the doorbell rings in time for me to collect my food-delivery order. I fully comprehend what the credit card does to the size of my ego, when I can afford to pay for a night of epicurean pleasures spent with friends at an uptown diner. As a woman, I understand how the delivery boys and the ready-to-eat food technology are among the best inventions to have happened to the cause of our liberation after the washing machine. But as I stand in my kitchen some odd Saturday night, lazily waiting for my pizza to heat up, I secretly wish for some noise around; some noise other than that of the beeping
microwave.

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