So She Can’t Cook, Why Does That Make Her A Bad Bahu?

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Yesterday, my mother was complaining about my grandma’s other bahu who didn’t know how to cook. Cutting her conversation in the middle, my father asked, have you counted the zeroes in her salary? Delighted that my father took a feminist stand, even I asked my mother why being a good bahu implies that a woman must be able to cook and even excel at the chore? Can’t she have a job and provide financial support to the family instead? Why aren’t damaads judged on the same parameters in our society?

Whenever a new bahu arrives in the house, the first ritual she is made to perform is pehli rasoi. This custom sets up the expectations about what is primarily expected from a daughter-in-law on a day-to-day basis. The taste of the food they prepare on their pehli rasoi is used as a yardstick to determine how efficient a daughter-in-law is. But what if a bahu doesn’t know how to cook? What if she just knows basic things and can prepare food for one or two people? Does that mean she is unsanskari? Does it make her less worthy somehow, as compared to other women in the household?

Can’t cook? Join the bad bahu club

In our society, women are trained to be bahu before being independent individuals. As long as you can cook, manage the household and keep your future in-laws and husband happy, you are set in life. Stepping out to earn your own money and being independent is secondary and women are told to never make career their primary goal in life. Focus on family instead. Even if some do, families get to decide how much independence will a woman gets after marriage, when it comes to her job. If the groom’s family want a gharelu bahu, parents immediately ask their daughters to quit. If the groom is anyways okay with a working wife, parents still tell the daughter to hold on to her job while doing all the household chores such as cooking and cleaning.

Suggested Reading: Why Do Women Need To Make A Choice Between Building Family Or Career?

The major reason why women do not feel confident in hoisting their presence in fields other than household work is the lack of appreciation and support. Neither parents nor in-laws appreciate the fact that their women are earning money and helping the family financially. Their money is not even considered a part of the financial assets  of the family. Their earnings are labelled as pocket money that women earn after fulfilling their hobbies.

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A woman can earn and man can cook at home,

On the other hand, when the groom’s hunt starts, the first thing that the family looks for is the paycheck of the groom. It doesn’t matter if he can cook, be emotionally available or support the woman he marries. If he has a good paycheck, he automatically becomes a prospective groom.

But is this fair? Why should men always be expected to take care of their financial needs? Why should a woman confine herself in the kitchen when she is capable of doing much more? Don’t men deserve to be valued for more than their paychecks? Don’t women deserve to be valued more than their cooking skills? Why don’t we make cooking and earning as teamwork of both men and women?

A woman isn’t obliged to be a goddess in the kitchen due to her gender. Cooking can both be a life skill and a hobby for women as well as women. So instead of forcing stereotypes on women, society needs to learn to appreciate them for all that they bring to a home- financial comfort, love, warmth and support and in return they have every right to demand the same from their partner- that’s what makes a marriage equal.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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