Madhuri Adwani, India

Warscapes Corona Notebooks

A daughter and a mother find their groove again as lockdown forces them to bond in the kitchen, sharing recipes and catching up on lost time. Madhuri Adwani's cooking video is a glimpse into sweet and comforting domesticity once the rebel lets her guard down.               


                      REBEL IN THE KITCHEN                        |                  Madhuri Adwani

Kitchen is the first place that marks my journey of rebellion against gender norms. I refused to cook altogether and that jarred my relationship with my mother. In retrospection today, I realize that it wasn't only about our bond but also about me turning into a typical patriarchal 'male' counterpart to her. It meant that she could never be free of providing these services 24-7 since she was 11 years old. For years I carried this guilt of not wanting to help her.

Eventually I had to learn it all when I started living on my own. Cooking, washing, cleaning and keeping cockroaches at bay. Roommates, phone calls with my mother and ultimately YouTube became my beloved teachers. Still, I never got to practise it with her as I would be home only for few days and go back.

After 2 years of being away, this lockdown turned out to be the period of us staying together again. I was scared that my space and freedom would be compromised. Hardly had I imagined that we will find kitchen as a space to coexist again. I am still my rebel self, not frequenting the kitchen to prepare elaborate meals like she does. I do not get my say every time as I ask her to spend lesser hours in the kitchen. I get irritated and annoyed when i see her cleaning this drawer and that cupboard. But every day, we meet, in the kitchen. She teaches me how to make Sindhi Sai Bhaji, Sindhi Kadi, our famous Dal Pakwan and everything Sindhi to her culinary legacy. I teach her my easy to cook curd-rice, lemon rice, beet root paratha and well-proportioned coffee. Till all of it gets completely cooked on a sim gas, we sit at the kitchen table and talk about our domestic love stories. 'Domestic' because we have always been asked to tame those feelings and emotions which are very private to us. But just like her cooking style which has a pinch of garlic added to all the vegetables, our garlic-ky conversations leave a smell everywhere in the house and not just the kitchen. 

We exchange smiles of recognizing each other's identity as separate as two vegetables in a salad bowl. When she was 26 years old, same age as me today, she already had two kids and her work was supervised by a panel of elders. And so she never learnt what it is to not be doing something in the kitchen. Even today she finds it difficult to unlearn in spite of the panel that has literally died. We reminisce about the dead in a longing yet critical way, for the first time expressing that we didn't like to be treated such and such. But she says that she has no regrets and I shouldn't impose my ways of seeing on her life. Well, I cannot help it because I do. She is happy that i chose a different life but warns me of feeling lonely. I ask her, "Well, with what you chose, don't you feel that as well?" She smiles.

The food is cooked and served.

She says, ""Not so lonely now, am I ?" I agree with her. At the moment, I am going through a heart break. There are no friends and counselors to talk to in person. But there's my mother in the kitchen, not on the other side but on the same side as we experiment with food and bond in this lockdown. The rebel in the kitchen is on a sim gas now!

Madhuri Adwani is a storyteller who revels in creating narratives while also voicing everything that surrounds us. She makes podcasts and film. Follow her on Instagram @mad_ad13