Friday, June 19, 2015

The Great Indian Joint Family - Endangering a woman's health

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If you are in a habit of watching those Hindi soaps, it is a common sight to find a large 'happy' family gathered at the dining table with two or more young women (the daughter-in-laws) running around them. While the elderly lady duly issues commands about what needs to be served to whom and fawns over a favorite son by indulging him with a curry/dish of his choice, one hardly gets to see the DILs having their meal which is of course after everyone else is done with theirs. When such episodes happen in a soap, one can dismiss it by reasoning that the major discussions are over by the time the who's who of the household have left the table and the ladies would only indulge in some idle chitchat. But unfortunately, such incidents are equally or even more prevalent in real life. Other than denigrating women to a secondary status, it also affects a woman's well being.

My reasons why gender politics at the dining table is not good for a woman's health -

1. Gorging on cold meal is not a good thing - Remember the archaic custom where a married woman is served her meal on her husband's plate (something which Karishma Kapoor's character does in the movie 'Anadi' ). Apparently after being left out in the open, those plates and the food that remains in them turn into a breeding ground for harmful microbes. So one can give oneself a mental kick for believing that 'ek thali se khane se pyar badhta hai'. Even if one were to change the plates, still the food which remains on the table would have turned cold. "Invest in good quality casseroles", some would advice. Well, no casserole is built to keep the food warm despite being opened a dozen times. Or, the worst case scenario where the lids are not replaced. Trust me, cold food or reheated food is never as good as the freshly prepared stuff.

2. One end's up eating late - Meal times are pushed as the self designated 'important lot' take their own sweet time to savor each and every morsel. Debates/discussions are carried out at the dining table oblivious to the fact that there are people waiting on them. This often results in ailments like gastric ulcers and indigestion. And a good percentage of women seem to be suffering from them.

3. Beggars (read DIL's) can't be choosers - The choicest dishes are the one's that get over the fastest. And by the time these ladies have their meal, the best dishes are almost over. Well, one can console oneself by saying that since the menu was catered to the choice of a more important family member, one did not have any special inclination towards any particular dish.

4. Throwing stale food may or may not invite the wrath of Goddess Lakshmi but eating it is sure to invite disease - Quite a few households seems to believe that throwing or wasting food is sure to displease the Goddess of prosperity. While I am not a deeply religious person, I would prefer to give away the excess food to needy folks instead of wasting it.  But what really irks me that this logic is selectively ingrained into the minds of these women and the menfolk form an exception. The latter are always served the freshly cooked stuff while the responsibility of appeasing the Goddess falls on the former's shoulder

Sadly, the above mentioned issues are not a fragment of the author's extremely fertile imagination. Nor is it an attempt at twisted humor. They reflect a reality that is uncomfortable and most of us would like to brush it under the carpet. Of course there are exceptions (Thank GOD for that) and I personally know families where everyone gets to eat at the same table ( or on the floor ) at the same time. If only some of us would grow a spine. Only if........

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