It isn’t a review of the Malayalam movie, “The Great Indian Kitchen”. It’s a reminder of the bizarre standards the Indian society has imposed on women. I watched this movie last week after many strong recommendations and also because of my mom’s ardent desire to witness what she might have done in reel life. I was hesitant to watch the movie after watching the teaser as I didn’t want to endure one and half hour agony on screen apart from what I fight for every day. But I never anticipated the plot twist. I’m glad that I went for it. I summoned my whole family with the intention to enlighten my grandparents since they believe in the dominant beliefs of patriarchy. My house often turns into a warzone because me and my grandpa have differences in opinion about societal norms. He was so enthusiastic at the beginning of the movie. He even said with great pride, “Girls of this generation should realize that women lived such a disciplined life as depicted in the movie”. But he fell utterly silent towards the end of the movie. I am pretty sure he was shocked by the ending.
When the movie was over, my brother asked me, “Aren’t you going to write a review about it?” I said, “If I write, it will only enhance my rage at this society. I may go crazy after that. People have already talked everything about this marvellous creation. What more can I add?”. I was wrong. That afternoon, one of our neighbours came to visit my grandma. I overheard their conversation and it was horrifying. My neighbour was complaining about her new daughter in law. Her exact words were,” My daughter in law is fat. My son is saying that he didn’t notice that she was this fat before the marriage. He should have known better. He has instructed me to cut short her food intake. So I have put her on a controlled diet consisting of a small portion of rice for lunch and one chapati for dinner. My son has also given her about three months to reduce her weight to the desired kg. If she isn’t reducing her weight within this time frame, he won’t take her to abroad with him.” My neighbour seemed to be rather boastful that I felt terrified. The alarming fact is that a family the girl met over a few weeks had already started dictating her life, deciding how much she should eat. Even her own body doesn’t belong to her anymore. I must point out the truth that the girl is barely plump. But these people are adamant to fit her into the conventional body standards. Besides, it’s up to her to decide what she wants. How can a bunch of people tell her what to do with her body?
I must further add what my neighbour said to my mother when she invited us to her son’s wedding. Her exact words were, “The girl he is going to marry is ugly. She has a dark complexion. Alas! He is forced to settle for this girl. It’s all his fate. (The guy had a list of specifications when he was looking for a wife: a fair-skinned girl with knee-length hair, perfect teeth alignment and I can’t even remember the rest. He searched for his perfect woman for so long that his ‘demand’ in the marriage market went down. The marital business considers age to be a massive factor, you see).
People treat their pets with the utmost care but not their wives? Or maybe the wife is considered as a pet who they can tame according to their will? Talk like a girl, sit like a girl, be an obedient wife or you are doomed! The moment a girl gets matured, there begins her training period to be a good wife. Her ears might bleed out from hearing the words, “You are supposed to live in another house”. “What will your in-laws say if you behave in this way?”. “Learn to cook properly or else you will bring shame to your family’s name in front of your in-laws.” I used to think that wives are treated poorly because of the lack of education among people. But high-quality education or high profile jobs haven’t altered the narrow-minded thinking of society. The hideous marriage ideology portrayed in the movie is the case in different social strata and one of the reasons being the gender-biased upbringing. Daughters taught to hush their pain, opinions and problems; brainwashed to believe that a woman deserved suffering and forced to sacrifice her life for her parents, husband or children at the cost of her happiness.
When I started living with my grandparents, I had to listen to my grandma saying, “അന്യ വീട്ടിൽ പോവേണ്ട പെൺകുട്ടിയ” (The girl who is supposed to live in her in-laws’ house.) I got fed up with it. One day I decided to give her the reply, “I’m not going to any body’s house. I will be living in a house owned by me. So that won’t be a problem.” My grandparents laughed at me as they thought it was another of my ‘silly jokes’. That’s when I started challenging their notions and proving them wrong. Slowly, I was able to change their rudimentary thinking to a small extent. But they have a long way to go. I can’t change what has been instilled for many generations overnight. But I won’t ever stop fighting for what’s right. I need to change my world before I can change the whole world.
Image credits: Google images.