Why is it expected of a woman to have a deep-seated passion for cooking? Of course, I love forking in experimental combinations on my plate, but over the years have been unable to seed love for the culinary art within the ramparts of my foodie's heart. Perhaps that is why God decided to toss my way the ultimate litmus test of preparing food, consistently, 24x7, at a manic pace in the kitchen over the past five months while the cook trotted off to her village during the lockdown. Divine vengeance.
Whoever wanted to chase the chimaera of a supermom? Not me.
I have an avid consumer base within the family. Including two perennially hungry children. The elder, fastidious teen turning up her pert nose rather disdainfully at anything less than delectable (“Can't we have sushi tonight?”) and the younger tween working through the rations rather methodically with his desi tastes (“Let's have rajma chawal!”). As a result, my life skill (#MomCanCook) has emerged as a wreath – spelling 'family certified MasterChef'. Forget the fanfare, it is a ridiculous ride every day. From hammering away like a horse on my laptop (I have calluses the size of cashews), crunching in mean assignments and wrapping work-related calls (while hanging off the window grill in a desperate bid to shun the home chaos and get better phone network), to working on my pea-sized biceps and triceps as I knead endless drums of flour, to slapping aloo parathas on the hissing tawa with jiggly globules of ghee melting away into fragrant nothingness; blotting my thick, sweaty brows and smearing make up in a jiffy while wiggling the WiFi in place for another InstaLive with a celebrity, loading and unloading truckloads of clothes unto the coiffured washing machine, cleaning the surly-steely refrigerator, shopping and sanitising foodstuff and home essentials to tutoring the younger one, conducting online classes, heaving dumbbells and panting under the hawk eye of my fitness trainer, and logging in timely for Zoom meets on work and virtual family celebrations... it has been a breathless marathon blitzkrieg. Looking at the errant, dancing, silvery sparklers in my tresses, and my crib sheet, while chomping gummies packed with vitamins and minerals, methinks I have aged a couple of years through the successive lockdowns. Whoever wanted to chase the chimaera of a supermom? Not me.
But I am a born survivor. I may not have done a PhD in maid management, but I certainly hold a diploma in dividing time to strategise smart — the only sliver to skim along these challenging times. No ingenious business plan. It is a simple anthem: Have to cook, need to plan. From Amazon lists on the phone, to ordering fruits and vegetables through a multitude of WhatsApp groups, to prepping popcorn and roasted makhanas as emergency snacks. Somehow my ageing grey matter swings in efficiently as the dreaded cry “I'm hungry! What can I get to eat?” rings through the air and is picked up by my elephantine ears, while I grind my molars and continue to probably edit an incoherent romp on-screen, determinedly.
God redeems himself in many ways. Serendipity and a sense of humour being the cases to point. The ability to laugh at my own situation has been vital in staving me off the breaking point where I do tend to teeter sometimes. No one is perfect. As I wonder, when the home langar will end, I realise that my busy-ness validates me, as always. The teen swings in good-naturedly to mollify and massage my tired muscles. The tween gives me a bear hug, reminding me comfortingly to talk to nani and vent. I map the chores, allocate what I can dreamily (realising I have no control over when the chore will be done by the Netflix, CoD, Fortnite... masticating kids) as get on with it. Working mom is clearly a misnomer. Every mum is working, all the time, by default. I coo, carp and sigh as I curl up with hot milk and my e-book for the night.