Art by Thor WIckstorm
The acoustic textures of mustard seeds sputtering in hot oil, pressure cookers whistling like angry male members waiting to be attended, boiling liquids for growing boys with milk moustaches, the kitchen window screens the ancestral lore of food morsels and gender roles; it records the sensory story of pots and pans, tasting tongues and working hands. As a kid, I have observed how our kitchen utensils were engraved with the names of our mothers and grandmothers; the punched dots on the metal surfaces revealed the grinding routine of working women who stood in dingy kitchens with narrow windows and were entrusted with the familial task of cleaning clogged basins and soiled reputations. The window sill marked the precarious threshold between transgression and tolerance.
They tried to smoothen the stress concentrations of aluminium foils with a roller pin, but aluminium wraps are like ruined relationships, once crumpled, they never return to their original form, no matter how much you stretch them. One could still find the leftover rinds of the relationship like discarded metaphors of marriage in the wet kitchen waste. They could not get rid of eggshells, since they painfully walked on them. A measured mix of brewing toxicity and coffee decoction created a strong recipe for insomnia and nervous breakdown. The repetitive poundings of mortar and pestle crushed chillies and childhood together into a fine paste for a sumptuous serving of spicy blood chutney; but they knew the power of pepper, as their spice storage boxes were radical repositories of resistance. The metal pots and cookers permanently preserve the marks of their hard labour, as these women meticulously separated salt from sugar and stones from grains, sieving sour sentences and strained syllables together down the filter to find a lump or two, perpetually suffering from stunted wrists, swollen ankles, and paining back arches; socially-distanced beings banging their plates and ringing their spoons for amplifying their silent protest against patriarchy. Their forced isolation was not a temporary condition; it was their permanent state of being. The kitchen window frames family histories and forgotten mysteries, where you listen to the smell of burnt curries and exploding cookers, sharp knives and silent onlookers.