Growing up in this society, there is a lot of emphasis on training girls the right way, and that too as early and quickly as possible. As I grew up being trained from an early age, I noticed that the ultimate goal of almost every other desi family was to have their daughter ‘settled’. No, not like majority of our men get settled by being provided with all possible opportunities to get quality education and make a career. But our girls get settled, as per the definition of the society, when they get married and pop out kids no matter what all they have achieved in life otherwise. I realised that one skill that is mandatory to polish in the kitchen is the art of making a perfectly round ‘chapati’. The more desi term used for this piece of art is widely known as ‘gol roti’. Thus, I’ve been curious since long to understand the nation’s obsession with judging and even at times mistreating women over the shape of a piece of bread (or how sugharr she is).
By now, I am sure that some of you may be thinking that this writer is wasting our time. That she is creating a mountain out of a molehill. I don’t blame you because this deep-rooted notion that a woman’s place is in the kitchen still exists. I would rather urge you to be honest and answer some of the following questions. Was there ever a moment in your life when you were judged for not making perfect gol rotis or questioned about your brought up if you couldn’t manage to make one? Are you tired of listening to lectures on how to make gol roti and how you should become an expert to win your man’s and his family’s heart? Have you ever been forced to stand in front of the stove and practice the art of making gol rotis even when this was something you were least interested in?
If you are a woman who was brought up in a desi culture that strictly follows desi norms then you’d have answered yes to at least one of these questions. If not, then consider yourself extremely lucky. This skill is considered critical in our society to an extent that it often becomes the focal point of someone’s decision about making you a part of their family or not. The term ‘phoo’arh’ is often used for women who are not good at it.
You may disagree, but I strongly feel that this is a serious issue that needs to be resolved. Why is this gol roti something to be taken so critically to an extent that it results in reported death of a minor in Pakistan? I only wonder how many similar but unreported cases there may be. Why is our society so obsessed with perfect shape of roti when the world even isn’t perfectly round? Living in Pakistan, I have witnessed that most, if not all, women are taught to become a roti making machine. I’m using the word machine here because only a machine can make clones of an object. Our women still do it. By choice or by might, we are forced into the kitchen to become an expert of making beautifully shaped ‘chapatis’ and no matter if you are a PhD in any subject, you are not worth anything if you are not the ‘Dr. Perfect Gol Roti’.
While women in other parts of the world are working towards bringing their countries, cities, towns and companies on the global map, majority of our women are busy in their kitchens. It’s high time that we change our mentality and let our women thrive in their fields of interest and while we put all the focus on training our girls to become unpaid chefs, our attention should also be driven towards teaching our boys to head over to the kitchen and learn to cook. Why? You may ask. Well, food is a necessity of life and everyone should know how to cook.
This whole concept of women preparing food - no matter if they are interested in cooking or not, if they are tired regardless of being a stay-at-home or a working woman - is gender biased and purely evil. And looking at the seriousness of this matter, I have a few unanswered questions that I would like to put forward through this platform for someone to answer.
Why does our roti need to be perfect in shape when all of us are imperfect? Why should a food item be the reason of someone facing abuse of any kind? How can a piece of bread weigh over every other quality of a woman? And while I am trying to solve this mystery, I would appreciate if we all sit for a while and ponder over how many times do we make someone else’s life miserable for something as petty as this. Think of ways of bringing change to make this world a better place for all.
The writer is a communications professional and a mother of two. She can be reached at [email protected]