Parathas and Patriarchy – My Love-Hate Relationship With Parathas


There are days when I wake up craving a good paratha — aloo, paneer, onion… ah, all of them. I had trained the didi who cooked at my home in Bombay to make them just the way I like, but now that we live in New York and having a cook is a distant dream if anything at all — those days are also one of the rare days when I take up cooking voluntarily because my husband who enjoys cooking (more than I do) can just not make parathas as well as me. I knead the dough, boil potatoes, stir-fry some onions with other spices, mix them all, fill the dough with the mixture, roll the parathas and voila! Good, round parathas are ready… this should make me happy, right? I should value my decent, quick paratha making skills since I know that many people struggle with it. But it doesn’t make me happy at all, somewhere in the process of making parathas, a type of remorse takes over me and I start hating myself for being able to make those perfect parathas — how can I make them so round and crispy and all that so easily?… Why can’t I write that easily; why can’t I dance that easily; why can’t I paint that easily; why can’t I play an instrument that easily; why can’t I do this, why can’t I do that… so many things I wish came as naturally to me as making parathas?

Even though I was never taught to make parathas, it’s surprising that it comes so plainly to me, I don’t have to juggle at all doing it and then I think, why? Well, I know why: It’s because I used to see my mum making them all the time (not that she loved it or anything) and picked it up from her since that seemed like the most aspirational thing to pick up from her. Not because this is what she is best at but because this is what I saw everyone praising her for even though she is a history major which she struggled to complete while looking after her two young kids, and took up the responsibility of a single mom and worked hard to raise me and my elder brother to be who we are today after our father passed away… I only saw her being appreciated for making the perfect parathas — not for the kick-ass business she has been running for years, not for employing so many others (mainly women in need) through her business, not for being fearless that she is, not for having a great sense of humour and many other qualities but only for making perfect parathas. No appreciation, no support, and my mom achieved so much… I wonder what she would be if she was appreciated for being a woman who never quite liked the household responsibilities and aspired to have a life outside the four walls of her home. I wonder what she would be if she was encouraged to work on her career goals as much as she was encouraged to become a good home-keeper.

Shreshi Singh

This article was originally published on Shreshi’s blog. You can read it here:
Find her on Instagram: @shreshismusings @shreshiii

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