The Married Feminist this week in SheThePeople: Boys in the kitchen


The offspring has taken to cooking in a big way. I cannot explain it. I have been no role model to him of any efficiency in the kitchen, the max I have extended my ability to produce Maa Ke Haath ka khaana has been dal chawal in a pinch when the cook is on leave and even then, at times, this has been occasion to indulge in the hedonism of ordering in. In fact, I have been known to say the offspring will grow up nostalgic for Maa ke haath ka two minute noodles, so abysmal are my cooking skills.

The husband is quite lost in the kitchen too. He might meander in for a bottle of water, or a drink of whatever carbonated beverage or juice he can locate in the refrigerator but beyond that he is quite at odds in that space, have grown up believing it to be a woman’s preserve and then still reconciling himself to the sad fact that he married a woman who absolutely refused to make it hers.

The offspring though, took to the kitchen completely on his own, with zero encouragement from me, given I barely enter its hallowed premises myself. When he was a toddler, he would sit on the kitchen platform and offer to whip his own scrambled egg. More whipped egg landed on assorted surfaces in the kitchen than actually making it into the frying pan, but he persevered. As he grew, he forayed occasionally into the kitchen, but not too often. But last year, a switch was flicked on and he found himself in the kitchen, more often that I would have thought a teen boy would have wanted to. It began innocuously enough, by making a general nuisance of himself and coming dangerously underfoot whenever the cook was trying to whip up a meal in the limited time that she had. It then morphed to mega levels of pulling out recipes from the internet, trundling off to the stores and returning home with armloads of groceries he needed and then force feeding us his experiments.

We weren’t complaining. He was rather good, actually. He has churned out, so far, Caramelised Apple Crepes, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Do Piaza, a Miso Soup with Tofu and Greens, Curd Rice, Chocolate Shahi Tukda and a lot more that I forget in the listing. Our praise has been lavish and extravagant to the point of being toe curlingly embarrassing if one were at the receiving end of it. He glows. A dear friend told me the other day that men who cook are “confident and sorted.” That line made me glow.

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And on Mother’s Day, an extract from Karmic Kids that could serve as natural contraception

And finally, who stole my libido?

I read, with wonder and amazement, about women who barely deliver one offspring and bingo, are toting another growing mass of cells in utero barely the first is out of diapers and into pull ups. As for me, I was the creature in The Exorcist every time the spouse reached out a trembling tentative hand in my direction through the first year. The general spouse bait for nooky had always been reach out and tweak the nipples, and god help him, these nipples were sore and tired and had gone to sleep thank you very much.

Think about it. You spend the better part of 12 of 24 hours having a child dangling from one breast, and god help you if said child has sharp gums or is teething, the remaining 12 hours go in either trying to catch up on your sleep in short bursts in the manner cats made popular, or catch up on domestic tasks that seem to pile up and loom over one’s head in the most threatening Sword of Damocles manner.

Sex? Who had the time, energy, inclination for it. I had a headache so permanent I seriously thought the guillotine would be the only cure for it. I was so exhausted that I couldn’t be sure I hadn’t fallen asleep on my feet, to add to this recipe for disaster, the child was in the bedroom and one was, constantly one eye turned in his direction, wondering if he would suddenly decide to shoot past all milestones and stand up in his screen blocked cot to catch the action live, metaphorically speaking, and get his earliest introduction to the birds and the bees. That was sure-fire dampener to any lustful thoughts that might cross my mind after the feeding, changing, disinfecting and later, when we moved off the breast onto the bottle, sterilising, making the formula, pureeing, collecting spoonfuls spat out in clear demonstration of baby superiority over harried adult.

The statistics bear me out, 90 per cent of women report a drop in libido post partum. No official statistics could find for this which was India specific, but random dipstick poll, which mainly comprised SMSing friends (this was the age of innocence before Whatsapp had infiltrated our phones with daily inspirational messages on groups which were basically happiness on steroids plus added dose of street crack) with offspring and asking when they’d gotten back to nooky after popping their sprogs, elicited the definite conclusion that if left to them, never, but most concurred they mostly did the down and dirty after much plea bargaining from their spouses, and then too, were lie down, play possum, and double check the contraception. According to what I read on the internet, many women reported a dip in their libido for as long as years post delivery. As for me, I was convinced the kid would leave for college before I would return with any modicum of enthusiasm to my wifely duties.

It isn’t getting back one’s libido after childbirth, no matter what they tell you. If you’ve had a C-sec, your stitches are going to be vocal and violent about any pressure on them, if you’ve had a natural delivery, there are tears of various degrees and episiotomies playing spoilsport. Hormones too play their bit, making the new mother focus all her attention on the mewling newborn, leaving most fathers standing on the sidelines watching their partners start a completely new affair of the heart, with someone whom she can lift with one hand and a toothless grin. Occasionally, there’s PPD which is a bad demon to deal with when you’re already dealing with a squalling newborn, who is the most demanding, exhausting, draining thing put on the planet to make sure you earn, really earn, your maternal lines of wisdom along with those stretch marks on your abdomen.

Which brings me to the abdomen. After childbirth. A hot air balloon collapsed and lying on a mucky field. Perfect. Now who would want to make love to that. That is how every new mom feels when she gets into a bathroom and looks at her newly delivered body post childbirth. Which is why, for the sanity of all concerned, full length mirrors should be covered up with cloth, nailed in, and this goes for rest of the mirrors in the house as well. Seeing one’s deflated abdomen in the mirror the morning post delivery can be traumatic experience, especially when one has had an abdomen flat enough to show off in cropped tops and low waist jeans pre-pregnancy.

First time moms I read, take at least six months, to get back into their groove, so to speak, regarding sex. The average time taken for all first time moms to get back to a regular sexual routine is three months as I read up, but the most scary finding was perhaps that most women were still having less frequent sex up to twelve months post delivery, and for some moms I spoke with it lasted as long as four years. Six weeks post partum is traditionally the hands off period according to most gynaecologists and obstetricians anyway. It allows the uterus to shrink back to its pre pregnancy size, for the stitches and incisions to heal. Some doctors give their patients nooky go ahead only when the lochia stops, that’s the post partum bleeding which is basically nine months of having no periods made up for all at once, and damn, why did no one prepare me for these rivers of blood that would be pouring out of my body for what seemed like weeks and weeks, and so much of it that I was amazed I was still able to totter around without collapsing or needing blood transfusions.

So put together body issues, hormones on the PPD rollercoaster, a stomach that flaps to its own tune, an infant that demands hourly feedings, diapers that need to be changed, and stitches that need to heal and lochia that refuses to stop flowing, and goodness gracious, who could even want to have sex in the midst of all this.

But, take a deep breath, as one who has been there, done that, worn the t-shirt, never mind the let down staining the front, take it from me, it will come back. Slow and steady. And then all at once. You just need to be patient. And do not under any circumstances look at yourself naked in the mirror until it does.


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20 Books by contemporary women authors you’d love: BuzzingBubs

Cough, cough, may I draw your attention to book number 13 on the list.

1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Genre: Non-fiction/ Feminism

What we love: Feminism is a term that catches many people off-guard these days. Some women profess to espouse it freely while others are dubious at the label and wonder if it is something they should acquire. In this short, yet powerful book, based on Adichie’s TED talk on the same subject, she clearly, proudly and elegantly explains why we should all be feminists, irrespective of gender, nationality or background. This is a book we should all read.

2. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Genre: Speculative Fiction

What we love: The Canadian writer and novelist, Atwood, is hailed for her scintillating word play and her focus on strong female characters. This particular book is especially relevant because it speaks of a dystopian near-future where women are subjugated and oppressed. How the women overthrow the chains of patriarchy forms the central premise and it’s something women everywhere can understand.

3. Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai

Genre: Fiction

What we love: Reviewers of this book unanimously agree that what makes this book stand apart is the hysterical attention to satire and humour. If you’re in the market for a light-hearted read about a young boy, Sampath, caught between a band of alcoholic monkeys and a group of annoyed villagers, then this one’s for you.

4. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Genre: Mythology

What we love: Draupadi is one of the strongest characters in the Mahabharata but very few writers have done justice to that role the way Divakaruni does in this splendid book. With every page, every turn and every agonising moment of indecision and strength, we stand with Draupadi in solidarity. The author breathes magic into the reader’s soul with writing that is flawless, vivid and so stunning that you will be left breathless at the end.

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Genre: Memoir/ Humour

What we love: Fans of the show ’30 Rock’ will be familiar with the sarcastic wit and off-the-cuff humour that is Tina Fey’s trademark style. That’s precisely what she brings to her first book and boy, does she do a fabulous job of it too! Fey is completely comfortable in her skin and it’s the classic case of ‘What you see is what you get’. That always strikes a chord with the reader. Pick up this book. You won’t regret it.

6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Genre: Thriller/Crime

What we love: Crime, deception, betrayal, marriage- this book is about all of this and more. But the true strength lies in the writing. Fast-paced, ingenious and so skillful in execution that the reader is left gasping at the twists and turns. Flynn manages to hook the reader from the get go. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers replete with dysfunctional characters and a devious plot line, this one’s for you.

7. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Genre: Writing/ Self help

What we love: Most people know Elizabeth Gilbert by her iconic bestseller, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, which was turned into a Hollywood film. But it is Big Magic, written a decade after that book, that gives us a clear insight into the immersive fount that propels this writer forward. Consider it a self-help book on how to reach into the recesses of your creative self and move forward motivated by curiosity and not fear.

8. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

Genre: Fiction

What we love: The delicious tale of a chocolatier, Vianne Rocher, who arrives in a sleepy French village is layered with the theme of temptation struggling against societal strictures. A gently stirred romance gives readers a taste of Harris’ brilliant storytelling prowess. By literally teasing their taste buds with chocolate, the protagonist helps the other characters explore feelings that they’ve kept hidden for far too long. Culinary fans and those who enjoy chocolate with a touch of intensity, this is a book you’d adore.

9. Mrs. Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna

Genre: Humour

What we love: Twinkle Khanna has taken the parenting space by storm with her witty, tongue-in-cheek columns on the frank and rather trying experiences of being a mum. The thing that clicks with the readers is how she bridges the gap between the A-listers and the regular parent, through honest portrayals of daily life. Somewhere, a mum feels comforted knowing that she isn’t the only one who feels this way. If you’re looking for a light-hearted page turner, this book should be on your shelf.

10. The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey

Genre: Parenting/ Education

What we love: Failure is a word that is anathema to parents everywhere, because it apparently signifies that we’ve not fulfilled our parenting duties. In this eye-opening book, Lahey, an educator and writer, speaks from personal experience, using little anecdotes and actual incidents to teach us that failure is, in fact, a good thing. Letting our kids fail is the best thing we can do for them. Don’t miss this one!

11. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Genre: Fiction, short stories

What we love: Jhumpa Lahiri blazed onto the literary stage with this stunning debut of short stories. A couple with a troubled marriage who find themselves talking inadvertently when there is a power outage, a young man who goes to America with his new bride, a little Indian girl in New England who forms an unlikely friend in a Pakistani visitor to her house, a Caucasian woman who has an affair with an older Indian man, these stories are perfectly crafted. As women, we are forever curious about our identities and our personal growth, which is why this book asks interesting questions of this journey.

12. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Genre: Mental Health

What we love: Have you ever seen someone battling depression and mental illness? Jenny has, and does everyday when she looks into the mirror. You’d think a book about mental illness would be depressing but the Bloggess, as she is known, takes depression and anxiety, turns them inside out, on their head and laughs uproariously at them. You’ll find yourself awed and humbled by the resilience of this woman.

13. The Face At The Window by Kiran Manral

Genre: Horror

What we love: Known for her romance novels, Kiran Manral broke form with her foray into the horror genre with this book. Horror isn’t easy to write, no matter how easy Stephen King makes it sound. It takes a certain talent to make the reader’s skin crawl, cause goosebumps to erupt and make the hair stand on end. Manral does a wonderful job of this with her descriptive prose. You may be forgiven for never keeping the drapes open at your window again, after you’ve read this book.

14. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Suspense/ Thriller

What we love: Currentlt a leading HBO television series, Big Little Lies is one of Moriarty’s most-loved dark comedies. It speaks of the bond among three mothers Jane, Madeline and Celeste. The thread that ties them together is the fragile one of domestic abuse survivors peppered with a sprinkling of humour that the author manages to pull off without seeming flippant. From ex-husbands to second wives, infidelity to abuse, this book tells us how it’s the little lies that can grow slowly to become truly lethal.

15. Chain of Custody by Anita Nair

Genre: Mystery/ Crime fiction

What we love: In the second of the Inspector Gowda novels, Anita Nair taker the readers into the dark underbelly of the child trafficking ring that is the cosmopolitan city of Bengaluru. In a world where everyone from the uber rich to the pimps on the street have each other in their pockets, Gowda appears as a breath of fresh air. His detective skills are noteworthy while his human side is brought to the fore in the rekindling of passion with his college sweetheart. The book’s strength lies in the unflinching way Nair explores a difficult theme while maintaining the dignity of the protagonist amidst the grime.

16. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy/ Fiction

What we love: If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’d have heard of the boy wizard, Harry Potter and his life at Hogwarts. Contrary to belief, this isn’t just a series for children. Rowling’s prose is at once splendid and evocative, letting the readers drown themselves in a world of magic, mysticisim, witches, wizards and muggles. Get the entire box set of 7 novels. It’s worth it!

17. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Leadership

What we love: In what can only be described as a global movement, the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote a powerful manifesto on the need to bridge the gender gap in the workplace. Drawing from her own life as an example and speaking of the support she had from her husband and partner, Dave, Sandberg makes a powerful case for ‘leaning in’ and how we must all do our bit to make this happen all the time.

Genre: Drama

What we love: This award-winning novel is not for the faint-hearted. Shriver dives deep into the psyche of a mother who must come to terms with the fact that her son, Kevin, has killed nine of his classmates in a school massacre. The letter-writing format of the book makes for a unique reading experience while exploring the themes of maternal guilt and the adversarial nature of the mother-son relationship. Proceed with caution.

19. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Genre: Fiction

What we love: This book holds the distinction of being in the TIME 100 best English novels from 1923 to 2005. Anyone who has ever been an immigrant or felt the pain of being in a country different from your origin, would relate to this one. Focusing on the lives of two old wartime friends- Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal- the book traces the themes of race, immigration and assimilation with effortless ease. What works for the book is the gentle satire mixed with the pathos of displacement.

20. When She Went Away by Andaleeb Wajid

Genre: Young Adult

What we love: A simple story of a family waking up to find that their mother has left them turns into an exploration of meaning and relationships. The beauty of this author’s writing is the instant connect that she manages to build through her simple but elegant prose. Author of over 9 novels, Wajid brings a certain flair to the YA category of fiction, at once elevating it to serious reading without taking away from the relatable nature of the story.

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