Posts Tagged ‘kitchen’

Wanted : One Ratproof Sari Basket

I dread going downstairs in the morning for fear that my day will be hijacked. I’ve taken to bringing a tea tray up to my bedroom the night before along with the electric kettle; this morning I forgot the honey and had to brave the confusion.

I slide open the door and the maid’s seventeen year-old daughter and twelve year old son are rolling up their bedding and leaning them against the wall near where the trashcan ought to be.

People sleep in our kitchen and we don’t have a trashcan. A couple times a day I set up a new trash bag, and a couple times a day it disappears. After 3 months, garbage here is still a mystery: the walkway outside the kitchen door has drying coconuts and papaya skins on every flat surface; there is a plastic bucket with a mixture of slop that I’m guessing is for the cow that is rumored to come when you call, and likes the trash we serve; but the slop is mixed with plastic bags and old razors. Even though there is no evidence of recycling, I always set the plastic and glass on one end of the counter, and eventually it disappears. I worry that our credit card statements and used tissues are being dumped in a nearby lot and have become part of someone’s slum tent.

“Ma’am,” she says – this word often marks the beginning of the end of my workday – “My mother is asking if you can buy her a basket for her sarees. Because the rats are making holes in them. “

I stop mid honey-grab and stare, letting the concept sink in. Rats are eating her sarees. I didn’t even know there were rats in India, let alone that they were populating our house. I resist shouting, “What the FUCK? Rats. We have RATS. And they’re EATING her SAREES. Is this the fucking MIDDLE AGES ????”

Instead I nod, as if I’ve heard this question before, as if ratproofing my wardrobe is something I’ve done hundreds of times. I don’t want her to read the shock on my face. I don’t want to let on just how far from my reality this statement lands. I don’t want her to feel bad. I don’t want her to know that there is a big world out there where there are no sari-eating rats. I want to protect this seventeen year old mother from the harsh reality of her own life.

I leave the kitchen, and climb back into bed. I snuggle up close to Phil and whisper, “Rats are eating the maid’s sarees.”

“Hmm ?”

“We need to buy her a basket for her to keep her sarees in, because rats are eating them.”

“Just gets worse, doesn’t it,” he mumbles, rolls over and goes back to sleep.

I spend the next two days looking for a ratproof sari basket. I don’t even know what this means.

Our Loveless Kitchen

You remember how gorgeous our house is ? Here is the one exception: our kitchen, the most lovelessly executed room in this otherwise beautiful dreamhouse.

It boggles the mind, for a Californian, to see a kitchen like this: small, mean, gray rectangular room, fluorescent lights, meager stove and sink, cabinets little more than chucked at the walls, sharp edges everywhere, and no ornament at all. Where we come from, the kitchen is where the cool people hang out at parties; it’s where PIE is made; people talk and commiserate and chop veggies and zest lemons; wisdom is passed on, and life is lived. It’s the heart of the house.

This upper-class Indian home starkly reveals a different mindset: the kitchen is for somebody else. All the assumptions and attitudes that follow that single statement are distasteful to put into words; and thankfully, there’s no need: it’s all expressed pretty effectively in very structure of the house.