Human habitation of planet earth, chemically determined to be of 4,500 crore years vintage, dates back to a mere two lakh years, according to knowledgeable sources among anthropologists. Also, the early human beings have been portrayed as hunters of animal species for assuaging hunger. And, cooking the raw materials for improved satisfaction of their taste buds, unarguably, had to wait until the hunters learnt the technique of generating fire and, more importantly, harnessing that now-all-too-familiar-and-ubiquitous resource of energy. Tracing the journey of cooking, the endeavour unique to human species, to the point of graduating as a major female portfolio in homes, should make a highly rewarding study. Grandmothers take the cake in that narrative covering most part of that journey of hundreds of centuries. Domination of males in outdoor cooking is another side to its story. Interestingly, the land’s epics have bestowed spotlight only on males as legendary cooks, considering the names of Nala and Bhima as baanasiga in the court of King Virata.
The typical housewife’s day begins with lighting the fire at the break of dawn. Barring the fraction of the female population unable to be engaged on cooking for the family, the headcount of females toiling before the hearth, in addition to the rest in the land as cooks for a livelihood may be taken as numerically unsurpassed by the workforce engaged on virtually all other activities, including industry, agriculture, services and what have you.
Generations after generations in the land, currently savouring dishes in an amazingly long list, owe it to the grandmothers, unsung and unhonoured, in a measure beyond visualising, for their selfless and humane work of feeding the family. In this context, the meaning of the term unorganised sector gets wider than mostly understood. While housewife has to be individually highly organised at her work in the kitchen in order to meet the family’s expectations at breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, the fraternity of housewives continue to be unorganised in every sense of the term.
While the rural scenario of the task of cooking for the family by the female has been and shall remain unchanged for many more generations, the urban space is witnessing a steady decline in the presence of females as exclusive family cooks, which may concurrently witness emergence of house-husbands on an unprecedented scale. The reported initiative by a global enterprise with base in India to train youth to blossom as vendors of ready-to-eat foods augurs well for marshalling manpower in the land on a massive scale.