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    Being A Brown Daughter: When I Was Taught To Serve Food And Eat Last

    We stand in 2023 and continue to follow sexist practices because of social conditioning. Most of us have been gaslighted to the limit where internalised bias seems pretty much normal to us. 
    Updated at - 2023-03-14,12:40 IST
    women asked to serve not eat being a brown daughter

    If you grew up in a typical Indian family like me, you were always your mom's helping hand, from getting bowls filled with rajma and rice to the dining table to serving hot phulkas and achaar to each member of the family; we were trained to be hospitable. I always saw my mother eating last, she would sit down at the table after making sure the entire family had eaten and often would get only leftovers in her share. With that act, I was taught selflessness, something women are considered imperfect without. 

    Even when guests visited, I would be the one serving everything, right from glasses of water to snacks to the main course and then the dessert. While I would go to and fro between the living room and the kitchen, my brother would sit down and chill with the guests, munching on the served snacks without hesitating a bit.

     “Once they all leave, I will make you hot pooris and we will eat together,” my mother would say as I waited upon the guests. “Arey hum baad me le lenge,” was what my mother would always tell the guests even when they offered us to sit and eat with them.

    As I grew up, I followed suit. As soon as guests arrived, I would quickly rush to the kitchen to get them something to drink and eat. I would ask my mom to be with the guests and assure her that I'll be a good hostess. Even then, my mother would eat nothing, citing that she just ate. It was like her hunger pangs died over time.

    The Social Conditioning

    We inhabit a world where it is okay if the women of the house don't even get to taste half of the food items they prepared for everyone because well, they are taught to sacrifice, trained to be big-hearted. I am a brown daughter and this conditioning is what my mother ingrained in my mind from a very young age. 

    Guess this originates from the ancient times when women were categorised as the inferior gender and asked to eat last. Times have changed but this sexist act continues to exist across the country today.

    social conditioning women cook serve

    Women who eat before their husband and other family members are tagged as selfish. No matter how many years the woman has been following the ritual, she is slammed brutally or invites snide remarks if she does so.

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    The After Effects

    Some Bollywood celebs don't fret when it comes to getting vocal about issues like the persisting patriarchy, stereotypes of gender roles, and red flags in relationships among others. Recently in an interview, Shefali Shah spoke about one such issue at length. Shah talked about the internalised sexism, and how it affects women in the long run. "Even today, when I have a party in my house, I still want to do the running around. Even if people tell me, ‘Shef, sit. Enjoy it. Everything is in place.’ I want to do it. So, it's gotten so deeply embedded, even in my head that I cannot distance and detach myself from it."

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    after effects women internalised sexism

    Well, that’s not just Shefali Shah’s story. We all have been there. Believe me, the stereotyping is such that even today years later, I drown in guilt if I ever have a meal before any of my family members. We stand in 2023 and the social texture doesn't seem to change. Today, when I recognise the root cause of these bizarre practices, I only wish to introduce change going forward for the coming generation. Primarily, the traditional social norms that categorise us, women, as second-class citizens contribute to the guilt. However, that's not all. Each time anyone around us makes us feel inadequate, or gaslights us into believing we are unimportant, we take it seriously and weigh ourselves down. Stereotypes might stick around for long but yes, we do have a silver lining. It’s time we start backing ourselves. It isn't easy, I know but slowly, steadily, and surely we'll get there.


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