It was hard to miss. The branding and brouhaha surrounding 8th of March. Everything from jewelry to clothes were being peddled as the ideal gift for the woman in your life. It seemed like every other occasion, the amount of money spent was proportionate to the love you had.
Readers of this blog will know I am not one for occasions. I hardly celebrate my own birthday or wedding anniversary. Not because they are not special, but I would rather not try and have special behaviors only on days that are meant to be marked.
So a few days ago, when everyone was actually confused about why women's day was being celebrated. And there were odes to womanhood with all the cliches of "wife, mother, daughter, sister" being posted and reposted across all social media, I had a few moments to myself.
There are days when I spend some time going over my last 2 decades. I am amused and sometimes even chuckle when I see what I used to be and what I have become. I know that my core remains the same. But I am talking of my outward behaviour and appearance.
I spent all my teenage years trying to be a boy. I felt it was more fun, got me more attention and kept the assholes away. So I had a rough way of talking and rode a two wheeler thinking I was a racer. I also wore a fluorescent green jacket and a crash helmet. I would swing my leg off the seat of the bike, and not climb off daintily like a girl. The problem was, no one noticed, or spoke of this and I wondered if they were just being polite or ignoring me. I loved doing errands for the house that sent me to bill paying to offices, vegetable buying to markets and driving people, visitors, relatives and all and sundry around town.
Even today, a lot of people don't have good first encounters when they meet me. I don't have a girly girl voice and speak in a way that makes them feel I am brusque. That came from years and years of practice (of fending off eve teasers and such like who harass girls incessantly on the street) and is now my style (!)
At home, I hated doing anything in the kitchen unless it was on display. So setting the table, making or serving dessert and generally being of minor non cooking help. I wasn't the first choice of kitchen assistant. My brother was the more willing and able one. Also had more physical strength to do all the mixing and stirring that was needed while cooking for about 50 on wood fires in the back yard in huge vessels that I could easily sit inside!
That changed very very slowly as I hit my twenties. I got more male attention than I could handle, I had a steady boyfriend and I was definitely being assessed in the marriage market. I was reluctant to give up what essentially was "Me". But along the way, a lot of what was put up for defense, peeled away. I was still brusque and short and could punch someone real hard. But I also discovered women's fashion and grew my hair longer than it had ever been. These are sure cosmetic, but when I think of it, they were definitely a manifestation of an internal shift.
When I got married, for the initial few months, I was obsessed between playing house and acting like nothing had changed. I would go into overdrive and cook and clean till I passed out, or leave things to pile up till I couldn't even find what I was looking for. I was wanting to come across as a new wife who had it all down to pat.
Unfortunately, nothing lasts with me and my fruit fly attention span. Life moved on, I got older and hopefully wiser. I started to worry less about how it would look to others and focus more on how comfortable anything made me feel. So my house and my clothes and my lifestyle were finally beginning to serve me when I hit my 30's.
I also quit my regular job and sat at home for a while. I read, ate, slept and got rid of my watch and cell phone. I discovered the amazing world of the internet and started a food blog! Imagine I was poring over 100's and 1000's of recipes and blogs reading about people and their lives and the food at their tables! I have been working since I was in my teens. And not earning my keep was really getting to me. So on a whim one day, I went to a class that taught Chocolate making. I got into a mad frenzy after that and made chocolates till they was coming out of my ears. Tentatively, someone asked me to teach and I agreed. With that another world opened out to me. I was soon doing three classes a week and making more money than I ever had with a regular job.
Thus began my saga. Today, 7 years on, I am still teaching - Chocolate making, baking, salads etc. I talk food, I research food, I cook and feed and teach it and it is such an integral part of me that I forget sometimes, that inadvertently, I found myself in food.
I found myself in the kitchen, amongst ingredients and pots and pans. I am happiest when I am teaching in my class. Answering questions and interacting. I do not claim to know all the answers and have burnt cookies in full public view of my students.... but I am not afraid anymore.... of failing... of being judged.... of someone not liking a particular dish I make...
When I look back it is almost laughably ironical that I ran away from a stereotype and yet found myself in one such!