Born and raised in the jewel of the Indian Ocean, my family background is “brown” as it can get. My parents, especially my mother was, and still is, traditional to her core. I was told that I have to score at least 95% in my school exams, because good marks are everything. The career options were limited to doctor, engineer and lawyer — otherwise, you’re a disgrace to your family. I was often compared to the kids in the neighbourhood, my cousins, kids of our family friends. My brown coloured skin was a burden, so I often had to rub my face with homemade face-packs and different facial cream since I was a child, to make it fair. It was the only way to make myself appealing to a respectable partner when I grow up. After 25, it’s the time to get married, and the babies should have had right away. Choosing the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with cannot be done on my own too. Parents select my suiter, and this whole process starts with matching horoscopes. My virginity is a treasure that I should guard, until my wedding night.
Despite all these, I’ve never stepped into our kitchen to make tea, let alone to cook a meal. My sole focus had to be on the marks/grades I receive. My mother always told that she’ll make sure to teach me everything there’s to know about cooking, 3 months prior to my wedding.
While I was taught the traditional route by my family, I learnt better. In fact, it is the beautiful outcome of my education. It granted me the opportunity to burst that bubble of traditions, cultures and rituals, and made me an open-minded person.
By 22, I managed to score my first job as a kindergarten teacher. It wasn’t a lot of money but enabled the opportunity to earn a bit of freedom. I couldn’t attend a state university as my parents wanted, nor become a doctor/engineer/lawyer, so they directed me to the next best thing (in their opinion)— an IT degree in a private university. I soon started to regret it, as I simply couldn’t tolerate coding.
Nonetheless, I graduated, with the help of the love of my life whom I met in the university (and had to keep as a secret for 6 years as my parents were hell bent on the idea of proposed marriage). The best thing that came out of my degree certificate, is the chance to learn what I want. I did exactly that and became a Writer. Got a job in a publication, and later got promoted with a salary enough to pay my bills, and moved out of my parents' house. I was 27 by then.
This is probably not what my parents intended by giving me the opportunity to receive a good education, but I’m forever thankful to them for that. Given how I didn’t live up to any of the things that my parents planned for me, they sort of gave up on the idea of shaping me up as a replica of themselves.
However, moving out didn’t help my inability to cook. While I had a kitchen in my tiny apartment, I rarely cooked. Because despite how brave you’ve been so far, there is that small fraction of fear in the back of your head — doubting yourself that you’d screw it up. Especially when it’s one of the factors in your culture that measures your eligibility to get married.
Thankfully, my partner is quite understanding. I remember waking up at our place after the honeymoon and wondering how to make a cup of tea for him. I’ve made plain tea, but never a milk tea, not even for myself. I looked at a couple of videos on YouTube, but still couldn’t let go of that fear of messing it up. So I just winged it. I was ready to make tea as many times as it takes to get it right.
Well, luckily, it didn’t take more than one attempt. I really do wish I had a picture of my first cup of tea, because it represents something far beyond than a simple drink. It helped me to overcome the shadows of fear, inconfidence and scepticism I had about myself. Marriage is hard work, regardless of your cultural background, and such pointless determinants shouldn’t evaluate its success rate.
I’m still a beginner, but a very confident one. Cooking is one of my favourite things to do now, and my husband has been quite supportive throughout all this. He enjoys my food, gives me feedback on whenever there’s something to improve, and cooks with me, as well as for me, so we both can learn. Marriage is teamwork after all.
So if you’re planning to get married soon, and yet don’t know a squat about cooking, or making tea, know that it’s completely ALL RIGHT. Excellent kitchen skills aren’t what makes a good marriage. Sure, I can see how it’s a supporting factor, as cooking can be a way of expressing the affection you have for one another, but it’s not a necessity nor a duty. Man or woman, if you can cook, good for you. But that’s absolutely not a milestone that you NEED to achieve in order to get married.