When a guest comes home it is the women of the house that serve them tea and refreshments. But does it have to be the women always?
There is a scene from the recent movie ‘Badhaai Do’ where Rajkumar Rao’s and Bhumi Pednekr’s characters silently argue about who is to make tea when there are guests in their house. This sparked my interest because since forever the duty of making tea and serving refreshments to the guests have naturally been the duty of the women of the house.
It was natural and given that when guests came to the house, my mother would go to the kitchen to make the tea and call me to serve the guests tea and snacks. And my father stays with the guests to chat up with them. Never have I ever seen the reverse. And this may be true for most, if not all the houses in India. Even if the guests have come to see the woman of the house, it would be she who goes to the kitchen and makes them some refreshments instead of the men in the house.
If there are sons and daughters in the house, the daughters would often be called to serve the tea to the guests instead of the sons. Even when the son can also hold the tea tray as sturdy and well as a daughter may.
It is so natural and an everyday occurrence that we never think much about this custom. It is how things are supposed to be. But what if for a change, the women of the house stay with the guests to talk, and the men of the house make the tea and refreshments for the guests. But no, this is not seen anywhere. It is so natural that the kitchen belongs to women, and women only. Especially if there is an audience to see.
When there is a guest in the house, the people of the house are desperate to show them that everything is happing in the right order in the house; that the house is a happy and ordinary one. And in a house where things are happening in the order of how patriarchy dictates, men do not go into the kitchen. Even if the men do make tea in the house on normal occasions, they would not step into the kitchen in front of the guests thinking ‘what will they think’. They do not want to seem ‘henpecked’ in front of the guests.
This custom of the woman making the tea and refreshments for guests have become so common that we have forgotten to challenge this custom. Even women do not think twice before getting up to serve the guests. It is them being good hosts.
But isn’t it high time that this practice changes? Once in a while, especially if the guest came to see the woman of the house, the men can go into the kitchen and prepare the refreshments. The kitchen does not have to belong to the female only. And the men need not think of what the guests will think. It would be setting a good example for the guests as well because when next time a guest comes to their house, they can follow the same.
So next time a guest comes to your house, why don’t you refuse to get up from your seat and ask your husband or son to go make tea? Of course, there may be resistance and they may wonder why suddenly she is putting up a resistance. And it may be easier to make the tea yourself than displaying a family fight in front of the guests. But everything has to start somewhere… and by the way, men can make good tea as well.