How open are we?

Maragathavalli Inbamuthiah believed in the concept of an open-kitchen, however, one fine morning's incident made her contemplate on it.

Just about 10 years ago “open kitchen” was a fad. My architect wanted to put atleast a “half wall” between the kitchen and the living room and I had to put my foot down to have my kitchen my way. Now that we have moved on and live in an independent house with quite a big open kitchen, it sees like this architecture has become more of a norm.

At the time I had just returned from the US, I felt an open kitchen made a statement. An open kitchen meant that a lady of the house is not tucked away in an enclosed space when the rest of the family is enjoying an evening together watching television. It also implied that the woman of the house would receive and engage her friends who drop by as much as a man would. It also meant that we are part of this generation that is “open” and “informal” breaking away from the shackles of tradition we were brought up with.

Not many people feel that kitchen needs to be hidden away. My mother-in-law might have winced at the prospect of having to make rotis while her guests sit on the couch right across her. But looking at the architecture of the modern homes I think, overall daughter-in-laws won.

All was well until one fine morning about a week ago, when the painting contractor reported for work at my place. The person walked through the main door, across the open corridor into the open dining area and into the open kitchen where I was busy making dosas for breakfast, and proceeded to discuss that day’s work with me. It was my chance to wince. I didn’t want him there. Suddenly it was my “private” space.

I wanted to him stand outside the main door and call for me. That is when I realised we are probably not completely ready for this concept yet. We still have those rigid rules in place about who is who and how everyone should be treated. We still have instances where a distant uncle drops in without notice and we don’t want to be seen mixing the orange juice with mango juice into a last minute cocktail because we don’t have enough of either (believe me – I have done it).

How much ever open minded we are, most of us think, ‘maids are maids’ and we have our own mindset on what is expected out of them. And most of us, quite frankly, are not used to, “I am open and informal; but respect my privacy” policy. For them “informal yet private” does not exist.

Not pointing any fingers here, but situations sometimes do get uncomfortable as private and open become situation dependent. Maybe this is just one step in our evolution as a society. Until we reach a comfortable place, I will consider having a formal visitors area which is well hidden away from my kitchen and living room.   


  1. S Srinivasan says:

    Though I am an old timer, I beg to differ from the author in her change of concept of open kitchen. It has several advantages and guests can come freely inside to give a helping hand.Gone are the old times of making several dishes sweating and fuming. Cooking will be fun and less stressful. The lady of the house is not isolated and joins in the conversation with the guests and an informal environment exists. No offence meant.

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