The Great Indian Kitchen

“this was the legacy of the great Indian kitchen, here, only stomachs were filled in the attempt to fill hearts


I could smell the spices floating through the verandah from the kitchen
And hear the sizzle of meat being
thrown into hot oil.

They say the way to a man’s heart
is through his stomach.
Is that why most woman toil days
and nights in the kitchen ,
Trying to make all sorts of concoctions
hoping to crawl into their husbands’ hearts?
Is it worth it even if they have filled
the wombs of other women
when their wives scarmble to fill their stomachs?

I have seen my mother work around the kitchen
like she was Ma Durga,
with many hands roaming around
trying to make that perfect Rajma.
Is this why my mother never left the kitchen
to crawl into abba’s heart
which had been crammed
with his love for food and anything
besides ammi ?
As years went by my father’s belly grew
and my mother’s heart shrunk.
Trying to crawl into abba’s heart,
Ammi had crawled into the tiny kitchen
for the rest of her life.
But it didn’t matter
for she could only reach his stomach,
and I guess she was on the way to his heart
when his stomach called for her again.
But Ammi never gave up,
she kept making new dishes
hoping for a day,
when he’ll look at her
and invite her into his heart.

But the day never came.
When I was bathing ammi’s lifeless body
I noticed her hands were stained with haldi,
Even after bathing her in milk
she still smelled like jeera and rajma.
Almost as if she was still trying to call out to abba,
to look at her one last time
and tell her
that she’ll live in his heart.

Even when death took her away
She was still trying,
Trying to remind abba of rajma
and haldi and jeera
and her.

Maybe this was the legacy
of the great Indian kitchen,
here, only stomachs were filled
in the attempt to fill hearts.

Hiba Ashraf
Hiba Ashraf

Spoken word poet from Kerala

Read more of her poems here