The Messy Kitchen

Written By

Sana Zehra

Messy kitchen1-03 Loading

A few years into marriage, while visiting a friend, I chanced upon an illustrated version of Cinderella. With nostalgic curiosity, I turned the pages, to land myself upon these words:

“…and they lived happily ever after.”

As much as I felt deceived by life, I held the story in an altogether new light. Was the writer so naïve as to be absolutely oblivious to the reality of life? How could he/she not see that the ending to the story was but, a beginning to another, perhaps a more important one? Or was the writer clever enough to know exactly when to end the story so that young girls could be fed with dreams of a perfect future?

Strange how, as we grow up, we increasingly understand how imperfect everything is; and our feat lies in extracting moments of happiness from the mess that we human beings create — like winkling out the perfect evening dress from a pile of clothes. It is amidst the missed deadlines, the traffic snarls, the unfinished arguments and the despicable heat, that life continues to slide into the future. To explain what I mean, let me take you back to an afternoon in my kitchen.

It was a day we’d planned to spend sightseeing with the family. All of us had gathered in our house. The family — my brothers, mother, father, husband and I — were to leave in the next two hours to be able to do justice to our itinerary. If you know how Indian families are when they meet after a long time, you may understand exactly what I mean when I say that it was a particularly messy kitchen that afternoon. While my mother was busy fixing a sumptuous lunch, I was running back and forth between the kitchen and the bedroom to answer the men’s calls for tea, water, drinks and snacks that were fuelling their spirited discussions. Moreover, I had happily taken it upon myself to accomplish the precarious task of baking brownies for my family, and since the older of my two brothers was leaving early next morning, it had to be done that very afternoon.

Now let me tell you that I’m a rather amateur baker who pins the recipe to the wall and measures her ingredients with ceremonious devotion, and even then every cake turns out to be different in an unwanted way. So with just over an hour to go (within which we were supposed to finish the cooking, dress up, eat and leave), I began, carefully picking my ingredients from an assortment of spices and flours; folding everything in; and vigorously whipping the chocolaty batter to the sound of clanking utensils being washed by the house help and whistles from the pressure cooker. As I said, it was crowded — yes, three is a crowd in the kitchen — and messy, and slippery. But in the end, what we fondly remember is the satisfying meal and the wonderful time we had together.

“Happiness, my dear child, can only be created. It can neither be bought, nor inherited”, my aunt told me once. I have only come to realize how very true each of those words is. Marriage is built block by block, with hard work: of being kind and gentle even when you’re mad at her, of fixing breakfast for him even when the voice of a feminist tells you that he should do it himself. Life’s thrill lies in its imperfections, the crests and troughs of happy and sad moments.

And so I come back to the question which had led me here: Did Cinderella really live happily ever after? Because to me that seems colorless.

I imagine a pretty young woman in a ball gown. She lies in a bed whose ice blue curtains complement the tapestry of the decorative room. Her old glass slipper sits on the top of a wooden unit as a souvenir of how she met her prince. They have been married for seven years. On one particular day, her prince is away to town and she is down with fever, with a toddler crying on the carpet over the blue toy that his brother wouldn’t give him. There are nannies to help, but she wishes her husband would be with her more often. She understands, but…

…And I imagine more such miserable days in Cinderella’s life, wondering how they could be a part of ‘happily ever after’. Perhaps she worked hard to create enough happy moments so that in the end, they’d overshadow the sad ones.

And perhaps, I have got my answer.




I’m a Delhi University gold medalist and currently a work-from-home based content head and part-time coaching faculty member for the CAT exam. Proud to call Lady Shri Ram College for Women as my Alma Mater, I am married and live in Chennai. Cooking is my passion by compulsion, caught in a blitzkrieg of North and South Indian flavours. I love experimenting with food, the latest one being a blueberry cheesecake, and my ever appreciative husband is happy to oblige me with his opinions.

See all Siya Writers




Let great stories find you.

Write for Siya

If you can write, you should do so on SiyaWoman.
Send us a note on