Fortune Mother Exchange : Mother’s cooking for Indian male children.

What do you think of this ‘mother exchange program’?

Indian women in traditional families are raised to be these mothers. Some comments seem to find the video ‘moving’.

Do you think the video would have been found so moving, by the same people, if it was mothers of young daughters in law (also leaving home for the first time) feeling the same way?

Does the video inspire sympathy for the mothers? How, if at all, are mothers of Indian daughters in law different from these mothers? These mothers expect the sons to call them regularly – we know that in some parts of India, daughters in law are discouraged from calling their mothers. [Link]

How do you think does such looking after influence the way the sons grow up? What about young Indian daughters?

Young Indian daughters, in traditional patriarchal Indian families, are kept in dependence (emotional and financial) and married-off to live with another family, where they are trained to cook (and live) according to the preferences of that family. How does it make the daughters in law feel about themselves and about everybody else? It can result in – Stockholm Syndrome, or bitterness, or if there is support, then walking out of the abusive situation.

To safeguard against the last – traditional families prefer young and pliable daughters in law from their own communities, to make the moulding or training considerably less cumbersome.

The young wives are not allowed, or encouraged, to cook like their mothers did, that is considered disrespectful, because it implies that they prefer their mom’s cooking to the in law’s (ladke wale) cooking.

Women are required (or atleast pretend) to view cooking for their families as a primary purpose of their lives. If they don’t, then they risk being considered selfish and uncaring. And since patriarchal hierarchies are sacrosanct – in many families young daughters in law must display respect by eating last [link]. Having a male child changes the status of a daughter in law in traditional Indian families, she still eats the last, but she is not as powerless as a mother of a daughter (who has to start training her daughter to be a future daughter in law).

Which is why a male child is prayed and fasted for, and sex selected.

Boys in traditional families are not raised to ‘look after’ themselves, although, their comfort and preferences are considered important. Their wives would be trained by the same mothers (seen in the video) to cook just the kind of food they have raised their sons to enjoy eating. If the sons manage comfortably on their own – that’s viewed as being ungrateful or disrespectful to the mothers. They are expected to appreciate the sacrifices and efforts being made for them. One of ways of expressing their appreciation is by marrying an obedient girl of their parents’ choice.

A young woman who has options, might question this kind of helplessness in a spouse, so dependence and obedience in young men and women are nurtured as cherished virtues. Patriarchy can’t survive without these.

What do you think of this video?

Video shared on facebook by Nandini. 

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43 thoughts on “Fortune Mother Exchange : Mother’s cooking for Indian male children.

  1. That is so insightful, IHM, to compare sons’ mothers to the mothers of daughters-in-law. The difference in attitude is staggering.

    I myself was struck by how wrapped up in the son these mothers’ identities were. “I get frantic if he doesn’t pick up the phone when I call him.” And then spending weeks learning new recipes just to make sure the son never forgets maa ke haath ka khana. It feels like these mothers so desperately need to be needed by their sons… That kind of dependence is scary. I can’t help but feel sorry for these sons. Even when they’ve flown the nest they can’t shake free of their mothers’ spectre, constantly hovering, delivering him ghar ka khana from hundreds of miles away, and emotionally blackmailing if they’re late in picking up the phone!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Saw the video half way through but didn’t complete it as I found it too ridiculous. Guessing the mothers’ exchange their cooking duties.

    Can’t imagine raising kids to be this dependent. My MIL (who’s Indian) was perfectly confident that she didn’t raise her sons to be total dodos who couldn’t take care of themselves while studying abroad.

    Also, what’s wrong with eating the local cuisine? I’ve personally never come across people like this in India (and I’ve lived here for four years) but I have seen ads and TV shows where people are so particular about what they cook/eat at home. It’s so sad to lead such an insular life…especially in such a diverse country.


  3. I clicked on this video after if had been shared by all and sundry. Only to be aghast at what is shows. Of course, it’s only sons who crave for ma ke haath is Khana. For the daughters, they are not even considered their ‘own’, she is parayi after all. With an attitude like this its no mystery when you come across 30 or 40 year olds proudly saying how their wives learnt to cook just like their mother!


    • I don’t think this is parayi Issue… I guess it is just assumed that daughters will be knowing how to cook and if they don’t they will learn anyway


  4. I believe, it is high time when projection of mother’s infinite love, care and dependence on their sons is highlighted in various forms in our society. Is this video trying to imply that girls who study similar courses miles away from home should be competent enough to cook the food they miss on their own to never be shown as craving for it? Or is it plain disinterest in the daughters of our society, what could they be missing out on or what are the feelings of the parents of the daughters, carry no weightage?

    Whatever the case, it is very disturbing that videos like these are actually trying to glorify the hard work these participating mothers are putting in just to feed their sons the food they like to eat, when it should have attempted to show the journey the children (both sons and daughters) take to adapt to the ways of life when they are away from home.


  5. “To safeguard against the last – traditional families prefer young and pliable daughters in law from their own communities, to make the moulding or training considerably less cumbersome.”

    Now it all makes sense. My MIL begged my husband not to marry a foreigner. When he decided to marry me, she said she was glad he was marrying an Indian orphan ‘cos she couldn’t wait to “mould” me. I didn’t get it at all – what “moulding” she was talking about? I was an independent professional, daughter of two very independent professionals. And here was this woman with no life or hobbies, ready to make a project out of me, actually glad that my parents were not alive. Fortunately, my husband stands up to her and we have oceans separating us and her. .


  6. Where are the fathers of these “boys”? Are their hands broken? Can’t they cook too? Why do these women spousify and infantalize their adult sons? Do these women have daughters?

    More questions than answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh wow! Yet another affirmation of the woman’s role as a care giver.
    *dramatically slow clap*

    By the way, did anyone notice that they said feed your child but showed only sons?
    Can a girl not miss home-cooked meals? How is it that a man missing “ma ke haath ka khana” for a few years garners more sympathy than the plight of all the girls who leave home after their weddings (thereby foregoing ghar ka khana, like, forEVER) and turn into *these* sad women in the video?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. It’s the sons I feel sorry for here. They are still being pursued by their mothers as if they can’t handle life away from home. They are adults, ffs! When I went abroad for studies, I too missed Indian food, and while my parents sent be food packages once in a while, I just learned to cook my favourite dishes or make do without it. Why won’t these women allow their sons to live their lives, learn to perform basic everyday chores and become more capable people? Such boys won’t survive without the pampering if trouble comes knocking some day.


    • I disagree that the sons are to be felt sorry for, but what I have observed in most cases is that these sons just don’t tell their mothers to stop because they love all the attention. I noticed this when I was studying Engineering, all the boys would only talk about food cooked by their mothers and some insisted that the girl they will marry should be able to cook like that, and then I knew girls who would really cook all these dishes at their home and bring for the boys…
      In fact it’s the girls whom these “sons” will marry in future for whom I feel bad. The mothers shown in this ad belong to a generation where women were not educated, did not have a career and life so they are like this, but the thing I hate most is about these boys shown who will grow up to be men, they are educated and so they will marry educated working women and then expect that woman to work, come home and cook like their mother who never stepped out of the house. I mean even here we are blaming mothers and putting pressure on the women to change rather than expecting the men to just explain to their mothers that they will be fine and take a backseat.
      All these men know how stressful it is to work right coz all of them work in similar environment, then why can’t they just refuse all this attention and also explain to their stay at home mom’s that life outside is difficult and that nothing should be expected from the woman as she also comes home after a hard day at work. But no man will say this because then he will have to help at home and will not get hot hot food.
      You see men do not want to let go of all the luxuries. So unless the men stand up and say we do want all this, till then all this will go on.


      • “I mean even here we are blaming mothers and putting pressure on the women to change rather than expecting the men to just explain to their mothers that they will be fine and take a backseat.”

        You are kidding, right? While I agree that the entire system is screwed up and the women these guys will marry are the ones to be pitied the most, these guys are in their late teens and are just stepping into their adult years. The mothers are the parents and it is their duty to ensure that their kids are self-sufficient and to let them travel their own paths. Instead, they are sitting on their son’s heads, cooking for them and even finding other women to cook for them. If my parents raise me completely dependent on them for everything, the resulting lack of self-sufficiency in me would be their fault, not mine. Same goes for me raising my kids. So yes, mothers are to blame because they are the ones here who are doing the wrong thing. The sons are not demanding this, and it would be a different case if they did. They are young and just out of home for the first time. It is up to the women to realise that and perform their main duty as a mother – set them free.


      • Liked your point Anonn.
        This is what I was thinking…..why men are not trained in cooking or why only wives are expected to cook for their husbands?
        I know cooking to moderate extent and can cook standard daal sabzi and roti…but in the initial days of our marriage, my husband used to point out that food is ok but not like his mother. I used to feel bad because I was newly married and would put lot of efforts and love in cooking. I told my mom once and my mom advised my husband not to compare the food cooked by me and my mother in law. From then on, he never compared again 🙂

        But I never stopped thinking how would it be like for a newly married girl in a joint family set up. There would be full on comparisons between DIL and MIL and lot of pressure on DIL to learn MIL style cooking. I cant imagine that. Instead of enjoying the initial few years of beautiful period of marraige, DIL is subjected to lot of pressure to learn MIL style house-hold chores. I really can not support joint family set up for initial 6-10 years of marriage. I think both people should get a chance to live separately and independently, form a strong bond and then after couple of years, when parents become old and dependent, couple should move in with them to take care of them.


        • Agreed !!!! The couple should live away from in laws other members but at the same time should help care for parents when they are frail. However if the parents or in laws are understanding and not budge in personal would be ok to live with them (Of course among Indians this is rare)


    • I don’t think these “poor sons” are anything but to be pitied upon. They are treated like kings at home, they are given all the attention and preferential treatment which they consider their divine entitlement which they’d automatically expect from their wives in future! Such “sons” are indeed a shame.


  9. Indians can be so intolerant of other cultures. Whats wrong with their sons trying the new local food. One of the most fun parts of travelling is trying new and different cuisines.


  10. If instead of son they would have shown daughter then mother would have been teaching daughter how to cook. This would have not garnered this kind of emotional drama . Its drama only and most of the time son are irritated of this .

    Reinforces the idea that need of son is super important and its only mother who understand it even when its not stated
    Sometimes even from son’s point of view its stifling . Their food choices is also decided by mommy without asking them.

    Life these ads are not rosy as they portray. Being a young Indian, I can say with 100% guarantee that we live a dual life double faced life one for us and other for parents. But problem is that its considered respectful and normal.

    Kya culture h, jahan jhut and dhoka are normal thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I found it revolting that all the children in the video were male. Also, the mothers seem to have raised up dependent babies who can’t cook for themselves. Instead of calling some stranger who does not even speak your language, would have been much better if they had just taught the men to cook their favourite food. Seriously, I find it so annoying that whenever there is an advertisement related to food and/or nutrition, they always show a mother and male child. Don’t girls need nutrition?


  12. There is so much wrong in this , sigh…

    Everyone misses home food – ONCE IN A WHILE…
    most students free in a hostel don’t give shit about moms khanna.
    Its the moms who are needy not the kids.

    Now coming to moms…
    All this ,effort time so someone can eat moms style khana that too an almost adult. Dont they have better things to do with their time ?
    There is nothing wrong in learning to cook a new cuisine and making friends, its the reason that’s annoying. so their sons eat home cooked food ????
    Teach your child to cook his favorite dishes so he doesn’t crave it. — easier than teaching some stranger…
    Teach your child to enjoy different cuisines, its fun and awesome.
    I assume your child comes home for holidays , feed him the same sambar 3 days in a row ( moms khanna) and see the reaction. he’ll probably flee to hostel.

    Dont be needy. dont be needy, dont be needy let the child grow, set him free. he’s not your emotional support, he has a life, moms need to get one too.

    If you so love cooking, there are plenty of kids with No moms at all, who dont know what a hot home cooked meal means, – do it for them, they are kids too, they deserve some tasty joy in their lives too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. In the same way, where are women hands, legs, brains? Why they can not earn? Even some people earning, most of the women not spending for family. why men only should make house. I know you are not publishing men voice. Why boys should earn more, should have property.


    • What do you think stops women from ‘earning’? They have legs, hands and brain, they work hard too – then why aren’t women earning?

      Women’s earnings are (mostly) not just spent on the family, they often don’t have any control over their earnings, savings and spending. It’s the in laws and the spouse who decide whether or not they earn and how their earnings are spent.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And some women are not given a chance to get a meaningful education and job skills and are married off very young so they remain financially dependent all their lives. Their legs and hands are used to cook, wash, and care for their joint families, and their brains are kept firmly in check by instilling ‘respect’ for elders, and emphasizing ghar ka izzat, and log kya kahenge.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The same patriarchy system that demands that women stay at home and work as caretakers also demands that men should always be the earners outside of home. The system that binds the women binds the men too into roles they may not be happy with. So if you feel like you are getting an unfair deal, please get away from this system. Choose who you want to marry. Treat the person equally. Share your financial burdens the way you see fit for your marriage. Don’t force them to live with your parents – you would not like living with her parents right? Make your life happen instead of pleasing parents and system.


    • Well why can’t the men use the same hands legs and brains and make their own food and manage their own lives? Also, when women are not educated and are not “allowed” to step out of the house, can you please use your brain and tell us how they can earn money?


  14. It’s a sweet commercial, but several things struck me:
    1)There are no female students. Not in speaking roles, not in the background, nothing.
    2) “IIT is focused mainly on the freedom of the student. You can do anything you want, you can stay up all night, go around have fun, but still I miss my home.”
    I don’t know about IIT, but I have a friend who went to India for college in Bangalore after completing undergrad in the United States (she was going to dentistry school) and she talked about how it was odd to be older and how the girls had a curfew of 9 pm. This is unknown in the U.S.
    3) I got care packages of food to take with me when I visited home (laddoos, one year), but never this “Oh let me talk to an aunty and I will do this food exchange.” If I bothered I had to hunt for the one or two places that sold Indian food (which wasn’t by public transportation), and I had no kitchen or fridge to speak of. Yet, my parents weren’t fussed. And no, they didn’t really teach me to cook. I actually LOST weight my freshman year eating cafeteria food.

    4) Wouldn’t it be more loving to teach them how to make their own snacks and food at some point? My father’s parents never taught him how to cook, so when he went to the US in the mid 1970s, he had no idea how to feed himself and meal plan. Granted, he was vegetarian in a small town and he had very little time. But he subsisted on Special K for months before trying meat. When my parents got married, my mother mistook lettuce for cabbage in one of their first meals, but my father was so pathetically happy with the lettuce puliya.


  15. I did not even think of all that and probably won’t. I made sambhar 2 days back and I hated it and craved for my mommy’ sambhar. And for her dahi bade. Because I love her food. What about my dad? He specializes in the omelette, rice dal dept. but I still miss mostly my mom’s food. And then I saw the video and I thought it’s such a nice idea to sign up for so that once a week a kid gets to eat what they absolutely love and crave. And even my parents get worried if I don’t answer. Heck, my dad goes bonkers if the signal starts breaking. I can totally see mom’s worries here. I liked the ad. I am an independent girl but I miss home and food like crazy and would be ecstatic if someone got a piece of home for me like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you princessbutter. My feminist radar usually goes off when I see shit in the media. But this ad seemed genuine. It is true that in our parents’ generation, mothers were the primary caregivers so obviously for most of us, home food = mom’s cooking. It doesn’t imply that people don’t miss their fathers or that the fathers did not play a nurturing role. I for one would be eternally grateful if someone could replicate my mom’s cooking just once a month for me although I’m a fantastic cook myself and my husband is even better. These are 17 year olds probably leaving their home for the first time. There’s nothing wrong if someone decided to give them a piece of home occasionally.

      I assume that when my daughter leaves home, she’ll miss home food. To her, that’ll be mom n dad’s cooking because both of us cook in my household. If some stranger could replicate that for my daughter once in a while thereby making her feel a little less homesick, I’d be grateful. It doesn’t mean I’m keeping her dependent on me. It simply shows to her that we care and miss her just as much.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am okay with the home cooking part but I did notice that both of them were male. My main beef is why not 1 male and 1 female? Like daughters don’t matter.


  16. I guess given that I’m not Indian my opinion would be more of a outsider perspective. I’m Afro Bahamian and my fiance is Indian but i always found Indian mothers who obsessed about and control their son to be disturbing. Indians aren’t the only one with this problem but i would say that this attitude is far on the extreme end in Indian communities. Parents will always love their children and vice versa and even I think my mother is the best cook in the world. However i find that many Indian parents, especially mothers, identities is derived from what their children do who they marry etc. They don’t have an identity independent from their families. My fiance never fit into the mould of the perfect son due to the fact he always made his own decisions and wasn’t dependent on his parents. His parents still love him regardless of his “disobedience” but his extended family consider him to be abnormal, especially since he is with a non Indian woman.
    Also Let me say that this is not just an Indian”mother problem” I have seen Indian Fathers try to control their sons as much as possible. What perplexes me about this is that this is the same culture that demands men be the bread winners and head of the household. But how can the be when they are dependent and not allowed to be adults? Women are expected to be wives and mothers but yet they aren’t seen as adults in their own right. I feel that their are many who are afraid of their children acting like adults because it would mean they can’t control them anymore . Let me give examples of what i have heard and seen in my fiance extended family. Now i will say this is only what I have seen the from people in the Keralite community I came in contact with. Although i have seen this same behaviour(sometimes worst) when it come to daughters. I think controlling parental behaviour that many sons are dealing with are not discussed as much

    1) My Fiance’s cousin came to Canada to complete his master’s degree, His mother came to live with him but didn’t allow him to work faraway from their condo building because she and his father fear for their son’s safety and “bad influences”(like getting a girlfriend and not agreeing to an arrange marriage lol ) This Cousin was in his early to mid twenties. After being babied for so long they decide that this young man who wasn’t even allowed to work far from home was ready to be a husband. After he got married he has difficulty finding a job and interacting with people outside of his community

    2) A young man from church (he is about 19 or 20) who told us that his mother checked his email every day. What she is looking for only God knows

    3)Parents from this same Indian christian community were alarmed that their 19-20 year old children would be going on a camping trip alone without any parents. So they forced them not to go. One mother actually said she feared her 22 year old son may be abducted

    I could go on but then this comment would be an essay.


  17. I do understand the mothers missing their sons..but why to put so much importance on mummy ke hath ka khana? It is totally normal to miss the way your mom cooks, but cmon, to start such programs for that?! And the title “mothers’ exchange” is ridiculous. My mom is so much more to me than just cooking! This adv puts undue pressure on moms to be the ones to cook for their children. Also, it is ridiculous that both students are guys. Just reinforces the fact that they need to be taken care of (in things like food) by their mommies. And the parent cooking are their moms. In this day and age I know so many dads who cook for their kids. Why cant we make a balanced video instead of such stereotypical shit and reinforce the stereotypes that are still so prevalent.
    If I asked my mom to participate in such thing, “someones gonna get hurt reallll bad”!
    Also, I hope my son misses me and not his mom’s haath ka khana.


  18. I’m a mother and I find this ad bothersome.
    By the time kids leave home and go to college, they should be taught the basics – cooking simple dishes, laundry, cleaning up after oneself, and managing finances.
    What lengths these parents are going to! Just to ensure their kids (specifically sons) eat food cooked a certain way.
    And yes, excluding daughters from this ad was done so casually, it’s almost dismissive. It’s as if daughters missing their parents is a non-issue.


  19. I think the context in which it’s displayed is so sweet, but the context/message they are trying to display does indeed seem wrong in general, even if they show mothers doing the same for their daughters, which funnily they did not include a girl in college (can’t our moms coddle us too, and we girls can learn to cook also). I mean, is it really NECESSARY that they do a fortune mother exchange program where they choose a mom in the region where the son is studying to cook the son’s favorite home gourmet food, even if she is not from the same background? Really?!! I think this video would have been epic and much more empowering if THEY themselves instruct their sons to do the grocery shopping and have them write down the ingredients then they themselves cook it. It would not encourage parents to coddle and take complete children, but rather give parents the message to empower their children to be independent.


    • Err, I am not the sharpest tool around, but regarding your point teaching the guys grocery shopping and cooking…. We were not allowed anything in my hostel. We couldn’t cook. We had smuggled in iron and electric kettles for maggi. Sheesh, talk about stupid rules. And I could not cook daily food till I got my Masters admit to US. I could make some fancy stuff like pasta and Chinese for special meals at home but not the daily meals. I was the proverbial pampered child who daddy thought will hurt herself. So that summer I finally learnt cooking from mom. Now I cook a lot! I experiment, make new recipes, tell mom about them. Dad tries to suggest and both of us shush him and tell him not to act too smart. 🙂
      But still, I dance all around The town if someone makes something for me, specially rotis. Mind you, now I can cook a mean pav bhaji, but it won’t stop me from lapping this up when mommy makes it, sends it or takes part in the exchange thingy.


  20. I dont understand why we are making a big deal about this ad. I miss my mom’s food too and as a fish and pork eating mangalorean, I dont find any of that Indian food in the US city that I live in. Of course I try to cook but it doesnt taste the same. If I met a lady who would cook such food for me, I would be thrilled. My mom has a career, interest, hobbies but she often feels bad that I don’t get to eat the dishes that she makes and that I love.

    Would you think this was a gender issue if the jodhpur or chennai kid was female?

    In India most of the kids who are “allowed” to go cross country for education are largely male. Is that sexist? Yes. Does that make this ad sexist? No.


    • I kinda see where you are coming from and agree. When kids are in’s nice to cook homecooked food for your kids. I even got food cooked for me with always getting a reminder that we gotta be doing this too. The point is can mothers do this for us forever? No one is going to be here forever you know. In a patriarchal society it’s as if they encourage males to not cook and clean and getting married will fulfill any needs the guy needs by having his wife and othet women do it for him..that’s why it seems unequal and wrong on both sides. Instead I feel it’s better if we see the opposite.


    • “If I met a LADY who would cook such food for me, I would be thrilled.”

      Dear RD,
      What about if you met a man who cooks such food?
      You try to cook but it doesn’t taste the same for lack of practice. Just keep at it and I am sure one day you will cook brilliantly. Just like your mom. Then you will not have to depend anymore on Mom.All the best.


      • My mom misses my gran’s gajar halwa because she can’t bring the taste. That doesn’t mean she is dependent on her mom. There is a feeling of love and nostalgia here. Not dependence.


    • I totally agree with you. I honestly loved the ad. I think I am trying to totally avoid seeing genders. If we fixate on boy-girl too much that means sexism and inequality is still prevalent. I chose to see the ad as parent-child bond. I absolutely miss my mom’s cooking and dad’s teas and eggs. What I make is so not the same. Yday I made khaman after calling mommy up for instructions. Yet they turned into stones. Ugh. My mom is super active and has loads of hobbies and stuff to do but yet when I go home, I get pampered with all my fav food and then some more packed stuff. Nothing wrong with it.


  21. They could at least have shown one of those college kids as a girl.

    That would also give scope for boy-meets-girl and which would give scope for the mothers’ exchange turning into a grandmothers’ exchange…. which would give scope for … ?

    Hey wait, I’ve got an idea…
    Dads exchange. Girl missing dad when scooter/car needs repair. Local ‘dad’ learning about repair on skype…


  22. IHM when I read the DIL perspective you have put in my MIL face shined before me, a not so educated women coming from tiny town. Every day she cooks a wholesome meal and eagerly waits to feed me her bahu after coming from office, her motherly love hugely favoring me then my husband. Down side is off course she did not teach my husband how to cook but anyways by Indian standard she is a rare MIL jewel.


  23. Pingback: But do we have any benchmark for ideal parents in our traditions? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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