Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat – Summary & Analysis


Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat is a poem based on a comparison. In every household, the kitchen is an integral part that we need to meet our culinary needs. However, with the passage of time and changes in lifestyle, kitchens, and activities in kitchens have changed. Rafat, in this poem, highlights the difference. He draws a comparison between a rural kitchen and an urban one. By doing so, Rafat points out what modernity has done to our culture and familial attachments. In the name of modern facility and luxury, we have moved away from our roots. Rafat is famous for his realistic portrayal of life in Pakistan. In this poem, he, once again, proves a successful documenter of life as he has experienced it. This article looks into the themes and artistic aspects of this poem. It will be helpful for the students and teachers of Pakistani literature in English.

A Brief Biography of Taufiq Rafat

For a brief biography of Taufiq Rafat, visit Wedding in the Flood by Taufiq Rafat on this website.

Text of the poem Kitchen by Taufiq Rafat

Kitchens were places

We grew up in.

High-roofed, spacious,

They attracted us

With the pungency

Of smoke and spices

From December beds

We hurried to the cheer

Of wood-fire, above

Which sang black kettles

Once there we dawdled

Over last night’s curry

And fresh bread dripping

From the saucepan, eggs,

And everlasting bowls

Of tea. Discussions

Centered on primaries:

Births, deaths, marriages,

Crops. Mother presided,

Contributing only

Her presence, busy

Ladling, ladling. Noise

Was warmth. Now in these

Cramped spaces, there is

No time for talk. A

Stainless homogeneity

Winks back at our sneers

Chairs are insular

They do not encourage

Intimacy like slats.

The table tucks bellies

in. We would not dream

of coming to this place

To savour our triumph

Or unburden our griefs

Chromium and formica

Have replaced the textured

Homeliness of plaster, teak

Everything is clean

As a hospital

Summary of the Poem Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat


Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat is a nostalgic poem. We can divide this poem into two parts. The poem begins with the poet’s description of a rural kitchen. The poet recalls the vastness of the kitchen in which he and his siblings dined. He also shares with us the activities and discussions that took place in the kitchen. The poet remembers the smell of spice and the coziness in that kitchen. However, in the latter part of the poem, Rafat describes the cramped atmosphere of a modern urban kitchen. He misses the noises of his childhood. Despite modern facilities, the urban kitchen lacks a sense of attachment to the Earth. The poem is a comment on the modern way of life that has taken us away from the natural way of life. It is a requiem to the culture and tradition that are dying away in the modern world.

The Description of the Rural Kitchen

Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat begins with a curious statement. The poet says that they, he and his siblings, grew up in kitchens. It means that they learnt many mature things in the kitchen. This vast place attracted them all. In winter, they left their beds and rushed to it. The smell of smoke and spice enticed them. They enjoyed the warmth of the wood fire burning in the hearth. The sound of the simmering curry in the kettle was pleasing like a song. They slowly ate fresh bread with this curry. They also enjoyed eggs and tea served in big bowls. The breakfast time was a kind of family meeting in which they discussed topics of primary nature. They talked about deaths, births, marriages, and crops. The mother joined this conversation with only her presence. She continuously poured curry into their pots using a ladle.

The Description of a Modern Kitchen

Taufiq Rafat calls modern kitchens ‘cramped spaces’ which means that they are not as spacious as ones of their childhood. He criticizes the modern preoccupation which allows one no time to have small talk at the dining table. Now, people are in such a hurry that they cannot eat their breakfast peacefully. The chairs have replaced slats. It has created a distance between man and the earth. The chairs have also obliterated the sense of intimacy that the siblings once enjoyed on slats. Now, a kitchen is not the kind of place where one can share one’s pleasure or pain. The artificiality of chromium and formica has replaced the culture of plaster, colours, and teak. Life has grown monotonous. The cleanliness of the kitchen makes it look like a hospital ward. It is a sign that the poet has grown sick of the modern kitchen.

Analysis of the Poem Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat


Tradition vs Modernity

Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat is based on a comparison of two different types of kitchens. One is the traditional rural kitchen while the other is the modern urban kitchen. The rural kitchen was very spacious. The poet and his siblings would dine in it. It was especially inviting in winter. The warmth of the fire and the smell of food lured them out of their cozy beds. They sat on the slats very close to one another. The practice strengthened the bond of love and care among the siblings. They had much time and ate lazily while discussing everyday affairs of life. Modern kitchens, however, present a quite different picture. People are so preoccupied with material achievements that they cannot dine calmly. They are in a hurry and cannot spare time to share a few words. The chairs have replaced the slats, and so has distance replaced the closeness.

Nature vs Artificiality

The rural kitchen as presented by Taufiq Rafat is a symbol of the natural way of life. It is free from the artificiality of a modern kitchen. The spontaneity of noisy activity is a contrast to the regulated silence of the modern kitchen. There is openness in sitting on slats which is different from sitting on chairs with bellies tucked under the table. The rural kitchen exudes a homely feeling with its plastered walls and slats made of teak. The modern kitchen, however, is a display of chromium and farmica. The nostalgic tone of the poet and his ending remarks about the modern kitchen are significant. To him, a modern kitchen is like a hospital. It shows that nature is preferable to artificiality.

Growth in the Kitchen

It is a fact that man learns a lot from the company of his fellow beings. The sharing of ideas adds to the experience of man. That is what the poet mentions in the beginning lines of the poem. In a rural setup, a kitchen is a place where family meetings take place at every meal. All the members of the family sit together and discuss various topics. These discussions open many secrets of practical life. In this way, the young ones grow to maturity listening to the experiences of their elders and siblings.


In the poem Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat, the mother presides over the meetings in the kitchen. She listens to the young ones talking noisily at the time of breakfast. However, she does not add any remarks to their discussions. Her only focus is to ensure that her children get their meals on time. She keeps baking bread and ladling curry. Nevertheless, her silent presence is not less significant. By providing her children with healthy meals she is making them grow physically. At the same time, she is allowing them a chance to grow intellectually by permitting them to speak freely.


No household is complete without a kitchen. On the surface level, it is only a part of the house where meals are cooked. But with the memories such as the poet shares attached to it, a kitchen gains extraordinary importance for a lifetime.

Kitchens by Taufiq Rafat is a poem with a message. It is a critique of the modern tendency of giving up culture and tradition for up-to-dateness. The comparison and contrast of traditional and modern kitchens highlight what man has lost to gain modernity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *