Sari-clad and soft-spoken Zubaida Apa was the our own Martha Stewart who knew no defeat. She had a totka for every stain, a recipe for every leftover and a self care tip for every tired home maker watching morning shows while cutting pyaaz for the daily saalan.
For the thousands of women who watched her, she was much more than another ‘expert’ – the national Apa emerged as an icon of culinary and home keeping wisdom at a time of transition from tradition to modernity. What made Zubaida Apa different from every other so-called expert on TV was not only her arsenal of knowledge – though it was incomparable, it was a quiet grace that is rarely found on television today.
Amongst a milieu of TV hosts vying for ratings with outlandish artificial weddings and fortune tellers, Zubaida Apa represented understated elegance in her perfectly pleated saris and neatly tied buns – perhaps too neat for any woman scrubbing her own oven with lemon rind.
Yet, her upper-class demeanor did not clash with her advice on cleaning away grease stains or her instant likability for the audience.
Perhaps this is because Zubaida Apa remained a stalwart defender of the working woman while she was dishing out advice on maintaining an impeccable home – to her the two were not at all mutually exclusive.
Her totkas were about making life easier for young (and older) women who may not have experience running their own household.
While Zubaida Apa may be faulted for putting the burden of the home on women and endorsing problematic beauty products here and there – she was also the source of comfort for a generation. What no one else knew Zubaida Apa did.