Roti, chapati, Naan, tandoori Roti, Parantha, stuffed Paranthas and what not! Most of these items are omnipresent in day to day menu of by and large all Indian kitchens, North India particularly. Growing up, I ate them with relish along side generous servings of sabzi, daal prepared lovingly by Ma.
I regret standing less besides her, in her modest kitchen, to either help her or to learn from her. Now that I stay so far from her, it is impossible for me to fulfill my cravings of Ma ke haath ka khana! Back then, the heat in the kitchen would get to me. I somehow did my bit by preparing salads, or cutting fruits. I would often volunteer to do utensils, but that she still hates when I sneakily do, and would then throw me out.
I had then believed that my mother is an impatient teacher and has a sharp tongue 👅 that was quite piercing to my young tender heart. Rather than teach or dictate her methods, she would only want me to learn by watching her actions. And one slip of mine, would be a reason for my ridicule and rebuttal. Reluctantly, to avoid embarrassing myself I gave up any learnings of home science. In my heart, I blamed my Ma. But in her defense, I was quite clumsy and absent minded growing up. My defense is that I had a lot of studying to do!🤷♀️
Now, a mother myself I can vouch that no amount of patience is ever enough for a mother to constantly manage her children. We continously swim in deep oceans of abundant patience, perseverance and affection to tide over ever so difficult situations with our sometimes annoying bachas. And being angry is akin to drowning in one’s own agony.
Now , I can understand how impatient and impulsive I was when I look at my first born behaving just the way I did. You can somehow gauge the extent of your craziness in your kids. How we both hate to lose, frustrate easy and love enjoying a good downpour by getting wet! Now, as an adult I have better modulations over my behavior but his behavior is prematurely giving me wrinkles! Just the way my Ma used to complain about her grey hair! Thankfully, she has very little grey hair till late and maybe I will also get lucky that way! 😉
Another unrelated but happy anecdote is when I would always fill a glass of water for her to drink during my study break. I still have the same habit. This time for my boys though. And also, my boys do surprise me at times, by being likewise sweet and caring. 🙂
So, back to my abysmal cooking skills. I was really excited when it was time to set up my own tidy modular kitchen. I was inexperienced, but took to this art with gusto! Because eating is my all time favorite passion. And soon cooking all sorts of vegetables and dishes became comforting for me.
Rice was easy to cook with exact measurements and I soon mastered various variations like jeera rice, tomato rice, pulao and the all encompassing biryani.
But the humble dough alluded me. The mess it created become unmanageable. And I hated sticky hands. Sometimes too hard, sometimes too soft, I could never get it quite right! In my desperation, my husband and I bought an atta maker with specific measurements for atta and water, but the mess it made was messier. Cleaning afterwards, became an even arduous task.
Cooking soft thin rotis became a distant dream. Even with dollops of ghee, what I made was barely consumable! Sometimes it would become too hard, or otherwise half cooked. My family suffered in silence. My husband would only encourage and pretend to be in denial.
The only yummy thing I created out of atta/wheat were the various types of bake cakes! 5 minutes cup cake, with lots of chocolate and sugars became my comfort food. Although my variations of so called Italian and Chinese dishes were much sought after, but this local wheat denied me any favors.
To make matters worse, my husband and his side of the family are all ardent roti eaters, if ever there is a term like that. The average folk of Haryana, especially the agrarian class, only need thick fat rotis with either their lassi, ghee, chaatni, pickle or even plain salt. Bajra or Jowar roti, should ideally be called rota for their sheer size and requires mammoth capacity to finish one in one sitting!
Anyways, after years and months of despondency, I carried on with desperate determination and one fine day, I finally forged a bond with this lovely atta. I have understood that the art of pounding dough is a fine wrist work. My wrist fell in love with the rolling and pounding movements and my work gathered pace. It was no longer a chaotic wet slippery mass, alien to me. The mess was sorted. I understood that it needs strength, precision and consistency rather than aimless plundering! It needs love and affection, and not hate and despair.
Cooking soft ballooning rotis needs patience and fine juggling. It is a slow sublime art. Too quick turnaround will harden the surface and too late, will end you with burned tar. So just the right size of roti needs the right time, under the right watch. The delight of a slowly ballooning roti on tawa, the soft properly cooked paranthas give me simple joy that I cannot explain.
I can still not call myself quite the expert. But that has been my tale with the roti. My version of my experiment with the truth.
Making good chappati or rotis is a life’s lesson for me. Just the way you go through a drill, you are pushed and rolled and then a nice soft doughy you is made by God! He puts you in the perfect shape and then waits patiently for you to be done nice and soft. If you hurry incessantly, you become unchewable, uncomfortable with yourself. No amount of ghee/ money or material comfort can make you feel correct. And if you are too lazy, you may get charred. That, my dear friends is the simple philosophy of life.