Warning: This is an ‘A’ rated story and can be seriously injurious for the health and mental state of Indian girls under 18 years of age, since it is a hot and steaming part of my life. It could be even more harmful for those aspiring to get married soon. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and have no bearing on anyone. Feel free to discard it if you so wish! Thank-you!
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“Teach her how to cook and make round rotis (Indian bread), else she will ruin our family name and reputation wherever she goes (read: her in-laws house after marriage)!”
I grew up hearing this famous line by my chacha (uncle – father’s brother) on numerous occasions during school and college days. He loved me dearly and wanted me to grow up to be a great cook and hence he would say this to my mother almost on a daily basis, when he saw the kind of ‘keen’ interest I took in helping her in the kitchen. Little did he know that he fuelled my resolve to run away from the world of cooking that much more?! My father, on the other hand ensured that I never saw how mom’s kitchen looked/ smelt / felt even remotely. (Please note – mom’s kitchen – and I prefer it that way even now). He preferred that my time be spent on reading, writing, studying, extra-curricular activities – that would make me a better human being and a more responsible citizen. As an aside – once some distantly related aunt and her entire family visited us unannounced and stayed back until dinner. Mom needed help in making the puris (another form of rotis which are fried and served) and I was the scapegoat. I wanted to help her nonetheless; but the sight of that aunt surveying me while I was on the job made me miserable; and she did pass a snide remark – “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone how you fared – whether they are round or bharat ka naksha, it doesn’t matter to me – we are family!!!” Argggh!!! I knew she was secretly considering me for marriage with her eldest son and that made me dislike the roti-making and cooking process even more. ‘If marriage was about making round rotis, I would go nowhere close to it’ – was my resolution for that year, which was broken that year itself, like all good resolutions…
Well, this is the kind of significance that cooking, especially the art of making round rotis holds, in the northern part of the country. Little girls are brought up telling them how it is important to cook delicious food and make round rotis (and not the map of India – the popular metaphor used in most households). There are advantages unknown of this skill and those adept at it ofcourse get into the man’s heart straightway – direct access I am told! I believe, not only is the way to a man’s heart through his stomach but also that of the complete family. You know – the after marriage one? I was rebellious since my childhood days and living in a joint family helped evade this entire cooking mania. I cared two hoots about what my future family would think of me and my father backed me, continuously (secretly) telling me that there were cooks available everywhere – a dime a dozen! 🙂
I did realise the importance of cooking in my growing years. That I loved drinking tea at any given hour ensured infrequent trips to the kitchen at first and regular visits later. Mom took complete advantage of this and held me back. The punishment of making and drinking lots of tea was to help her in the kitchen especially when dad wasn’t around. She knew if he was anywhere close and spotted my sister or me in the kitchen, she would get an earful. But her North Indian blood coursed hard and so did her resolve of making a good cook out of me; just the way her mother had taught her. Mom is a great cook and my grandmother and the entire household was proud of her cooking skills. Naturally, she had similar aspirations for my sister and me. Unfortunately for me, my sister did take an active interest in cooking once in a while and she got the status of ‘mother’s pet’. Unlike me she is a foodie and also cooked some exotic stuff that everyone loved. Sigh! I was compelled to see the good ol’ kitchen once in a while thanks to her culinary competence.
When Roti is a benchmark for values, love for cooking takes a hit. #Indiancuisine #Chapati Click To Tweet
Staying in a joint family has its own pros and cons, especially when it comes to cooking, and ofcourse rolling the flour into impeccably round rotis. The pressure of making it to a good family post marriage notwithstanding – the here and now was more painful. With so many people living in the same house it was a tough task which took hours. Plus standing in the kitchen for so long was super boring! But, but but… my sister came to my rescue always. She and I had a pact! She ensured she would do everything… except making rotis!! 🙁 Tough luck mademoiselle! I didn’t have too much of a choice but to help with the roti stuff. The flour was kneaded by mom most of the times, so the roti rolling, roasting and making task was thrust on me. Slowly and steadily I got better at the game, and soon… though I have no clue why and how, I became an ace in making the roundest and softest rotis in my entire family. Practice does make a ‘wo’man perfect, perhaps. The cherry on the cake was dad asking me to make rotis for him once in a while; when I was at home, on holidays. The pride I felt in his request made me walk with a swagger and a chip on my shoulder when I passed mom and chacha, and served him the hot rotis. My ever smiling mother felt proud too, though she never admitted it during those years, lest it would get to my head and I would start floating instead of walking. Well, I sure did! Because not only did I improve in making the rotis, but also in kneading the flour and then leaving the utensils and the kitchen immaculately clean! I also learnt my mother’s art of making two rotis at one go and smearing ghee on the hot roti. Whilst that turned my hands blood red because of the heat of the roti just having come out of the fire, the taste did wonders to the taste buds of everyone who gorged on it!
One thing I didn’t quite understand was why people said that a round roti ‘tasted’ better than a triangular, rectangular, square, hexagonal one. I thought it was the flour that made the difference and the way you kneaded it; and then the way you roasted it. But, never mind! Also, a round roti wasn’t just a reflection of your dexterity in cooking, but also of your mother and the value-systems she instilled in you…
Though cooking well is an art I still have to master, one wouldn’t starve if one stayed with me. What with my exquisite roti-making abilities, the perfectly round delectable slices of joy that I throw from the frying pan straight into the serving plate… the piping hot roti smeared with home-made ghee melts in the mouth of the devourer. Lucky that I am, my mother taught me well. I feel so accomplished thanks to my proficiency in making the round rotis. Guess why? Yes!!!! It helped me get married to the purrrfect guy, who also happens to be a great cook 😉 Just like the old pact that I had with my sister; my husband and I also signed on the dotted line and tied the knot happily with a similar deal (just like a pre-nuptial you know!). He would look after everything else in the kitchen, while I would show off my kneading, rolling round rotis and roasting two rotis at one go, artistry! Howzzat?!
P.S. I am heavily into writing these days, and my latest book in the offing is: 100 ways of Making a Round Roti & The Positive Effects it has on Marriages!
Let me know if you would like an autographed copy 🙂
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