There is this story about two dogs and the wily fox. The two dogs fight over a piece of meat and the fox agrees to mediate. And he keeps dividing the same into unequal pieces and then eats it to try to make them equal. At the end, he finished the meat all by himself without the dogs latching on to his trick.
Years ago I made my first ‘roti’ in just the reverse manner. My parents had gone off to Madras and I was staying all alone for the first time in my life. And I had a great time managing my own affairs and that included trying out my limited culinary skills. For in the past, I had rarely ventured into the kitchen to prepare the occasional cup of tea or packet of Maggi.
Well as I was saying I made the ‘roti dough’ in a unique way. I added too much water to the atta, so it was too soggy to knead. Then I added too much of the atta so it was hard and dry and just could not be knead. I forgot to add oil altogether. Finally I got the mix reasonably right and was able to knead the dough. Then the next challenge was to roll out the ‘roti’ and I am sure I created enough shapes to possibly represent the maps of all the Indian states.
My first effort was rather unpalatable by any stretch of imagination. It was rather bland and tasteless. I just didn’t know that one should always add a pinch of salt to the atta. And then the pan was not hot enough; so the roti got stuck tenaciously to it. I just had to scrounge it off. Gradually with enough of ‘trial and error’ I learnt to dish out acceptable ‘rotis’.
In those days, my favorite meal was the dinner. I would return from college by early evening. Then it was time to prepare my rotis and some tomato raitha and rice. To add to it I would parcel out some Punjabi dish from the nearby restaurant. And so I was all set to have my dinner piping hot while watching a re-run of some old hindi movie on the telly.
The heavy meal done and the movie being over, it was time have a cup of coffee and a quite stroll. The winter nights used to be cool and pleasant for a small walk in the neighborhood.
I gained enough confidence in making ‘rotis’ and finally I was able to even dish out its thinner version – the ‘phulka’.
But mum was soon back and the pattern was broken. So its back to stepping into the kitchen only for an odd cup of tea or Maggi. It was a great experience to learn to make ‘rotis’ and that too all on my own. Guess I have enough incentive now to further experience the joys of cooking – and to innovate and experiment with even simple dishes.
My further experiments will have to wait for a while though – my parents have planned a trip down South again this summer.
The article appeared under ‘The Middle’ column on January 1, 1998 in the ‘Maharashtra Herald’ in Pune, India.
Have not added much to my repertoire – the ‘ready-to-eat’ packs and ‘home-delivery’ offered by restaurants nowadays rather kill your enthusiasm to make much effort for a solitary person’s meal.
But I do have real pleasant memories of those simple days when an ordinary ‘home-made’ meal and a movie re-run on the telly could add so much excitement to my life. It used to usually be Sony Television doing a re-run of many old movies featuring the likes of Sanjeev Kumar, Farooque Shaikh, Utpal Dutt and Amol Palekar.