A title that will intrigue you. What has lock down and roti have to do with each other? For those who are not familiar, roti is a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent made from stone-ground wholemeal flour. Most households have this as part of their meals with vegetables, meat, or yogurt.
I, am a working woman living in the bustling city of Mumbai, India. The days here are hectic and managing house, work, and family at home is a challenge for most working women with kids. Days, weeks, months, and years go by at lightning speed until one realizes that decades have gone by with a routine that remains unchanged. Having gone through this routine in the past, today happy to call it a day with more time in hand. A son, married and settled abroad gives me enough time to indulge in hobbies and other interests that were on the back burner for a long time.
In India we have the privilege of the house helps and having them around is a blessing, which in most countries will cost a fortune. Cleaning the house to doing dishes and even cooking. Chopping vegetables making the rotis is a help someone like me considered more than a blessing. I am among those who hated the chore of chopping and roti making. For one the dough would never be the right consistency and even if it did ( rarely) the shapes would be like maps of different countries around the world. She , my house help was there every evening doing the needful and ensuring my casserole was well stocked with the perfectly round rotis that would last for at least two meals for the family – which now is only me and my hubby.
Around early 2020, the world was hit by a virus that jumped the wall from the land of the dragon. It found its way around the world without a visa or an air ticket. Its power to reach places is amazing and the fear of death it brings along has brought the entire world to a standstill, ensuring a lock-down that brought the entire economic machinery to a grinding halt. My country too is grappling with the pandemic and its ongoing effects. Stay at home to be safe applied to everyone and my house help has no choice but to stay at her home to keep her safe and others around safe. This meant me and many like me had to handle the home chores on our own, whether we liked it or not. So here I was doing the cleaning, washing, cooking and yes …….you guessed right – making the rotis.
Day one was disastrous and with every new day, things started to improve. The dough emerged with the right consistency and my fingers now understood the feel of a perfect dough mix. Tiny balls on my marble rolling board patted with dry dough and a wooden rolling pin to help flatten the ball to make the roti ……oh yes nothing less than an adventure. The process did not seem very tough, and the circular shape started happening after a couple of days. The oval now takes the shape of a near-perfect circle. So much so, I enjoy the process of making rotis and with every attempt, I learn from it a new facet of life – thanks to a simple roti.
The wheat is ground to a very fine powder in mechanized stone roller and the fine powder is then sieved to get rid of the tiniest unwanted residue. Life has to go thru a sieve every once in a while for a cleanse to extract the unwanted stuff both on the inside and outside. The dough by itself is useless unless mixed with salt, water, and oil in the right proportion. Proportions are important here, otherwise, it can get mushy and no good to serve any purpose. In life, the additions of emotions, virtues, honesty, relationships, and self-worth are important as without them life is as good as being dead. Once the dough has the perfect consistency it has to be flattened and brought to a shape that is a joy to the eye and feels good to eat. Similarly, life has to be battered and flattened with struggles, tears and challenges to be called “life” worth living, for without either of these what good is life? One the desired circular or triangular shape is reached the real test takes place. The raw flat-rolled roti has to be cooked in a pan on every side until it gets the golden brown texture because a raw roti will harm the tummy. Life term is a tenure between birth and death. Experiencing the heat of a tough life and getting roasted from all sides makes one strong and able to handle the rest of the journey. After handling this chore for a few weeks, I decided to add some spice and bring in a change. I started adding spices, vegetable, cheese, herbs etc to make the roti different and give it a healthier texture. When life gets boring and mundane its OK to bring in a bit of fun and spice it up to bring back the zing so that boredom does not find a way to seep into your heart and mind.
Today mealtimes are extra special for me because that round blue casserole has Rotis stacked up for good health and happiness of those on the table. Life has to be made special and each person that it touches has to remember you for your goodness and the virtues you bring to the table. Food may get digested but the goodness one spreads in life never leaves the universe. It has its way of going around in some form or the other long after you have said your final goodbye. We call it KARMA. Do good and you can be rest assured that this will come back ……may not be to you but certainly to someone you love and cherish.
So that’s my lesson from the lockdown and the kitchen counter. Tomorrow will be a new day and with a new sunrise comes the promise of a great day. Some day soon we too will be free from the scare of the virus and life will come back to being normal – or a new normal, which we will wait and see how it unfolds. However, as we turn chapters to the new normal let us not forget the simple lesson that humble roti taught us.
Cheers to freedom from stuff more than that deadly virus!