Rotis are not just flatbreads in our part of the world. It completely defines a girl and shadows the reputation of a married woman not only with its taste but also its color, texture and shape.
I dint know how to make a roti. I doubt my mama did. My Dadi made rotis and later a cook. In our house it was the staple food. Dozens were made every day.
Luckily my in-laws are rice eaters. Rotis were not made by the dozens and definitely never by me. I could go on site and shape a red brick into a dough easier than the wheat flour. Also I believe my red brick would sooner be round then this alleged roti.
Once we moved to Dubai, husband casually informed that pastas should be made in this house for all our days together. Me, who had no intentions of mastering the roti, relaxed and obliged. More of this in the next post, ok?
The guilt of not making rotis for my boys was also pretty nonexistent. That’s the real beauty of expat life really, no guilt givers at all. Frankly also, because initially we hardly knew anyone.
This is the right time to tell that we belong to the Bohra community. Within the community daily food thaalis are sent out to every Bohra household every day. Because there are thousands of rotis to be made each day, hundreds of ladies volunteer to do them.
So one day, as I was busy making dinner, my neighbor called;
“Wednesday’s rotis will now go from our neighborhood from each home. It’s a great sawab (blessing) ka kaam, want to pitch in?”
This is a good time to tell that I have always been very over efficient with most things in life and saying “no” is just not my style. Also, what was I going to say? I don’t want to be blessed or I don’t know how to make rotis? Shuddering at the prospect of getting badnaam and shamed, I said;
“Ofcourse! How many”
“One unit is 2 rotis, everyone take around 10 units”
This was going a bit too far even for me.
“Can I do 3 units? Actually Bee is so small, you know.” Blame it on the child, typical mommy of me.
“Sure, 3 units it is, Wednesday 9 am it should be ready”
I rushed home in a frenzy, called my husband. His first reaction was,
“Oh God! How will we do that! You don’t even know how to make “those”.
Rotis were an unconquered territory. The acquiring of which could give me the demi Goddess status. Hell bent of getting this feather in my cap and also because, what option do I have anyway? I started planning.
Not knowing who to ask, I called up a friend to casually inquire what atta she used. Went to the market and stocked on all possible required ingredients and gears, wheat flour, rolling pin, the works.
Then came the how to part. Masala channel ruled in those days and I was not yet introduced to Karachi chefs. I sat for days in front of the TV watching different You Tube videos on how to’s and what to.
Chef Zakir specifically said, “If your wrists are too delicate to bind the dough, hit it on the counter 20 times.”
I mixed up water, some flour, salt and started doing the kabaddi training move. Husband and children ran to the kitchen because of the thumping sound, and stood in the doorway watching mama, hitting the lifeless counter with an untidy mess of dough again and again.
Once that was done, it was time to try my hands at the rolling pin. Make me hand draft a plan, but never ask me to try and get a dough to shape up in a round roti. I tried very hard though, but Africa it was. That’s ok, I thought. Anyways round rotis are over rated, if all women would just sit down one day and see what the body does to the perfect round rotis, frankly, they wouldn’t bother.
Next was the cooking it bit. Cook it I did. Turning it over 10 times till I was satisfied with the product.
Now came the crucial tasting bit and husband presented himself as a willing guinea pig. He took a bite and struggled very hard to chew. My model of all things good and honest said,
“too dry, too crisp, no salt, frankly; inedible. But don’t worry baby, you did such a good job.”
I stared at him and stomped back in the kitchen, Like hell I did!
He proudly called his parents to tell about my roti contribution. My very honest MIL who knew my culinary skills too well, said, “Bechare log”.
She meant the 3 homes that get my “units”.
However bad and disheartening, I kept trying. My rotis were not getting anywhere close to round, and almost never soft enough. But I kept making. And my sweet family kept eating. Till one day I got the basic hang of it. Like they say, “Mehnat aur sirf Mehnat, kamyabi ki zamin hai”
In a country where round rotis are as readily found as poverty and puffing up is an easily learnt art, I have yet to make a round one, or a totally puffed one.
But you know what? My maps are full of love, a product of a skill I had to try very hard to learn. Something that didn’t come easy to me. But I was resilient and refused to give up. Even today, 5 years later, every time I make roti, I feel proud and repeat the menu to my husband and children many times.
Next time you come to my home, do ask me for a roti, it won’t be round or puffed but you will like it, I promise.
P.s. oh and the picture, actually my Curry Laksa looks much better than my roti, sowwie.