This is the story of how I made a perfect Roti… and still screwed up.
A very familiar looking relative comes to visit our house one day. I say familiar but I have no clue who she is. She doesn’t even look Indian. It’s kind of suspicious. And obviously my Mum started giving her the intricate details of our lives. Starting from, “Oh, my eldest daughter wakes up very late. She should be the role model, but these kids, who’ll make them understand?”
I’m sorry, my siblings look up to me as the ‘waking up early’ role model? Should have said so. I would wake up at 5 every morning because I have this huge responsibility now. Mum continues to boast about my sister’s achievements and my brother’s naughtiness so it’s clear she somehow finds the best opportunity to signal me to make lunch.
I sigh audibly before entering the kitchen but both of them ignore it. After spending an hour on my Masterchef skills, (the show is full of drama, but what do you know, it did teach me what concasse is)
By imagining I’m the host of the cooking show, I carefully tell my audience how every element is made. For eg. how to sauté, make the perfect round Roti and make small talk until the onions are golden brown.
I lay the table and the food looks delicious. A very dark part of me wants to eat it all without inviting my Mum and the relative upstairs. But that dark part is a pussy and succumbs to the good morals. How very boring!
The aunty eats up the food in huge bites and I look at her like a hungry puppy opening my mouth every time she scoops Dal with her Roti. I realise my tongue is hanging out when suddenly she speaks up:
“Your daughter makes really good food. Culinary class?”
My mom almost spits her food out. “Umm no, I taught her a little, and she has her own ways of cooking some dishes.”
No, mom. Masterchef taught me. I think, holding back a tear for my unofficial culinary Alma Mater.
“Oh, and these Rotis… hmmm,” Aunty chews on a piece of Roti without any Dal or the Paneer Masala I made with so much effort.
“Dese Yotis aa zoo raoond.” with her mouth full, she speaks gibberish enough for my Mum to be irritated and screech “What?”
Aunty tried to chew the large piece of Roti as fast as she can and both my Mum and me stared at her impatiently for 5 excruciating seconds after she finally gulped it and spoke:
“These Rotis are so round. But you know now the competition is increasing. Its not just the roundness of the Roti that the rishtawales see now, it’s also the even thickness of the Roti. See this Roti this side it is 3 mm thick but this side it is 2.5 mm?”
My Mum suddenly felt pity for me, she looked at me with those eyes i’ll never forget. They seemed to say sorry for all the trouble a girl has to go through just because of a Roti.
“They look even to me.” Mother India comes to rescue, but in vain.
“No, look here na Suja,” Aunty picked up her 5th Roti from the bamboo basket and started criticising it with scrutiny.
“See this side it’s a little thinner.”
“That hardly makes a difference. You can’t even see it unless you look closely.”
I’m gonna have to say ‘I love you’ to my mother this evening, don’t I?
“Arre vahi toh problem hai na. Ladkewale itni baariki se dekhte hai ki ek bhi fault hua toh rejected.”
My feminist goddesses were raging with steam out of their ears. I had to calm them down until I finally spoke into the matter,
“Aunty, if I get rejected that’s my destiny. Ab kya kar sakte hai na? Jo kismat mein likha hai vahi hota hai. And moreover, there’s almost a decade for me to get married. I’ll learn how to make evenly thick Rotis till then.” I said with a smile.
Aunty was surprised after hearing ‘decade’. But she was too full to argue with me with a heavy stomach. My Mum was surprised too. I’m usually a hot-head and I had handled this situation very well. What she doesn’t know is I screamed into my pillow that afternoon after the very familiar and not-so-nice- Aunty left for her home.
So I’ll clarify what happens if I ever make the perfect round Roti with even thickness. It gets brutally murdered and chewed in the mouth of the doubtful relative and she will compliment your cooking skills but not without spitting another criticism like its not roasted enough, or too roasted.
And just to be clear, I didn’t learn how to cook to make my to-be-in-laws happy. I learned to cook to be a strong independent woman.
**Memories of me screaming after I burned my Maggi flashes in front of my eyes**
Okay, maybe not that independent. But you get the gist. And lets assume a hypothetical conversation with the typical Aunty:
Me: But what’s the use of the Roti being round and perfect? If it tastes good, that should be it.
Her: It’s for the aesthetic look, a person will feel like eating a good looking dish over one which doesn’t look delicious. You don’t see Rotis in any shape and expect a person to eat it. Is that how they serve it in restaurants?
Me: They have to serve perfect Rotis in restaurants because we pay them. They might as well do a good job at it. Tell me, is my husband ready to pay 40 rupees per Roti?
**Aunty shocked, Mustare rocked**
In reality I did have this conversation with another Aunty and there was no mic drop, instead we had this argument for over half an hour and long story short, she doesn’t visit our house when I’m home.