As a small child when I visited my nani’s house, I loved cooking with her. Though she had a cooking platform, she preferred sitting on the floor and cooking, mostly on ‘angeethi’. I also sat down with her and made rotis. Small ones. And, I would offer them to my mamas, nana, nani and a couple of them I kept for myself.
I was sixteen years old, and during summer vacation, my mom would ask my younger sister and I to make rotis in the evening. She believed, “A girl needs to learn cooking as it’s a very important aspect of being a good homemaker”. Well, her whole life centered around making her daughters study and teaching them housekeeping. So every evening, my sister ad I went into the kitchen and tried our hands at making round, fluffy rotis. Sadly, we couldn’t. However much we tried, our rotis were never round, neither fluffy. But, my father never complained. He was still proud and ate without a complaint.
My mom, on the other hand, was a tough taskmaster. “When you go to your sasural, your mother in law would say that your mother didn’t even teach you this basic skill of making round rotis,” she would taunt. I don’t remember if her jibes ever hurt, because frankly speaking, at 16, a mother in law seemed like a mythical creature, a veryn distant possibility, something that a teenager’s mind doesn’t want to delve upon.
After my class 12th board exams, I got a 3-month long summer vacation. The first day itself, my mother told me,” Remember, you have to learn to cook now that you have holidays”. I groaned out aloud. She never forgot, this woman.
“Mummy, I deserve this vacation because I studied hard for the whole year, not to cook.” I complained.
But, mom being a mom had the perfect reply. As always.
“So you have your vacation. It’s not like I am asking you to be in the kitchen the whole day. Just help me in the kitchen for two times in the day and learn to cook. That’s it.”
“But, I don’t like cooking.”
“Then, what you will serve to your husband, in laws and kids?” She asked.
“I will become an important person, so I won’t need to cook. I will hire a cook.” I answered defiantly.
“It’s good to study, but you should learn cooking too, so that you are not dependant on someone. Remember, when you don’t know something, even your domestic help cheats you. Even Indira Gandhi knew how to cook.” She ended the conversation.
Back then, there was no Internet, so I couldn’t find out if Indira Gandhi actually knew how to cook. But, that wouldn’t have helped much. My mother would win any argument. Hands down. So I started making rotis in the evening. And they were always shapeless.
Now, one evening, my sister and I were making rotis, which weren’t impressive. Just then I had an idea. I took the lid from one of the steel boxes in the kitchen, put the lid on my roti and when I lifted the lid, I had a perfect round shape. Somehow the rotis came out fluffy too. Soon, our roti box was full of round, fluffy rotis. Both my sister and I were super happy. It was our little secret, so no one could know.
My mother was sitting on the garden swing all this time. Just then one of our neighbours called on us. In Ahmedabad, it was a regular affair to visit one another’s home in the evenings for a chat.
To show her (our guest) our culinary skill, we took two rotis outside. She looked at the roti and was impressed.
“Wow, your girls can make such round rotis,” she exclaimed.
Our mom said nothing. She looked at us and smirked knowingly. Our mom knew. Our secret was out. Moms always know.
20 years later, and my daughter is 5 years old. And, while I am working in the kitchen, she loves to help me. Now, before someone starts accusing me of child labour, she does it voluntarily. She helps me wash the fruits and cut the vegetables. But, of late, she wants to roll out rotis. So, I let her. She makes little rotis…but are they round? Yes..!!! Are they fluffy? Yes..!! Do they make me proud? Yes, Yes, Yes…!!!
What I couldn’t do at 17, she did at 5!!! <3
Now, she more or less makes rotis everyday. And, I am a happy and proud mother.
I realized that I am not so different from my mommy, though my reasons might be different.
I do not want her to impress her husband or in laws with round and fluffy rotis, but every person should know how to cook. And make round fluffy rotis…because they are a pretty sight! And beautiful food indeed makes the mind happy!