Nobody here eats chappatis anymore. But there’s still some aata left in the cabinet, and it can’t go to waste. Pouring water into the powder, I begin to knead.
I never ate chappatis.
When we were younger, Amma would line us up in the kitchen- all 12 of us- my siblings and I, and she’d give us rice with aviyal, or maybe some rasam. She spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Amma made her presence fixed at one side of the house (around the kitchen), where she’d stay till it was time to sleep- 7:30 PM sharp in our tharavadu, meanwhile Achan anchored himself to the other side of the house. She’d make rice, appams, dosas, but never chappatis.
I noticed a dabba from the corner of my eyes. Sighing, I grabbed it. Such a bhulakkad. I took some of the salt from the container and sprinkled it into the aata mixture. You know, my thoughts have always been in pure Malayalam- but it’s slowly becoming marred by these Hindi words- scattering through the ends, beginnings, and middles of my sentences.
I had learnt both Hindi and Malayalam in school. I wanted to study further- either History or Hindi. But when I was 18, my parents agreed that it was time I got married. Achan said he didn’t know how many years he had left- so he got my younger sister and I married off as soon as he could. We were the youngest of the family. I got a proposal from Bombay, but Achan didn’t want to send his favourite child that far away. We got a lot of other proposals but there was always something that was wrong with the suitors, their jobs, or their families. This pattern continued for almost a year until my father finally accepted the proposal from a man 10 years older than me, from Jamshedpur. So much for not being sent that far away.
He was a Nair too, and I think that’s what Achan liked. He had an air of respect about him, this suitor. He was intelligent, and he seemed too sweet for a man. Yet, I didn’t want to go that far away from Palakkad; I wanted to stay near my parents. Achan believed that he was running out of time- so we had to accept.
In Jamshedpur, I had to learn. I had to learn Hindi- the Bihari type, mind you; and how to craft the perfect chappatis. Chappatis were a huge part of my North Indian cuisine accustomed new family. I never liked them. The chappatis, I mean- not the family; the family was fine- but I always wished there was something beyond the kettles whistling, the peeling and brewing.
My husband loved chappatis though, so I grew to love making them.
When I kneaded the aata mixture one last time to check for inconsistencies, I knew there was none to check for. After rolling a few balls, I flattened them out on the chakla. They were round enough for the oil-laced tawa over the fire.
Fire. Fire wasn’t something I loved. In my early twenties, I had to get hospitalised for severe burns from carrying a baby in one hand, a hot bartan in the other, and another baby in the womb.
Plus, It’s also been 4 months since my husband’s funeral. My granddaughters used to ask me if we ‘loved’ eachother, and I’d laugh. “At that time who looked at love and all of that, we’d just do what was told.”, I’d say. Then my husband would call out my name from the living room, and ask me why the TV remote wasn’t working, and I’d laugh and roll my eyes. “He always needs me for everything.”, I’d tell my granddaughters as we followed his voice into the living room. Arnab Goswami would be screaming to the nation. No wonder he wanted to switch the channels.
I tore a piece from one of the hot chappatis on my plate. Our house seems empty- it’s been empty for 4 months. It’s also been 4 months since I made chappatis.
Good, the aata didn’t go to waste.