My evening meals usually comprise rotis (wheat-flour flatbread) because I’m a diabetic—I came down with it some 20 years ago. The earth slipped under my feet when I first learned about it. The world seemed to end.
It did not. Nothing to fret over; life goes on—a diabetic friend tried to empathize with me. All you gotta do is stick to certain no-nos regarding diet and give a tweak to your lifestyle.
The dietician cautions: no sugary treats, no potatoes, and asks you to cut down on the portion of rice to almost half; he also recommended switching from rice to roti for supper—I was.
There were no gadgets called roti-makers in the old days. Radhika, my wife, made them with the chapatti-board and rolling pin. Then the “wonder machine” called the Roti/Chapatti-maker invaded the market.
YouTube was chock-a-block with videos on the charismatic appliance. Media hype gave it a jump-start. Womenfolk watched in awe on TV as the rotis magically puffed up—looked mighty simple! Also, Radhika got lured by the catchy videos, and we bought the machine.
So began our quest for the perfect roti; we were pretty psyched up at the thought of whipping out pop-up roti after roti.
The first roti proved a disaster; more flops followed suit. Soon, Radhika got pissed. I buried myself into the instruction manual again, and we tried afresh, following every step to the letter. To little avail, though. When my wife quit, I offered to try my hand. “Be my guest,” she said.
I did none the worse; nothing worked. In my frustration, I scorched my fingers, too. We tried for a month or two; watched a score of videos. Our efforts seemed to work but fell through after a few fiddling hits.
We assumed it would be a cakewalk, and as shown in videos, every roti would puff up and presto, push the lid up. No such thing happened.
Months passed, but the results made no strides. One fateful day, off went the roti maker into the cupboard to rest. The “wonder machine” sucked.
In January 2020, my wife left for the US to see our only offspring, two daughters, settle there. By early March 2020, the US was in the pandemic’s grip. Radhika got stuck and extended her visa from six months to a year.
I got home alone. As my suppers missed out on rotis, it crossed my mind to try the roti-maker languishing in the kitchen cupboard. Roti making, the traditional way, was not my cup of tea.
I toyed with the idea for a few days but could not screw up enough courage. I also realized rice for lunch and supper was a sure ticket to a blood sugar spike.
Thus began my daunting task of roti-making. Needless to write, all my endeavors ended in frustration. It once in a while snowballed into a rage and led to tossing the botched rotis into the trash.
My first month’s score averaged 30-40 percent. I jumped with joy to watch the flattened dough puff like a balloon pushing the lid up. I’d get near euphoric; roti-making for me became not only a challenge but an exciting game. It was still all touch and go, though.
The aggregate rose to 50-60 percent in the third month, but not without times when it disastrously dropped to rock-bottom. Those would be my saddest days. I kept on, however, trying to get the nitty-gritty of the process, and stuck to improvising each time.
They included the finer points like kneading, consistency of the dough, right temperature of the hot plate, the correct timing for flipping the roti, and finally, the crucial moment of putting down the lid.
Six months into my roti making, I’m proud to write eight to nine out of my ten rotis puff up—10 in 10, too, once in a while. Never a dull moment passes, even when I churn out 25 rotis at one go.
Guess what! From friends and relatives, particularly women folks, I learned their roti makers had turned literally into showpieces adorning their kitchen shelves. Some for two, others four, and a few for over eight long years.