Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Best Roti I ever had.....

This happened around the time "Coconut Trees Criminal Case" was going on.  I was about nine years old.  My grandfather P Nanjappa was living by himself in our village.  His wife had died when he was still in his thirties and he lived a hermit's life thereafter.  His three sons lived elsewhere as per the demands of their employments.  He was an all-rounder and an integral part of the village life.  He was a Doctor dispensing Ayurveda medicine to the needy.  He was a general liaison man with the government officials as most of the villagers were illiterate.  He was the money lender of last resort.  He was a consultant for Agriculture as well as Astrological predictions.  He also officiated as the local unofficial judge to settle disputes and counsel the agitated.  Never offered his services voluntarily, but did not disappoint anyone who went to him with a problem.

He had retired after serving as a School Master.  He had a small pension to lend support to his meager requirements.  He had put up a small hut in his own agricultural lands,  just outside the village, and a well close by  provided the water for drinking.  A small pond in the land was enough for bathing and washing.  He grew enough Paddy and Raagi for his year's requirement of cereals.  Some Pulses and Groundnuts were also grown as side crops.  Vegetables were grown around his hut.  He had a cow and calf to meet the requirement of milk, curds, buttermilk, butter and ghee. Firewood was available in nearby forest.  He was never known to lock his hut.  As they used to say in those days, he had to buy only salt, kerosene and match sticks!  He had his own "Charaka" to spin the thread and needed two or three pairs of Khadi dress every year.  He did not care for dressing table or cosmetics, but had a small mirror and razor for shaving.  He would do all his work himself and never fell sick.  He had a good collection of books for company.  He would rise before the Sunrise and retire for the day at Sunset.  A small kerosene lantern was kept for emergency. With this life style, he was a contented man and a model of self sufficiency.

He used to occasionally visit us and some times brought agricultural produce with him.  I did not have much interaction with him but my elder brothers have fond memories about him.  He was a short man and was popularly called "Kulla Nanjappa", meaning Short Nanjappa because of his height.  He was never very demonstrative about his affection for us, his grand children.  My brothers remember that he would go to the taluk office on the first of every month to collect his pension.  After collecting his pension he would visit them and pay their school fee.  How the account was settled between him and our father was known only to them.  He always had a packet of Peppermints for children during his visits.  He always impressed me with his way of talking,  especially about "Bhagavadgita" and such other epics.   I remember one particular day when one of my aunts was very much depressed about certain events in the family.  I happened to be present when he came that day and spoke to her about Lord Krishna for about an hour.  The import of his talk was generally that Lord Krishna was misunderstood and criticised by many in his time.  But he never bothered about it and went on with his tasks as if nothing happened.  At the end of the session my aunt was relieved and told him that her mind was then clear and the worries had left her.  Just like Arjuna finally said "करिष्ये वचनं तव", meaning "I will do as you say".

One day he sent a message to my father through someone that he should go to the village and meet his father.  I urged my father to take me with him because I wanted to see Grandfather.  It was already evening by then and my father reluctantly took me with him.  We reached the village and my father discussed something with him, probably about cropping pattern for the coming  year.  My father decided to stay back for the night and we moved to our uncle's big house in the village for supper and night's stay.  This uncle, a cousin of my father, was his classmate and childhood friend as well.  They had many things to talk over between themselves and I had little knowledge of what all they spoke about.

We left our uncle's house at sunrise as both of us had to go to our schools.   On the way to the bus stand we had to pass through our grandfather's hut.  He saw us and beckoned my father to the hut.  My father told him that the issues were already finalised the day before and he was in a hurry.  Grandfather told him "Ardha galigeli enoo aakaasha beelolla", meaning heavens will not fall in half Ghalige.  (Ghalige is a unit of measuring time as per ancient Indian Method, one Ghalige being 24 minutes and two and a half Ghalige making one hour).  We sat on the stone bench just outside the hut.  Grandfather plucked out some big Muttuga leaves (a type of bush with large leaves, sometimes as big as big plate) from the nearby bush.  He had kept the batter ready  and spread the batter on two of them, covered them with the other two leaves and threw them in the oven containing burning charcoal.  After three or four minutes he pulled them out with a stick, cleaned and separated the two leaves and two Rotis were ready!  (This dish is popularly called Kendada Rotti, and no longer in practice since cooking is done on gas or electricity.  However, Tandoori Rotis are made in a similar process, but not actually thrown inside the burning charcoal).  He spread the two Rotis (a type of flat bread for those who are not familiar) on another big leaf and added two big balls on them, one of groundnut (peanut) chutney and one of fresh butter.  With a smiling face he gave them to me and ordered me to eat.  I was looking at my father and waiting whether he would get some too.  Granddad smiled and said, "Don't look him.  He has had his share in the past. Today it is only for you.  Eat them".  No need to say I enjoyed the Rotis with the fine home made butter and groundnut chutney.  Of course, we were on our way immediately thereafter.

I have had delicious Rotis with so many side dishes several times thereafter, like every one else.  But if I am asked to list the most delicious Rotis today, I would put Granddad's Rotis of that day on top of the list.  I did not have another chance for such a pleasant encounter with my grandfather again as he left for his heavenly abode within a year. Now, my father also is not with us but these memories of Dad and Granddad are always there.


12 comments:

  1. Food memories are always the fondest; especially when it is garnished with the love of those dearest to the heart.

    Succinct and yet rich with a snapshot of our culture, heritage and tradition.

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  2. never we can get back those days! wow! kendado rotti with full of love and affection

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  3. It is a blessing to have such warm and lovely memories of your grandfather. I think those memories are priceless.

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  4. Lovely anecdote! I wish I could have a taste of kendada rotti too!

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  5. What a wonderful story, Appa!

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  6. Some memories can never be replicated. My mother went through frustrating times, when I kept telling her about the cauliflower dish I had had at her friends' place. Poor Ma! Her cauliflower just never could match the 'special one ' I'd savored !

    Human touch to these stories.. thank you for another delightful read !

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  7. Dishes served with heartfelt love especially by parents will aways be delicious and remain in the memory permanently. Good narration of the happening.

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  8. very nice experience. myself and dinesh had prepared under guidance of chikkamma in no.7 model house street in fire wood. i dont remember how it tasted

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  9. What a real story. I too have remembered some incidence in my life but I am not blessed like you to narrate it beautifylly.

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  10. Very nice blog. Would love to know the location and time period to get a feel for the era. I too have fond memories of Kendada Rotti but in a different setting. My grandfather used to make them for us kids in the bathroom fire (used to heat bath water in a copper Hande). This was Mailige Thindi for us too young and impatient till the real meal would be cooked in the kitchen by grandma etc., but served only after Pooje & Naivedya, which could go up to 11 a.m. or even beyond. This was in Turuvekere, in Tumkur district in the '60s. The only difference is he used to cook the Rotti using Mutthige leaves (commonly used to stitch meal leaves those days) and used to add coconut which was very tasty after roasting in direct fire.

    Bettadapura Sharma
    Portland, Oregon, USA

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  11. sir your description of roti made me miss my grandmom. You are an amazing writer.

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  12. SIR your description of roti made me reminisce my grandma.. You are an amazing writer sir.

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