Today, was the first day the kitchen was subjected to widespread cooking – the occasion being the first dinner cooked from scratch in this apartment. A simple daal and chapati – nearly a month after I moved in. So why the delay? Well, the missing rolling-pin for making the chapatis. For the uninitiated, the rolling-pin used to make the typical Indian bread called chapati, is called a belan. In popular folklore, it’s also known as a woman’s best friend, for uses other than rolling and shaping the dough. Okay perverts, it’s not what you are imagining – it’s a handy weapon of choice for the harried housewife against her husband or just about any man who dares trespass into the kitchen sanctum sanctorum.
The broker, who had so helpfully guided – or rather goaded – me to rent the apartment that suffers me for a few hours daily, also directed me to the nearest shopping mall that he claimed had all sorts of stuff needed for setting up civilisation inside a house.
While eating out has been fun so far, it’s certainly not been funny, for both my stomach and the wallet. And so it came to pass that I needed to start eating home cooked food. Mercifully, remnant skills of the cooking training received as a rather disdainful hotel management student were retained till date, so if the purpose was to just fill up the stomach, I could surely pass muster. It wasn’t as if I was applying for Cordon Bleu training!
Zeroing on a chakla (a round, raised platform about 8-10 inches in diameter and about 2 to 3 inches in height, used for rolling the dough) was easy as I settled for a marble piece. Easy to clean, and hygienic. It was the truancy of the belan that left me literally holding the dough. The mall assistant pleaded helplessness – shooting off the stock reply that the belan was out of stock, never mind that the customer was in a state of shock.
It wasn’t like shop after shop declined to humour a man looking for a dough-rolling pin – weekday work commitments ensured that my hunt would be confined to weekends. In fact, the only one who laughed right in my face was the maid, when, out of sheer desperation, I asked her to get me one. Her girlish giggles ensured that I never reminded her of my request!
A friend ‘helpfully’ suggested seeking a matrimonial alliance that would ensure at least a belan in dowry, if nothing else. But then, buying a 747 simply because Boeing is doling out a packet of crunchies au gratis will ensure that you as a person will be facing a personal sovereign crisis till kingdom come.
It was as if the entire gang of housewives in the city were conspiring against me to deny a rolling-pin. All I ever wanted was to make a chapati – was it too much to ask? Or did the sisterhood have visions of the brotherhood usurping their legacy and depriving them of something to ‘hold’ on to?
Finally, today, as I strolled into the mall to check if the stocks had been replenished or would there be more stock replies in offing, there lay the ubiquitous belan – a shiny stainless steel version, so slender that a certain Kareena Kapoor’s size zero would appear plus size in comparison. It wasn’t the ideal thickness, but these are desperate times we live in and before any one could notice – one fit of girly giggles was enough – dumped it into the shopping basket.
28 days after moving into the apartment, today, I had my first daal-roti (lentils and Indian bread), thanks to the belan.