Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Stanley Ka Dabba Chapattis

Until recently I always dreaded making chapattis. I am not a master chef, but I can cook. But my chapattis- they have always ended up so not good that they mostly went from the frying pan into the fire…*grins* They were either too dry, too crisp or undercooked.

Everytime any one told me they were having chapattis for dinner- I would have the same list of questions-

“What atta do you use? “

“What proportions do you use? “

“Do you add oil while making the dough? “

“Do they come out soft? “

“They DO? “


I would enthusiastically attempt over and over again taking precise measurements; trying different brands of Atta; talking to chapatti veterans in the family who could magically puff one up; watching YouTube videos of Auntyji making her Indian flat bread in her American kitchen and be so motivated. But my chapattis; they refused to come to life. At the end of the process, I would not be a fun person to be with. The whole world could make chapattis; WHY NOT ME?

It became more dreadful when I moved back to India and lived with my in-laws for 6 months. Living with them was good. They have a beautiful house and my mother in law makes great food. Her chapattis were nice and soft and tasty. I tried to do as she does, but my chapattis, they stubbornly refused.

“Did you knead it enough?”

“Try adding a pinch of sugar and some milk while making the dough”

“Did you roll it thin enough”?

Fast forward to last month and I’m watching the movie- Stanley Ka Dabba. Absolutely loved the movie. You should see it if you can, you will feel good and you will for a long time.

The crux of the story is about Stanley, a lovable little boy in the 4th grade who unlike everyone else does not bring a dabba for lunch. No problem though, ‘cos he has equally lovable friends who want to share their lunch with him. But they have to hide from their gluttonous Hindi professor who also never brings his own dabba but greedily eats from his co-workers and his students. He taunts Stanley and warns him to stay at home if he cannot bring his dabba. (You seriously want to kick this guy- that is how well he (Amol Gupte) has acted). Stanley stops coming to school. The professor feels bad. Slowly we learn why Stanley never brought a dabba. And when he finally does, Stanley brings it for his professor who can no longer deal with his own shame for harassing this little boy and quits the school.

The acting is great, the story is heartwarming and the songs are catchy.

Anyways, my moment of truth was during the “dabba” song, when they show the dabbas being lovingly cooked and packed. And in one shot a nice chapatti is puffing up proudly on the stove. What I realized then was that the chapatti was first slightly cooked on the both sides on the hot thava before placing it directly on the flame. I am sure this detail is nothing new or a big deal to those who already make good chapattis. And they must be reading this and going “Duh!!???” But for me it was like the heavens opened and the angels were singing “Hallelujah”. 

So I finished the movie and ran to the kitchen. I had to try it and I had to do it immediately. I mixed my dry and wet ingredients and kneaded my dough. I knew it was going to come out well. I patiently waited for the dough to rest. I patiently waited for my thava to get nice and hot. I patiently rolled them into nice circles. I gently cooked each side and then held it on the flame. I waited a few seconds and it did its thing. It puffed up into a nice big ball. I turned it over with my kitchen tongs to cook the other side. I was so thrilled. I could feel all my ‘poor-chapatti-making’ induced low self-esteem melting away. I was at peace. It was like nirvana for me. It sounds silly, but I felt so so good. I could not stop. We had chapattis every night that week.. until my husband begged me for some rice. *grinning*

Many times we try to do something and we may fail. We get disheartened and give up. But we should never give up on hope. Sometimes we may need to change how we do it. Sometimes we need to change our attitude towards how it should be addressed. Sometimes we just need a miraculous moment of truth - a small sign, a spark, a push. That will set us free, let us see clearly and overcome.

PS: For those who want to thrash Amol Gupte for taunting Stanley in reel life, let it be known that in real life Stanley is his son.

PPS: Honestly, I wanted to upload a picture of my magic chapatti for the world to see, but I am out of Atta right now! But I promise to update this page later.