The parathas, which are a ubiquitous part of a North Indian meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, are a favorite with many of us.
Flaky with layers, or stuffed, usually accompanied by the rich aroma of ghee; the paratha is a dish for which many undertake a long drive to enjoy in rustic, open-air surroundings. And equally, enjoy in our homes each day.
There are as many possible accompaniments to the parathas as there are possible stuffing. Potato, cauliflower, radish, peas, cottage cheese, lentils, even minced meat or left-over vegetables. The paratha lends itself naturally to a variety of accompaniments. Butter, pickle, vegetables, or curd. Or even a mutton curry.
Versatile enough to incorporate salt, green and red chilies, or even sugar depending on our choice. Flexible enough to be had for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as packed meals for train journeys or picnics. Both a comfort food and a speciality.
But this is not a post about a paratha… (even though you are probably already thinking about one for your next meal!!)
My favorite remains the aloo parantha. The filling of mashed boiled potatoes spiced with coriander, ginger, raw mango powder is positively yummy. When I was younger (and weight was something that troubled other people, and cholesterol was just a number) I relished them at home and in the college canteen.
Once I got married, I was introduced to the world of my mother-in-laws’s parathas, which could win the best paratha contest by a mile. Later, I would admonish my cook who would be baffled by my conflicting instructions of using less oil and making them brown and crisp at the same time. The chunks of butter became smaller though I couldn’t give up on them; nor the parathas.
Then one day, weary of parenting, responsibilities, and life in general, I settled down for a brunch at my grandmother’s home. Having arranged my favorite aloo parathas for me she reached out for the butter.
And the earthen pot of curd.
“Let it be. I am okay with just butter”
“But you like dahi“
The warm paratha that melted the butter, and the cold dahi mingling in my mouth made me realize that she was right.
This was how I loved my paratha. But, somewhere along the way, I had given up on the yoghurt, forgotten that it was something that I liked.
The shift had begun in the college canteen where the menu offered paratha-achaar, but not paratha-dahi.
Then in my marital home, curd was not something that was served with paratha. The homemade bowl of curd, always there in the fridge, was more of a dinner thing, and breakfast was paratha and butter or pickle. No one ever told me I couldn’t have my paratha the way I liked or stopped me from adding it to my plate. It was just a matter of how they had their meals and I never gave it any thought either.
I looked at my grandmother.
She was correct. Right down to the detail. I like the dahi. Not ‘liked’ it. I still did.
I had lost sight of something that I used to enjoy tremendously. Without even realizing it. Yes, it was a small thing. Something that a small part of me likes. But, if it is something I like, is it small?
If it is important to me, it is worth reclaiming.
And I did.
Hence the dahl with the butter and the paratha.
So, how do you like your parathas? More importantly, what part of yourself have you forgotten? Given away? hidden away, or buried deep inside yourself? Without realizing? Or telling yourself that it is small or insignificant or it doesn’t matter?