There was a time during my childhood when I wanted to simply run away to Bangalore in search of solitude. In search of anonymity. The desire to lead a life where misogyny and caste politics weren’t blatant used to spill out of every spigot of my soul.
It’s been close to two decades in Bangalore now and although Goddess Solitude, quite often accompanied by Goddess Anonymity, has knocked on my door many a time, I don’t find this urbane sophistication anymore elevating. Anymore enlightening. At best, it gets entertaining sometimes.
If those evils were brazen and blatant there, they are veiled and subtle here. If it was all out in the open there, it all lies wrapped up in a blanket here. If it was tiring there, it’s exhausting here.
I find myself lost all over again amidst a multitude of people. Rooted in restlessness, sort of. Bangalore maybe a city, but we are all still tribal in our instincts when we are stripped of that layer of sophistication. Amidst all this chaos, the only thing that draws me unfailingly back to my roots is North Karnataka’s rural and rustic flavours.
Soul food, I mean.
Check out this one here. My Avva (my fathers’ aunt), who’s is here with my mother (a convalescing cancer survivor), sent me these sajje rotti (pearl millet rotis) bespangled with black sesame seeds yesterday. I don’t think there is any part of India that thrives on millets as this region does with jowar and sajje and quite often, navaNe (foxtail millet) dominating the menu of almost each meal. With these rottis, gureLLu (niger seeds) pudi mixed with raw saff-flower oil makes a heavenly combination. Throw in a few stems of fresh methi, freshly cut onion roundals to add that dash of rawness to the meal. Serve it up with buttermilk cooked with green gram and besan flours with all the green chilli-ginger-garlic-jeera masala followed by seasoning and once again mix it with niger seeds pudi, you have a treat worked out for yourself! The only culinary luxuries missing here are ‘eNNe badanekai’, that quintessential Utthara Karnataka oily brinjal curry, and those lusciously slender green chillis—slit open, filled with salt-jeera powder mix and sauted in oil till the skin turns white.
Ah! You simply have no idea how soul-satisfying these trappings can get!
Here goes my tribute to all those tireless women of my region who make rottis with their bare hands, sometimes three times a day. For someone must tell them with all honesty that their hardwork still evokes genuine and deep-rooted sentiments in some of those souls lost in this vast city’s hypocrisy. For rottis are still the only common denominator that cuts across all castes and religions and economic classes in that region, binding all the inhabitants together in a way they may perhaps never learn to truly savour.