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Madhu: I Left Her in India


She masters the chapatti...

One night, I snuck with Madhu to her quarters just before dinner and we watched her mother prepare chapattis. She squatted in front of a fire outside and patted flour and water into a tortilla, making a rhythmic and lulling sound. When she looked at me and smiled I felt a wave of warmth and love sweep through me. I was moved by her radiant beauty. She said something in Hindi and handed me a clump of the mixture and showed me what to do. The smell was wonderful and the white flour on my hands felt great. I was in Heaven. 

As I slowly began to master the art of making a good chapatti, dusk became night and stars appeared over us. Madhu's mother looked over at my expression and smiled again, saying something to her daughter that caused her daughter to smile as well. It was a warm night and I think it was the first time I noticed what it was like to embrace the Natural cycle of daylight and darkness. We were all outside without electricity. And by not illuminating our surroundings with artificial light, there was a sense of connectedness I hadn't yet experienced. It was pure and natural. It felt RIGHT. 

After that first incident, I snuck back to Madhu's quarters for my pre-dinner chapattis on a semi-regular basis. The butler would ring a bell for us outside when it was dinner time, and I'd run around the back of the quarters, trying to make it look like I was coming from somewhere else. One night, when I had eaten too many chapattis and had no appetite for dinner, my mother casually mentioned that I might not eat elsewhere first. She knew! And she hadn't said anything. I loved her for that. 

She never forgot her...

Just before we left New Delhi, I found out that Madhu's parents were negotiating an arranged marriage for her. I was in shock and in despair. I asked her if she knew the boy in question. She shook her head "no." I asked her if she was scared. She nodded "yes." I got angry. I told her that marriage in the West involved loving someone first. I tried to offer another point of view. I didn't realize she had no option. And thinking back on it, maybe I made things worse.

Moving VanI cried when we drove away for the last time, wondering what would become of her life. I think about Madhu a lot. I think about a picture my father took of the two of us on our bikes in the driveway. And I think about what an amazing experience that was, sharing myself with someone I would otherwise never have known. I think about the magic we brought to each other's lives. 

I hope she's well and that she's happy. I wonder, did she ever come to love her husband? How many children did she have? And I imagine her making chapattis over a hot fire, just like her mother did, only this time in her very own home. 

Mmmm, Chapattis!

Join Johanna and Madhu in their love for real, homemade chapattis. Try out the following tasty recipe!

  • 8 oz/225 g chappati flour -or-4 oz/115 g wheatmeal flour mixed with 4 oz/115 g plain flour
  • additional flour for dusting
  • 8 fl oz of water (or less)

Put the flour in a bowl. Slowly add enough water so that you will be able to gather the flour together and make a soft dough. You may need about 21/2 tbs. less than 8 fl oz water. Knead the dough for 7 to 8 minutes or until it is smooth. Make a ball and put it inside a bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set it aside for half an hour.

If the dough looks very runny, flour your hands and knead for another few minutes. Form twelve equal balls and dust each with a little flour. Keep them covered.

Set a cast-iron griddle or frying pan to heat over a medium-low flame. Allow at least 5 minutes for that. Keep about a cup of dusting flour near you. Remove a ball of dough and flatten it between the palms of your hands. Dust it on both sides with flour. Roll it out as thinly and evenly as you can, aiming for 51/2 inch/14-cm round. When the griddle is hot, slap the chapatti on to its heated surface. Cook for about a minute or until soft bubbles begin to form. Turn the chapatti over. (Most Indians use their hands to do this.) Cook for half a minute on the second side. If you have a gas cooker, light a second burner on a medium flame and put the chapatti directly on it. Using tongs with rounded ends, rotate the chapatti so that all areas are exposed to the shooting flames. Take 5 seconds to do this. Turn the chapatti over and repeat for about 3 seconds. The chapatti should puff up. Put the chapatti on a plate and cover with a clean tea towel. If you have an electric stove, place the griddle and chapatti under a grill for a few seconds until the chapatti puffs up. Serve hot. Makes 12.

Eastern Vegetarian CookingShe cooks eastern veggie...

The above recipe was taken from Madhur Jaffrey's delicious book entitled Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. Jaffrey, a famous British food guru, is also a travellin' woman. Although an expert in Indian cuisine, Jaffrey's research has taken her all over the world. She's collected recipes from the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Thailand, and more.

For another popular Journeywoman love story, click here.





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