Last Night Rotis and Other Complications

Daniela SchwarzA German woman experiences Delhi through chapattis etc.

[By Daniela Schwarz. The German wife of a proper Delhi Walla, Frau Schwarz manages a blog – appropriately titled Kabab Mein Haddi.]

Every morning I open the door to my balcony to check the nature of the surprise my friendly neighbours deliver daily. Sometimes it’s a tuft of hair which is but natural since many Indian ladies prefer to get rid of dead hair while beautifying themselves outside on their balconies. On several other occasions I have picked up mysterious strips of plastic with blue checks. At the end of a thorough investigation stood the conclusion that some neighbour’s blinds (that cheap blue plastic type) was coming un-done strip by strip. Once I found a more useful gift – a comb!

But today it was a bunch of roti-pieces. Of course I understand. Even I usually rack my brain how to dispose off the chapatis lying on my plate. You see, I’m not a big roti fan except if I happen to sit at Karim’s. So it is comprehensible that there may be more people like me who come up with creative ways to let mother’s rotis disappear in places other than their oesophagus.

However, Rahul, my husband, tries very hard to further my understanding of Indian culture by explaining that it is not uncommon for Indians to hack left-over rotis into bite-sized pieces for the birds to eat, or to fling them into secret places where they are no longer visible.

Aha, I see. The secret place is usually the “chhajaa” – that little stone slab above the windows. You thought it was some sort of sun protection! Indeed, mysterious are the ways of architecture, food recycling and animal welfare here.

Sometimes, of course, a cheeky little wind gust might swish the rotis off to, let’s say, my balcony. But thou need not worry for the birds, since they just switch on their chapati-tracking-system and feast on the wheat-offering (with or without ghee).

So there it is. I’m not the victim of a naughty neighbour’s attack pelting my home with rotis. It’s for the birds! They like the rotis and will clean them up.

But alas, those happy-go-pooping-all-over-Delhi pigeons didn’t like the rotis that lay in my balcony.

As it happened, I woke up to the dried, crunchy version of it strewn all over my balcony! Why did the birds let go a sumptuous roti? Chapatis, after all, are a staple for Indians as they are for their pets. I remember a neighbour’s Labrador gorging rice and rotis. Daily! (And why not! Have you never seen a wolf hunt down a juicy cabbage on NatGeo?)

I gradually began to understand why Rahul and I were the only ones to feed the stray dogs (oh yeah we did!) with left-over chicken bones while our neighbours chucked a couple of rotis packed in a plastic bag, usually referred to only as ‘cover’.

But again, why didn’t the birds clean the balcony off its rotis? Maybe they just weren’t hungry last night. So I just took out my broom and swept away those sad pieces of roti-shoti.