Home Sweet Home- Ramwati’s Kitchen Stove, Gurgaon
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A home by the pavement
The ordinary-seeming pavement is actually looking extraordinary. All because of the presence of a rustic chulha, the earthen stove usually found in village homes. But this is the Millennium City of Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region, and the chulha belongs to a couple who lives and sells earthen pots on this very roadside.
“I made it with my own hands with mitti and season ki nyar (sic),” says Ramwati. In her fifties, the lady is washing household laundry on the pavement while husband Nanakchand is sitting on an adjacent string cot, having a breakfast of parathas and green chilly pickle.
The chulha is unusually large and looks as new as if it were made just an hour back. “I constructed it three years ago,” informs Ramwati. Her husband explains that she applies a layer of fresh mud paste on the chulha every morning “and so it looks new each day.”
The couple can afford a regular cooking gas stove and indeed they have one. “But gas ki roti doesn’t taste like asli (real) roti; we like chulhe ki roti, chulhe ki dal,” says the husband who collects woods from a nearby public park for the cooking. Ramwati and Nanakchand are from a village near Ferozepur Jhirka town “where every house has this kind of handmade chulha.”
Currently a large vessel is placed on the stove. “I’m heating water for his bath,” she says, referring to her husband. Washing the clothes, the lady talks of having learned to make the chulha from her late mother, Herbeji, and how she, in her turn, taught the same to her daughters—Prem, Seema, Jewati. “They all are married, they all have gas cylinder in their homes but they too prefer cooking on the chulha.”
Ramwati is planning aloo ka jhol and bajre ki roti for dinner. “My days are full of hard work, I have been working hard since the time I was a child,” she mutters, while walking over to her chulha to pose for a portrait.