A regret that I have to live with every day is now four years old. Two weeks from today, Jan 9, will be four years since Amma left. Today, she’d be 79. Up there in Amma heaven, I suspect, she must have roasted up several pans of Dibba Rotti, and invited everyone to sink their teeth into this crusty -what is it exactly?
It looks like an XXXL idli trying to pass itself off as an extra-thick dosa that has been roasted to a crisp , and it has flecks of red chilies and the Telugu people’s best kept secret that the rest of the country has not yet discovered.
And my life-long regret, that is now four years old, is that I postponed asking Amma how to make this Dibba Rotti, which , she knew, came second after upma in my list of much-reviled, nevertheless eaten tiffin items, but made it any way and them called me imperiously drop by for a chomp. Eaten with a slosh of onion chutney or ginger chutney, I never knew when Dibba Rotti wormed its way into my affections, or rather addictions-must be an eating equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome , I’m thinking, and I finally decided I must ask her for the recipe .
Having decided, did I reach for the phone and ask ? There was always going to be time, wasn’t there? In a day or two. She isn’t going anywhere, is she?
Well, she was. She went without a fuss, quickly. Without even waiting 20 minutes to see her siblings Rama and Venkatesh who had called to say they were dropping by. She did tell them joyfully, though that they were going to have a great time talking the afternoon away. We’ll never know why she went without that last conversation with her siblings.
I haven’t even seen a Dibba Rotti since then. When cousins get together, and talk and Dibba Rotti figures, with much derision for its pretensions to being worthy of a place alongside idli and dosa, we remember that when Amma made it, we just ate it, because it pleased her, and she reveled in being Annapurna, feeding everyone who came within her orbit, even if it happened at 2 am . My friend Sharada, is , I think the last one to have eaten an Amma-made Dibba Rotti.
Of course, as far as Google is concerned, there is no such thing as a secret. A search for Dibba Rotti will throw up dozens of blogs and videos that show you how it’s made. I’ll probably download one of those someday soon. The pity is I cannot download Amma.
But she is here. I roll chapatis with her rolling pin, and in a jam jar that sits among the spices and powders, is a green powder. It is the karivepallai powder (curry leaf powder) that she made and sent with the Spouse, in 2011. It’s no longer the fresh green, aromatic powder that I can sprinkle generously on a tiny mound of ghee-soaked , steaming rice, and eat.
ButI like knowing its there, I look at it often, and yes, I talk to it sometimes. I think of all the times she annoyed me, and how often I disappointed her by not visiting, and dashing about being too busy to visit, or call. She never complained, and when I asked/demanded minimula pachadi, or vendakkai gojju, she’d was so happy to be asked.
She was nuts about bottles of all kinds. Bournvita, Nescafé jars, Afghan Snow jars, Charmis bottles with its ribs and blue lid. ” Six of those bottles will look good,on the shelf, ” she’s say, and employ all kinds of tricks- buy all the six and hide them , out of Appa’s sight, beg from siblings and cousins and friends.
I am not surprised to see myself pick up 6 or 12 of anything-mugs, jars and bottles, plates, cushion covers . It is a round, even number that leaves me contented.
Amma would approve I think. Of the way she is remembered, spoken of, and spoken to. And surely she enjoys living in my kitchen, making food, and memories happen. That Dibba Rotti,when it’s made, will be exactly as she would have made it. Indeed it will she who made it