Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Stone and the Roti

I wasn't feeling well the other day, so i went home early from work to lie down.

While i was sleeping i heard Deepmala come in the apartment to start cooking dinner...I woke up, said hello, and then went back to sleep. A couple hours must have passed when I heard her open my door and her start talking to me in hindi...

She looked really concerned about something, which alarmed me because Deepmala never looks worried or concerned. 

Deepmala is 24 years old, 5 foot nothing and has enough bubbly smiley energy to change my current self--a sarcastic jaded seattelite-- into a girl whose mother gives her a french braid every morning from my middle school, full of fluff and butter. i think her name was kristin something. Anyway, Deepmala sings indian love songs as she makes the roti...and you know by being around her for 5 minutes - shes one of those people that would never hurt a fly. I mean, the woman makes salad and cuts our carrot and beet pieces into heart shapes. She's making us chow mien for dinner tonight, because Athena is chinese and we all miss noodles:). She is just a lovely person.

So naturally i jumped out of bed and walked over to her in the dining room. She is standing there clenching her stomach, crying, doubling over in pain...talking to me in a language that is just as confusing as the diagrams the engineers draw on the board at my old job. She references to the floor in the sitting area--asking if she can lie down--and then keeps saying "stone didi, stone, stone didi". Did she SWALLOW a stone? Eh, no. Oh boy. Deepmala has a kidney stone and is in agony. on my floor. in india. and i speak no hindi. and according to anna, things get done here by just 'working them out'--so here we go.

"YES didi, LIE DOWN" i told her. She lies down and continues to cry and lie there writhing in pain. I asked her if i could move her to the bed. She refused of course. I BEGGED her to move to the bed, which she then refused a 2nd and 3rd time. Fine. So i went and grabbed a pillow from the bed and placed it under her head and then ran and got her a glass of water (DOES A PILLOW AND WATER CURE PAIN FROM A KIDNEY STONE??? PROBABLY NOT. but this is allllll i haaaaaad). She drank the water, and then lied back down-thanking me--and all i wanted to do is shoot myself for not even having the WORDS to talk to her. I asked her if she had medicine...."Medicine?"..confusion--probably because i wasn't asking with a proper indian accent-- "Chemist?"...i acted as if i was taking pills. "Nahi" she said. No. she doesn't have any. She continued talking about the why not part...something about money.  "How much is it?" I asked. "150 Rupees" she replied. Oh, i see. 150 Rupees is about 3$. 

For 25 minutes Deepmala was in pain on my floor, and i was sitting there not knowing what to do. I prayed. I got her more water. I asked her if i could take her home in a rickshaw, she said no to all of these suggestions.  When the pain seemed to ease up, I told her to just go home. After all, she still probably has to go home and make dinner for her 2 children and husband, not to mention the fact she was just crying in pain for the past 1/2 hour in front of someone helplessly trying not to stare at her. She didn't like this idea--her work wasn't done. "No didi" she said. "The roti". I went into the kitchen, she had made all the dinner, even made the roti dough, but was hurting too much to finish.  She followed me into the kitchen, I looked at her with the most brilliant idea and said "Deepmala, I WILL FINISH IT, I WILL MAKE THE ROTI!" She looked at me like i had 12 heads..."Don't worry, I will do it. You need to leave, you need to go HOME!". I was so frustrated with the whole situation I drew an imaginary house in the air with my pointer fingers. Mid way I realized i was drawing a house with a ROOF (like my house)... so being the women studies major that i am...I actually ERASED that house and REdrew her a new 'normal indian looking house'--whatever the hell that means. god why am i such an idiot. WHY? Her mouth crinkled into a half smirk of amusement, half "this lady has lost her bloody mind".  She wiped the sweat and tears off of her face, smiled and said "Thank you didi." She crouched down to pick up the trash and start cleaning up the kitchen. "DEEPMALA!" i was loosing my patience..."PLEASE go home! I WILL do it....PLEASE." She collected her things, and left. I went out onto the patio and watched this small mass of mediterranean blue fabric hobble down the dirt street. She passed a cow at the corner, turned and disappeared. 

...and then, this is literally the first thing i thought...FINALLY, I get to do SOMETHING! I GET TO HELP! WOOHOO! I have to make the roti. H-E-R-E W-E G-O....

Now, I don't know a lot about roti. I know its delicious, I know it should be light and warm when it is eaten, i know it should have the circumference of a small corn tortilla (way to go mexican reference). I know i have no business making it. I had watched Deepmala make roti on one occasion, and had seen my friend Amy make if for us on another occasion. I knew i had to roll it out, put it in a pan, and finish it off by putting it in the fire. Great! I am alllll ready.

It took me about one hour:) I think it took so long because i was really going for SHAPE on my first go. The ones I saw amy make were monster shapes and i really wanted to say that mine were ROUND. And oh boy were they....45 minutes later...roundish, HUGE (definitely no the circumference of a corn tortilla, more like a flour tortilla), and dry dry dry. Something that would have taken her 5 minutes became my pride and joy of that day. I could have written a novel in french i was so impressed with myself.

So when the girls came home, i told them my story, served them the meal, and we began eating the dry roti (which they of course claimed to LOVE). Anna kept telling me "ya did good baby, ya did a good job." Athena kept herself. Athena just laughs that is why we like her. A few minutes in we got a phone call from Deepmala,  apparently she felt so bad for leaving and not finishing the meal she sent her sister over with roti for us. (NO my ego shouted NOOOOOOOOO). The sister didn't just send us some, she sent us 25 warm, moist, perfectly made beautiful little roti--carefully wrapped in newspaper. I unwrapped them and put them on the table. Anna and Athena both looked at me, and then at each other, and said something to the effect of "Don't worry honey, we are going to eat your roti tonight...its sooo delicious (crack crack)....we can have hers tomorrow (crunch crunch)". I just smiled and ate. I had finally helped. Finally.


  1. I wonder if you could learn to make gluten-free roti :)

  2. Thank you so much for the story. If only I could be so eloquent. I LOVE IT! :)

  3. Doesn't Medusa have 12 snake heads on top of hers?

  4. i think it was something like that. no matter how many snakes she had, girl could turn you to STONE. only if i could be so fortunate.


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