By Pashchiema Bhatia
“Roti” is a word derived from a Sanskrit word “Rotika” means bread. Bread (or, flat bread) is produced throughout most of the world but Roti is something unique to India. It is a significant part of Indian cuisine. In India, at least one meal of a day includes roti or else meal is believed to be incomplete. Although, many people think that roti isn’t much popular in south India and it seems reasonably acceptable because wheat crop is most popular in north India but south Indians do consume roti or chapatti often although rice is the staple food there.
According to a survey done in Sikkim in selected 370 households, roti was found to be one of the common food items consumed daily.
Origin of Roti:
There are different stories on the origin of roti. Some say that it came from Persia and was prepared from maida and others say that it originated in the state of past Awadh. No matter where it originated from but many old writings suggest that it existed in Harappan culture, where people knew how to grow crops and agriculture was a major occupation. There are stories which show that roti with maida came from Persia and food historians say that Arabs exported roti to South Asia on their trade routes. In other story Ayurveda dates it back to the Vedic period. There are numerous other theories which are debatable but does it really matter where it originated from? We are glad that it exists and became a known face of every Indian table.
Roti has different varieties and different methods of preparation. Chapati, Phulka, kulcha, dosa, naan, paratha and many more comes under varieties of roti. Parantha is prepared by different methods and is popularly served with butter or curd or achaar (pickle).
Spread of Indian culture
Other than India and the neighboring countries, roti is now consumed in countries where Indians live so basically in every country and specially where there is major Indian diaspora – US, UK, West Indies, Fiji, South Africa, Canada etc. where roti may be identified with a local bread called Pita bread which is a Greek word. However, roti is roti and pita bread is pita bread, the two are at the best similar yet, different in preparation and the way they are served.
As mentioned earlier, bread (flat bread) is a universal entity and is recognized by different names and with slight change in taste and method of preparation many similar flat breads are eaten in Mexico, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Armenia, Saharan Africa, West Indies and many more. Fatir (flat bread) is a traditional food of Saudi Arabia.
However, roti remains unique to people of Indian sub continent? And its people have taken it along with wherever the have settled. Thus, ‘Roti wrap’ (roti and curry together) is a popular fast- food or street- food item in The Caribbean and because of its convenience as a meal it rapidly gained popularity and became a staple street- food of Caribbean, or Indo-Caribbeans. As Indo-Caribbeans migrated to North America, they carried the wrapped roti recipe to Toronto, New York and Montreal and this recipe became common in restaurants and commercial companies. In Thailand, roti is known as maida paratha; in Indonesia as roti Maryam; roti cane and roti konde and in Singapore as roti parata. Persian food also includes naan bread.
Being the most popular Indian palatable food item, it is recognized as an integral part of Indian culture. Roti lovers are intrigued by perfect roti and making a perfect roti is not less than an art. Roti-making is an art and our Indian mothers are artists and no one can surpass their perfection. With bangles jingling and body sweating, they make roti of genuine taste. People who migrate to other countries irrefutably miss the Indian roti with ghee spread over it.
Pashchiema is an intern at Newsgram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5