OK, back to Dadi’s madrasah …
The school is large but it is by no means luxurious. The walls are smooth and clean but unpainted. Similarly, the floors are bare cement. The girls sit at simple desks for lessons and sleep on mattresses which are stacked neatly come morning. Since the madrasah relies on donations, money is prudently saved and even more carefully spent. Almost every piece of furniture is donated and pre-owned. The only items which seemed remotely grand were framed Qur’anic verses beautifully inscribed on papyrus. Even these were donations … from a terminally ill man who wanted to contribute to the madrasah.
Still, the place has a quaint and unique charm. There is tranquility that fosters contentment and at the same time, provides the ideal atmosphere for focus on academic and spiritual pursuits.
My daughters could not wait to help prepare the meals. A lady who lives close by comes in during the late morning everyday to prepare the students’ meals. Patient and ever so smiley, Aunty let my kids experiment as much as they liked.
Ms M preparing roti
Hers is no kitchen of dreams. She has only a little shed-like structure where the groceries are kept, washed and prepared. Vegetables are held over and cut directly into the cooking pot – no chopping boards for this chef! Her stove is a tandoor – a clay, coal-fed (well, in this case, wood) oven.
Here you can see how the cook prepares the tandoor. She has some wood lit – branches, scraps and whatever else she can get her hands on.
Here is another view of the oven. Maybe it would have been better if they had built it away from the wall – it is blackened from the smoke!
They don’t eat meat very often there but this was a special occasion :) Aunty’s signature chicken curry was in the works… Spicy and a little oily, but mouthwatering all the same. It isn’t easy cooking over the tandoor, I think, since it is hard to control the fire.
When the curry was done, the fire was doused with some water so only a small fire and glowing embers remained. Time for the roti – a flatbread made of wheat flour – to be cooked. Aunty had already prepared a mountain of dough. She rolled pats of dough into little balls and then expertly pinched them to form flat rounds. These were then flipped quickly from one hand to the other in a clapping motion to make them thinner and then speedily slapped onto the walls of the tandoor to bake. All done completely by hand with nary a rolling pin in sight! :)
I’m not a big fan of roti – I prefer rice or the less healthy parathas made of refined flour and ghee – but this roti was delicious. The outer shell was crispy while the inside was soft and fluffy. Here are the results of Ms M’s efforts :)
Lovely stuff ma shaa Allah…
More in Part 3 in shaa Allah…