There was to be a fete at school to raise money for something. I forget what but everyone, including the nuns at our convent, seemed to want more than they have! This is not so common then as it appears now – it was the late seventies and schools were more innocent then.
There was an “Annual Day” where I… really do not remember what happened! There was a Sports Day, at which considering my “prowess” at any sport which did not involve sitting down (!), I was an insignificant entity, marching along with a bunch of other kids in yellow culottes and white shirts and later, during high school, thankfully joining the school band to play the flute – which did NOT need tuning and which I was therefore perfectly capable of playing! Also it involved blowing a lot of hot air – which I loved!
We also used to get taken to the Fateh Maidan stadium for public celebrations of our Independence Day and Republic Day. Bunches of us school kids did tribal dances, jigging away quite happily to drumbeats, individual performances not mattering too much in the general melee. That it was most of the time hot was of little moment to us – ice lollies were available for as little as five paise and I remember eating some twenty of them one particularly hot August day. Lots of kids fainted in the heat but I don’t think anyone bothered too much – it was par for the course!
And so schools jogged along, managing with whatever funds they could muster (convents, I am sure, must have received some form of funding from somewhere else!), charging very little by way of fees and paying teachers accordingly a pittance – hats off to those teachers who did a remarkable job out of love for their work and the kids they taught!
This idea of a “fete” – a new word in our vocabulary – was therefore very exciting. With an extremely pushy and determined principal heading the school, very ambitious plans were drawn and parents, whose existence had hithertofore jogged along peacefully with school being viewed primarily as a place which provided relief from the kids – suddenly found themselves being willy nilly forced into “organising” stalls, kids, set targets for selling tickets (at a hundred bucks a pop, it was a LOT of money to pay for entrance to a school fete!) and generally jogged out of their peaceful existence!
One of these involved a “sale-of-work” stall from the needlework department. Oh yes, those days we still had needlework as part of the school curriculum! The nun in charge, our “needlework sister”, distributed pieces of cloth for us to embroider and sell – as tablecloths. There was a choice of a virulent parrot green (which fell to my lot!), a garish red and a few other equally shock-inducing colours. Confident of my skills with the needle, I draw an ambitious design… and sit on it… there was, after all, plenty of time left till the fete… till suddenly, the fete was three days away! No way I could finish it in time. Palpitations ensue.
My kind and generous mom comes to the rescue and takes me to an “embroidery shop”, where for the sum of twenty five rupees (LOTS, i assure you!), the tailor gives me back an elaborate machine-embroidered design of red, blue, pink and yellow on a parrot green background! Relief is my principal emotion as I hand in the piece and watch it being labeled as the “handiwork” of our students!
The cloth is sold at the fete for the princely sum of twenty two rupees – not covering its cost! One of those bricks in the school building was definitely funded at great personal cost!
Unlike this easy dish made with leftovers which wouldn’t cost twenty five rupees today!
LEFTOVER RICE ROTI
- Cooked rice – 1 cup
- Soya flour – 1 tbsp (can substitute rice flour or whole wheat flour or jowar flour)
- Green chilies – 2
- Ajwain/carom seeds/omam – 1 pinch
- Coconut – grated – 1 tbsp (optional)
- Chopped onion – 1/4 cup
- Peppercorns – 1/4 tsp
- A few dropsof lemon juice or 1 tbsp yogurt
- Sugar or honey – 1/2 tsp
- Curry leaves – 1 sprig
- Mint or coriander – 1 tbsp – chopped (or methi/fenugreek leaves)
- Sesame seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Oil – a few drops
- Butter to serve
Pulse everything except the sesame seeds, oil and butter in the mixer for a few seconds till just blended. Remove and mix well with your fingers to a thick dough. Pat into a roti about 2 mm thick, sprinkle sesame on both sides and roast both sides till golden brown and crisp. Each side will take about 4-5 minutes. The roti may break apart as you turn it – that’s okay.
Serve hot with plain butter.
You can even sell it at your next school fete!