Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rooftop Bakery

A friend and I decided to explore the streets of Old Delhi with our cameras the other day. We'd both been there many times before, but this historic area is a place that always manages to offer the unexpected. The neighborhood is full of narrow alleyways, crowded market streets, and an odd assortment of shops, cafes and places of worship. If you know where you're going and are comfortable diving into the crowds, Old Delhi is best to explore on foot.
For some reason that morning we wound up on a rooftop five stories above the street level. We wanted a "bird's-eye" view and quickly found one above the spice market district in Chandni Chowk.
Our eyes first drifted to the horizon.
The massive Jama Masjid Mosque could be seen through the haze in the distance. It's very impressive and draws crowds of pilgrims from all across India (and the world) each day.
Our interest was next drawn below to the crowded market streets. These are almost always busy, each filled with sellers, buyers, shippers and shoppers. Scores of hand carts, day laborers and stockpiles of canvass-covered bales make the scene look like something from a much earlier era.
While observing the controlled chaos of the street below we heard an oddly repetitive sound. Not quite a banging, more of a repeated "bump, bump, bump - slap!"  We worked our way around the edge of the roof until we discovered the source of the noise. A young man was working, perhaps two stories below on a neighboring rooftop. He was hunched underneath an improvised bamboo shelter, pushing, rolling and slapping dough with his hands. We had discovered a bakery!
The baker was very strong, his back was glistening with sweat from the motion of his hard work. He moved in a constant rhythm and was surrounded by hundreds of dough-balls and scores of flat disks called papad. The results of his efforts were neatly laid out in many rows across large flats of bamboo where they baked in the midday sun.
Papad is a thin, crispy disk (roti) made of besan flour (chick pea), black pepper and other spices. Traditionally eaten with biryani, they are also served as an appetiser or snack (namkeen) before, during and even after meals.
I've eaten and enjoyed papad many times, but it never once occurred to me that these crispy treats were baked beneath the hot, Indian sun on a rooftop in the middle of Old Delhi.

1 comment:

Praneta said...

I'd love to find this Bakery, when im in Delhi next..!!

BTW... I love your blogs...Especially the one you posted on 27th January 2010, with a video of Evan Singing the Indian National Anthem... Loved it..!!

I have to be honest i haven't read all of your blogs, I stumbled upon your blogs just today morning...
But i intend to go through all of them eventually...

I guess this would be the best way to see my country with a different view...!!

Take care..!!