Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Photo feature: Buying grain from a village shop

by Lina Krishnan

I don’t know if too many kids nowadays know that rotis are made of atta, and that atta itself comes from wholewheat grain. I guess we are so separated from the process that we have almost forgotten these basics. I remember though, in my childhood in Delhi, one bought kanak (wheat) and took it to the chakki (grinding house), where it was first sifted, then ground into flour. The bright colors of the odhnis of the Rajasthani women who worked there, the golden color of the wheat spread out in the sun, the harmonious chak-chak of their sieves as they worked, it was all from another time and space. Now we buy boring packaged atta in a chain store, adding to the plastic on the planet, and distancing ourselves from the source. Which is why it felt so good the other day finding myself at a village shop buying grain. 

Ragi, the ubiquitous staple of Karnataka. It is ideal for dryland farming. Adding a bit of it to your daily diet gives a lot of energy, plus strengthens the bones. We got ragi grain for Rs 12 a kilo (plus Rs 1 per kg for grinding), as opposed to Rs 25 that one pays here at the supermarket for a kilo of ragi atta. What’s more, it was naati (desi) ragi, a lot more nutritious than the factory product. 

Shopping becomes a friendly encounter, with a leisurely chat about the crops, rain, his village, our route. Since we were tempted to buy quite a bit, and ground ragi doesn’t keep for so long, the shopkeeper offered to come along to the nearby chakki and explain that we wanted the grain only to be cleaned for now.
The chakki is a powerhouse on the go, despite working out of a limited space. 
It’s also quite a hub, so you get to meet neighbours as you wait.

Or watch children playing hopscotch
Wall art at the chakki: religious prints, a map of Karnataka and a world map

A village home. Even they use plastic pots now

Harvest drying, what a stunning sight!
Farmers put out their new harvest on the roads to be crushed by passing traffic

Cows find a handy trough and some shade from the midday sun

Okay, I guess it’s time to get back.
Lina Krishnan blogs over at Jude Sessions. It's full of good writing about important things. 
For more about food-related issues, check out the dhaba's food security page. And if YOU have something interesting to share, why not send it our way?


  1. I really enjoyed this. Thanks you. We used to get wheat ground at Chirag Dilli as recently as a couple years ago. There's a chakki there, and I guess you could call Chiraq Dilli an urban village. We gave up on the chakki there. But more recently buying preground wheat at Navdanya, and mixing it with amaranth etc. Will see if we can mix in some ragi as well.

  2. good to read this, lina. a certain wholesomeness about things is always a pleasant sensation. post more about such journeys.

  3. Enjoyed both text and words a lot. Thank you.

  4. almost a forgotten experience. i remember carrying whole wheat from the ration shop to the chakki guy and getting the ground atta home... all the chores one has to do as a kid :)

    nostalgic pics. nice that you had the time to stand, watch and take pics of things that we almost pass by without even a glance these days.

  5. Thanks folks.

    -Mridula, we've used Navadanya stuff in Delhi; they also have a bajra mix, which is quite good.
    -Sudeep, driving about real country roads is such a pleasure, still possible down South, and perhaps around Goa too, no?
    -Deepa, good to hear from you.
    -Oreen, that's so true unfortunately.

  6. Good work, enjoyed reading it. What are you planning the next one on?

  7. Thanks Amitangshu. I like this space, but when & on what, lets see

  8. Hey! Good to be in Rural Karantaka- I remember in my childhood I used to go to Chakki.

  9. Yeah, Kabir, very scenic, and people are really nice. Btw, I really enjoyed every one of your Jaitpura posts.

  10. Very well written and evocative Lina, enjoyed reading it. We still buy chakki atta. It does'nt blacken, unlike the packaged atta, when you keep the kneaded dough for long...i think they put some kind of a preservative in packaged atta.
    Met Shikha Durlabhji today, she was also remembering you.
    So long, Srimanjari

  11. Nice reading! I had just recently started buying chakki aata, with chana and soyabean mixed, as the packaged aata doesn't have much. They take out the chokar(husk) too from it, which acts as a fiber and works wonder for a good digestion.

    I wanted to add Ragi, as I have heard about the rich nutrition value, but for that i will have to go quite far,and search.

    Our parents did all that and we are giving packaged aata to our kids, whcih doesn't have much.
    Its a little more effort but its worth putting it!
    Thanks for such a nice piece, The chakki where i go also looks like this one! Its nice to see these people keep such small things with such a passion, which we, who seem to have plenty, just throw away.
    It has actually become difficult to live a simple life these days, beacuse of the 'plenty', we people have.

    Also,Srimanjari rightly said, that this aata doesn't blacken.


  12. thanks for sharing this Geeta...you're so right about the problems of plenty!


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