On the Paratha Front

Maham Sajid holds on to certainties in an unstable region

On the Paratha Front
This piece is a dedicated to my soul food and perhaps one of the most marvelous food creations ever: parathas. This may seem redundant to some of you but in a time and age where every feeling and opinion is documented via social media, my equivalent of an appreciation post for parathas sounded just as valid. A paratha is a fusion of the words Parat and atta, translating into layers of cooked dough. It is a pan-fried flatbread made from the traditional staple of this region, wheat.

Viet Thanh Nguyen recently wrote in response to the Eurocentric approach to culture that writers of colour/minorities should not explain/cater/translate, and assume the privileged position that everyone knows what they are talking about. So if by chance you happen to be a (Western) reader who is unfamiliar with the Subcontinent’s most underrated yet delightful food invention, please move on.

The conflict was marked by an exchange of contradictory claims.
Pictured – a scene from New Delhi

With the Jonas Brothers’ recent reunion resounding loudly in my background, I can’t help but redirect the lyrics towards my eternal obsession and reiterate how I’m a sucker for parathas. They have the magical power to make just about any food permutation vivid. Eat them with any Subcontinental gravy and your meal suddenly tastes a hundred times better. Anda paratha is my favourite breakfast combination of all time but aloo paratha tastes divine for any meal of the day. Aloo paratha is unleavened bread stuffed with a concoction of mashed potatoes, green chilies and spices. I can’t help but explain myself as if I’m addressing a room full of foreign readers who won’t understand the terminology being used here and will, as a result, lose interest. I guess knowing and implementing theoretical concepts are two different things. I will try harder next time, Mr. Viet Thanh Nguyen.


At a time when political and military tensions have been at their peak between India and Pakistan, is an appreciation post for parathas really worth anybody’s time?

Well, if you have no problem hearing 80,000 anchors repeat the same information in 80,000 accents and mannerisms, then you can bear with me, too, for a while. We caught an Indian pilot, treated him well, gave him some tea and a crisp white new shirt. He praised our army’s hospitality and condemned his media’s irrational behavior. This was a major win for us. For those 5 days, we were surrounded by this aura of larger-than-life extraordinary victory where all our personal shortcomings seemed insignificant. We felt triumphant and united. All the sectarian divides seemed utterly irrelevant. But why must we always need a threat from outside to unite us?

Maybe all this paratha yatter is the defense mechanism my brain used to cope with all the information it was bombarded with


Meanwhile, apart from the news anchors, every other person on my social media has also become a war expert overnight. It was exhausting to consume all the 5 bits of information we had umpteen times. I understand that sometimes information has to be broken down in simpler chunks to make it accessible to everyone but the repetitive nature of the content can be a bit too draining. The memes, the jokes, the messages, the updates, all the information flow was rather overwhelming for all of us. Maybe all this paratha yatter is the defense mechanism my brain used to cope with all the information it was bombarded with.

I made a conscious decision to write about something else but nothing seemed urgent or important enough. So I chose to write about the most ordinary thing because even though I have my own “expert” opinion on this conflict, what could be said that hasn’t been said before? My own opinion is nothing but a culmination of the opinions I have devoured for the past few days, so I know I won’t be bringing any originality to the equation. The desire to be original and refreshing is what leads me to write about parathas. I am not trying to undermine parathas here because heaven knows they deserve all the praise and attention.

All I’m asking here is that the next time you are gobbling down news with your parathas, appreciate the parathas a tad bit more for the extraordinary circumstances will leave you soon but the parathas are here to stay.