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23 February 2015 / leggypeggy

Eking out a living one roti at a time

Making roti

Niharika rolls out yet another roti. See the small griddle to her right

It’s sobering to think how hard some people work to make a living.

About four years ago, Niharika and Ramesh moved north from Mumbai to open a small restaurant on the outskirts of Rajkot in Gujarat.

When we stopped for lunch at their place, called Punchnath Chinese and Punjabi Dhaba (dhaba means eatery and is sometimes spelt dhoba), I learned how hard it can be just to pay the rent.

Niharika, who sat cross-legged and serenely on the floor rolling out and cooking rotis in seconds, explained that their monthly rent was 25,000 rupees (or about A$500). Some months they have to dip into their savings to cover the cost.

In an Indian kitchen

Ramesh checks on the curries

While Niharika was making rotis (anywhere from 300 to 400 a day), her husband, Ramesh was whizzing around serving up the main dishes she made earlier in the day.

We were served a thali (mixed plate) of chickpea curry, potato and pea curry, a dal and a fourth dish I can’t remember. Ramesh kept topping up our plates and bringing as many rotis as we could eat. I hadn’t realised that rotis come with a thali, and are an all-you-can-eat item. No wonder she makes so many every day.

Niharika was working off a five-kilo batch of dough, pulling off bits no bigger than a cherry then rolling them out to almost six inches in diameter.

By the way, we stopped at their place by chance. We’d been looking for a place to get the van’s wheels aligned, and their little eatery is almost next door. So if you’re ever on the road out of Rajkot to Porbandar, look out for the big Bridgestone sign on the left. Niharika and Ramesh’s place is just before it.

The all-you-can-eat thali was only 70 rupees per person (or A$1.40). You have to sell a lot of thalis to cover the rent. Luckily two more tables of customers arrived just before we left. And on the way out, we bought nine ice creams at 25 rupees each (50 cents).

Oh, and the wheel alignment was done in less than 30 minutes and cost a mere 250 rupees (or A$5).

P.S. I’ve never made rotis, but I plan to try when I get home. I have reason to be confident because I had great success making Arabic bread.


Leave a Comment
  1. jakesprinter / Feb 23 2015 11:33 pm

    Very impressive blog ..thanks for friendship ..


    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 2:45 am

      Thanks so much for being so supportive of my blog. I love the quotes on yours.


  2. skippersy / Feb 24 2015 1:32 am

    Nice photo of Niharika making Roti’s and she makes about 300-400 each day, which means they do get a fair amount of customers each day. However, paying 25,000 rubees ($401 US/A512) ) for monthly rental for an outdoor space does seem quite a lot.

    I would like to order two Roti’s with chicken curry, dal and rice. And please send it to me using an Amazon drone (Aside- they are doing test runs in India, I believe).



    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 2:32 am

      Oh gosh Sy, I wish I could deliver! But you might find it hard to get a chicken curry in Gujarat. The state is mostly vegetarian. 🙂


  3. Curious to the Max / Feb 24 2015 3:21 am

    I really like your posts about the wild life and I love your posts about the people. Keep your wheels aligned so we all can see and learn more!


    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 2:33 am

      Thanks so much. I love learning about the people and seeing the wildlife. Feeling very blessed.


  4. Midwestern Plant Girl / Feb 24 2015 2:02 pm

    Wow. That is a lot of hard work. To roll that roti out from such a small ball of dough. Was it see thru? 😉


    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 2:33 am

      Not quite see thru, but very thin indeed. And delicious.


  5. Mike / Feb 24 2015 4:20 pm

    What would be a customary tip or do they tip after meals and other services? Keep those posts coming Peggy. The weather here has been dismal and reading your blog helps my outlook!


    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 2:36 am

      Tips aren’t huge here—maybe the equivalent of 50 cents for the lunch. At the end of a game drive, every person chips in about A$1 to give to the guide and driver—so A$6 for about three hours of work by two people.


  6. Sy S. / Feb 25 2015 7:05 am

    How is the language barrier handled….. When I was in India, the younger students spoke English and a few adults as well. And if not, I could always point to say a food item/plate to indicate I would like to try that one. Or key words like the name of a known tourist site…. Or perhaps some hand gestures like pointing to your feet (two fingers walking motion), pointing to a watch (do you still were your favorite one?)… Or closed RIGHT hand and up to your mouth for eating… etc, etc.



    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 6:28 pm

      Lots of people in India speak some English, but that’s not always the case in small villages. Pointing, sign language and hand waving go a long way. But we’re lucky to have Deepti and Anand who are native Hindi speakers.


      • Zambian Lady / Mar 2 2015 8:00 am

        That is one very good reason to eat at small places – because your custom makes a real difference.


      • leggypeggy / Mar 4 2015 12:39 am

        You are so right. I love supporting the small local places.


  7. Mary Apesos / Feb 25 2015 7:46 am

    What a great experience!


    • leggypeggy / Feb 25 2015 6:19 pm

      I love eating in these small places where our custom makes a real difference to their standard of living.


  8. afterthelasttime / Jun 16 2015 1:45 am

    Comparatively speaking the wheel alignment was a steal! A$5? It’d be an easy US$50+++!
    Yes, you are most correct about how hard so many work to make a living. It has always humbled me and made me very thankful for my great work ethic which has brought me a thankful life.


    • leggypeggy / Jun 16 2015 7:18 am

      Not sure what a wheel alignment would cost in Australia. Probably close to $100.


  9. Ray / Mar 6 2016 6:17 pm

    I appreciate you making the effort to connect with locals on your travels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Mar 6 2016 7:38 pm

      I’d be cross with myself if I didn’t make the effort to get to know people and to support local businesses. Sometimes people are shy or language is a barrier, but on the whole connecting is almost always possible. I feel the richer for it.


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