On a reporting trip in the once dreaded Chambal our team chanced upon a unique food item – Tikkar! In the course of our shoot we were served a delicious meal of tikkar, baigan ka bharta,and dal. It made for a wholesome lunch that kept us going through the day.
The Chambal is the region around the Chambal river that covers areas from the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It is made up of the Beehad, which are areas of dense forestland, and the Ghatis or valleys. These are surrounded by villages and tribal settlements.
The Chambal’s Beehad and Ghati areas were once infamously known as home to deadly dacoits and thugs. Some of legendary fame, known locally as daakus or baghis.
Over the last fifteen or twenty years the situation in the Chambal has improved greatly and people lead a normal life here now. Earlier, outsiders couldn’t think of entering the region or even passing in its vicinity.
The villages and tribal areas in the region suffered greatly. Kaitholi is one of these villages.
The meal where we discovered tikkar was made for us by a local farmer, Guddu Dubey in Kaitholi, in an open-air kitchen on his farm.
Tikkar is a thick roti made from a dough that is made by mixing wheat and gram flours and kneading the mix with water. It is flattened in the palms of the hand and then cooked on a tava on a coal or wood fired chulha.
While we ate, locals told us about the dacoits that used to come to their village to loot essentials and food – rice, wheat, oil, daal and more… Whenever someone tried to oppose them, they would sit at the main door of the house and demand puris fried in desi Ghee, a dish normally reserved only for sons-in-law or guests.
This wasn’t the end of it, one of the dacoits would go and tell the police that the villagers were feeding dacoits and so, the hapless villagers would get into trouble with the authorities as well as be beaten up by the dacoits.
They say their lives are still affected by their past. Everyone has lost someone to it. Years of dacoity and looting had turned their farms into barren lands. Many of the people who suffered the trauma of those times still bear physical and mental scars.
There are many middle-aged men in this village, who were unable to get married back then as parents were unwilling to marry their daughters to the men of the village because of its remoteness and the terror associated with it.
For these bachelors, living alone and cooking their own food, tikkar is a good option! They prefer to eat it hot with desi ghee and a mixture of spices they crush on the sil batta. They call it namak.