My notes and musings …

Oil flows when it rains

with 2 comments

A part of the rural landscape is the flour mill. In Sitapur district, like in most other Hindi speaking areas, it is called a chakki and one can find a chakki in almost every village. The demand for its service is sufficient for chakki owners to overcome the challenges of lack of steady electricity and the increasing diesel cost.

When we returned to Sitapur on July 26th, we decided to live a few days in Mishrikh. It is the block headquarters of one of the blocks in which Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan (SKMS) is active and thereby closer to the villages. Right across the road from where we were staying was a chakki that was running atleast 18 hours a day. As we started getting used to the noisy background I noticed that most of the time they were extracting oil and not milling flour. I remembered that when we were last here, back in April-May, almost all the chakkis were milling wheat flour.

As we travelled in the region, I noticed that in almost all the chakki that I could see in different villages, oil was being extracted, primarily from mustard. Mustard oil is the primary cooking oil used in most families in this region. And most of them grow atleast one crop of mustard to meet their yearly oil need and then some for the market. The zing in the dishes cooked in these parts can be traced to the strong flavour of mustard oil.

Surprised at the near total domination of oil over flour, I started asking different people about it – chakki owners, village leaders, and house wives, among others. I got many theories in answer, and almost all of them were upfront about the fact that they were guessing. So the theories are: it is probably just a coincidence that whenever I noticed a chakki it was being used to extract oil; more oil is being extracted because it is the rainy season, and people prepare more fried dishes now than in summer, and it could also be that the festival season is approaching and oil consumption goes up during festivals too; the rains have continued much longer than usual, and the high humidity is not good for grains, so reducing the pressure on good storage space by extracting oil from the mustard is a wise idea. The answer is probably a mix of all the theories, and like many such mysteries, is better left in the fuzzy semi-solved state …

Written by Dwiji

Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 18:03

2 Responses

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  1. Elections are also coming closer, tho gaav ke saare pehelwaan apni lathi ko tel pilaake taiyaar kar rahe ha,i booth capturing karne ke liye 🙂 Sarkar jo badalni hai iss baar.

    Maybe the mustard seeds are ready for oil extraction right about monsoon.

    And when you said oil here in boston it sounded like ‘crude oil’ and I was about to ask you to send some here.

    Great to get some updates, that too so interesting, from you. I will be following your blogs with utmost curiosity. Take care and keep us posted.



    Saturday, August 9th, 2008 at 00:36

  2. booth capturing ! thats a possible use, though the election seem atleast a few months away … especially after the vote of confidence and all that drama.

    We do see the effects of the crude oil price here in the cost of diesel, petrol (gas), LPG, food grains, general commodities, steel, etc. But somehow local conversations on price rise do not trace it back to crude oil prices … probably because it is felt that the govt.’s economic policies on many other fronts are pushing the prices up.

    the mustard is harvested after Holi, which is usually in mid or late March, and after a little bit of processing to get the seeds out, it is ready for extraction. They store the mustard seeds or sometimes sell them as seeds too …

    good to hear you Adi !



    Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 06:37

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