a Roti Prata rhythm

The routines of life can really take a toll on a person’s attitude towards life. Occasionally, Chui can hear me sighing and grumbling about having to toggle between family and work responsibilities. One particular routine is that of transporting my children to school. Waking up and getting Joseph to school on time was indeed a new challenge in the initial months of 2010. It takes about 25mins (if traffic is good) to transport Joseph to school. However, when traffic is unfavorable or when we are having a late start, I would resort to desperate measures of creating an imaginary right-turn lane accompanied by an apologetic hand salute extension from the driver’s window so as to guiltily cut into traffic queues. Unknowingly, what had begun as a new challenge soon suffers from and surrenders to the fate of routines.

There is an old style kopitiam (coffee shop) that we pass by every morning en route to Joseph’s primary school. While the place looks ordinary, it carries a nostalgic feel. The shop has a roti prata stall, which has been there since my teenage days. Roti prata is a pancake-like southern Indian dish that involves stretching and spinning the dough before cooking it on a flat grill. While the roti-prata business is a thriving one in Singapore, this stall at Braddell road does not exhibit the enterprise or offer the flavors (cheese and chocolate pratas) of the many renowned outlets.

Although the stall does not boast the crowds, a varietal menu or a buzzing atmosphere, the nostalgia that it emits is irreplaceable because of the pleasant memories it brings for me from about thirty years ago. Dad liked the way the prata is done here – uniquely crispy (not recommended for take-away). Allan, a long-time friend who migrated to Australia, would bring his own eggs for the prata man to embed in the pancakes. Tai Chian, presently a fellow colleague, would share about his prophetic intuitions about both of us working together for God’s mission one day. Many friendships and conversations were made here among congregants as our local church was then in the vicinity.

I have intentionally initiated a roti prata rhythm with Joseph. I have decided to inject some rhythm into the routine of transporting by having breakfast with Joseph once a week at the coffee shop. This would mean that both of us have to wake up earlier so as to fit in our prata time and still make it on time for his morning session.

I realize that the time spent with family and friends within the routines of life do not necessarily equate to the nurturing of relationships. In terms of friendship, Jada ranks her brother above her dad. She sees me as someone who is responsible for the provisional and logistical issues of the family. As a friend, I’m nowhere close to the intensity of her friendship with Joseph. However, when I give her the special attention and personal time, I do become her Number One even if my new ranking is always short-lived.

Our roti prata rhythm has been going on for more than two months. The second generation prata man now knows that Joseph wants a double-egg prata, and my is with an egg accompanied with onions and green chillies, the way I had it thirty years ago. In these moments, I give Joseph the special attention and despite the morning blues I try to put meaning in our conversations. It is important that Joseph sees me not only as a transporter but also as a true friend.

We do not have to succumb to the melancholy and monotony of routines; we can look for opportunities to inject rhythms that can create meaning for others and ourselves.

(The prata stall is located at Fu Rui Eating House, 2 Braddell Road)

[The above is a post migrated from a previous blog. ]

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