It was hard to tell the roads from the rivers and drains yesterday. But the frustration and despair etched on residents’ faces told a story of the hardship to come.
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The faith of ‘Roti Girl’ Amanda
Amanda Lalchan earned the name “Roti Girl” after she began making roti for a woman in the Chaguanas Market when she was 18. “Customers would come in asking, ‘Where the small girl, where the roti girl?’” she told the T&T Guardian.
“When I left the market, people would meet me on the street and say, ‘Roti girl, you not cooking no more, we missing your hand.’”
Lalchan said she learnt her roti making skills at home, in particular from her dad, and could knead 100 pounds of flour in 15 to 20 minutes. She is the seventh of 14 children of Mala Joseph, of Chandanagore, who was featured in last week’s Your Stories.
Lalchan cooks for weddings, pujas, sometimes for fun and for free at church and other charity events.
“Ever since I knew myself I liked to be in flour. I always wanted a career in cooking,” she said.
Lalchan developed a sweet hand in making the mouthwatering national dish, but had to endure six years of exploitation at food establishments, holding on by faith, before she broke out on her own. She said throughout it all she prayed continually to be in a better position and believed it would come.
Lalchan recalled the unkind treatment she received at some establishments.
“At one place I had to start work at 5 am and knead 25 pounds of flour for sada roti for breakfast. After that, I had to knead another 35 pounds for dhalpurie for lunch. I started off making 70 dhalpuries a day during the week and about 150 on weekends.”
Lalchan said she would work for nine to ten hours and would not be allowed even a ten minute break to eat something.
“Sometimes the day would pass and I would have no breakfast and no lunch. Many days I just went back home hungry.” She said she left that place after the owner went abroad without paying her the wages she had earned.
“I saw that as a small thing in the bigger picture. All the time I was working I had faith God would help me open my own shop,” she said.
“People would treat you as nothing but I would tell myself I would not look at those small thing because there were bigger things ahead.” She had similar treatment at another food place in the Point Lisas area where she cooked regular ‘Trini’ food.
“We were not allowed to stop working to eat. If we got a chance we would have to pay for our things and if the food sold out that was it.”
Lalchan said this was what motivated her to cook food on her birthday and feed children at homes.
“Giving someone a mouthful of food won’t kill you. I like to treat people as I would like them to treat me. That’s where your blessings come in.”
Lalchan said she continued working, praying and asking for guidance, health and strength and to keep pressing on and moving forward.
By 24, she was renting and running her own roti shop, which picked up well. But that lasted only three months because of problems she had there as well.
A mother of a two-year old son and happily married to a “good man,” Lalchan said giving up is not an option for her.
“I am going to open my own kitchen at home, Amanda’s Catering Services.
“I plan to take orders from home and go out and do deliveries and even serve food at major events,” she said.
“You just can’t sit down and wait for something to come to you. Just pray and start. I know this is going to do good because I already have the support of my church and family.”
In the meantime, she does not plan on letting anyone spoil her day and has great fun being involved in church activities and hunting and fishing with her brothers.
“I love outdoor activities and would gears up, organise my headlights and go hunting. I use a sling shot,” she said proudly.
“Sometimes I go down by the river at the back of our house with my sister and we make sure and come back with three, four ‘guana. I clean it and cook it but I don’t eat it.”
Lalchan presses on in faith.
“If you are praying and nothing is happening, don’t give up. God’s answer may be slow sometimes but it’s sure.”
She is also grateful for the good values instilled in her.
“My mother kept us on the safe side and God kept me on the right track.”