Ukadala

Go to the town to beg 
with a cloth bag 
on your shoulder,
a tin pot in your hand. 
Return home
with your booty
of decaying food
overflowing the tin pot,
and stale dry jowar roti
in the bag. 

Put all the rotting food
into your big clay pot
along with the pieces 
of dry roti.  

Collect twigs and sticks
from the garbage heap
to light the chulha. 
Bring the mixture to the boil. 

The spoilt food
with a sour taste 
is called ambuda.
Once it is cooked 
it becomes ukadala. 

Pour it into a mud bowl 
with a spoon made from
a cracked coconut shell 
and a piece of wood
nailed to it. 

Let everybody feast.  

from Babytai Kamble’s ‘The Prisons We Broke’  

(2009)


I grew up often eating Ukadala for breakfast, which, to me, simply meant heating up leftovers from the night before. I recently found out, through Baby Kamble’s book, The Prisons We Broke, that Ukadala is a specifically Dalit preparation, which has its origins in taking all the food that has been given to you in your begging bowl or as leftovers from people’s plates, heating it up together, and eating it.