Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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Bread

Whose Pão Is it: Into The World Of Goa’s Famed Bread

A new fiction film on the business of baking bread highlights Goa’s desire to hold on to adlear tempar or ‘the way things were’, gauged through the everyday functioning of a traditional bakery

Doughy tales: Stills from Bread & Belonging

Sweat beads gathered across his brow. It was going to be a busy day as always. He was working all by himself today, an increasingly common occurrence of late. The worker who promised to join today was yet to turn up. A quick glance at his wristwatch made him hasten his pace. After all, time is the most important ingredient in the baking business. The flour needs to be measured and kneaded into dough—nowadays with a small kneading machine, thank heavens no longer with hands. As the dough fermented for a few hours, he had time to catch up with errands. Then it was back at the bakery to give the different kinds of bread their shape with the help of family members. Then followed the actual baking in the wood fired oven and the selling of bread at the doorstep. All of this in a room with closed windows to keep the breeze out, as variations in temperature could affect the consistency of the bread. His eyes had started troubling him of late—all the years of standing in front of the fire had taken a toll.

I watched my film Bread & Belonging at a public screening after a two-year hiatus, courtesy of Covid-19 restrictions. Post-production had just got completed when the world went into a pandemic-induced lockdown. Now, as I sat with the audience in a dark room, I was transported to the bakeries where we filmed. After the credits rolled, the discussion veered towards how food and migration intersect. As India’s smallest state experiences a large-scale demographic tilt, there is much talk of who is an ‘insider’ and who, an ‘outsider’. I was born and raised in one of Goa’s most popular coastal villages that continues to see this shift. Making the film through the lens of Goa’s bread was my way of engaging in this conversation.

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