Failure To Make Round Rotis: A Lyrical Guide To Womanhood

Mehak Goyal delves into the multifaceted dimensions of womanhood. Through her evocative words, she sheds light on the often overlooked struggles, unfair expectations, and casual discrimination faced by women on a daily basis.

Mehak Goyal
Sep 04, 2023 11:39 IST
Mehak Goyal
In this thought-provoking book, Mehak delves into the multifaceted dimensions of womanhood. Through her evocative words, she sheds light on the often overlooked struggles, unfair expectations, and casual discrimination faced by women on a daily basis.

Excerpt from the book

Remembering Childhood

My father would nod at me


only if 

I stood first in class.



I should be the first of my friends 

to become a Mrs.



I used to wander 

the toy store for hours

till I found my perfect Barbie.


But now, 

a Ken doll has been 

arranged for me.


I should behave 

as he instructs.



Drugged with coffee,

I worked until my eyes dried

to be the lucky one at my job.

But now, 

I walk seven times

around the consecrated fire

because the astrologer 

assured my new parents

I would be auspicious.


Even peeking 

at liquor was prohibited.

But now, 

on my wedding night

the wine bottle is thrust inside me

I should stain the sheets red. 


When I was ten, I asked, 

‘What do you dream about, Ma?’

She replied, 

‘My child should be safe and happy, 

You are my everything,’

I laughed. 


But now,

her dainty palms touch my chest,

my breasts quiver as she sucks –

I can’t fail my daughter! 


How to Make Round Rotis

Snatch the book she is reading intently.

Pull her hand, her weight if you have to.

Assemble the bowls and ingredients.

Hit her with the rolling pin if she refuses. 


‘This is for your own good,’

assure her periodically. 

Take two cups of unbound flour in a mixing bowl.

Add three-fourths cup of water of discontentment.

Knead with knuckles of fragile hands.

Reiterate, the dough should be 

soft, smooth and pliable.

Touch floured hand to forehead, make it white.


Remove a dream from the dough.

Roll on hands until it is confined to a circle.

Place on the rolling board and crush (lightly).

Use ingrained displeasure and rage to

flatten it with a rolling pin.

Toss the roti on the virtuous tawa.

Round and puffed, 

serve it warm for a worthy fortune. 

A Woman’s Lexicon

When I first stained my underwear 

red, my grandmother told

‘You are a woman now.

This is your dictionary.’

Ambition: selfish

Beautiful: fair

Career: hobby

Descendant: mandatory

Education: prerequisite for a wealthy husband

Femininity: docile, incapable and sacrificing

Girl: the only gender of friends allowed

Hair: ugly (except eyebrows and scalp)

Independence: results in rape

Joke: smile, don’t tell 

Kitchen: workplace

Lust: unnatural

Menstruation: entry prohibited to kitchen, temple and rooms

Night (sunset): stay at home 

Opinion: refer father/husband

Pray: to Lord Ram every day that men aren’t tempted by you

Rape: is always your fault

Sin: losing innocence

Time: enemy, beauty fades

Underclothes: should never be visible

Vodka: never, leads to rape 

Whisper : your permissible volume

Xerox: mom, mother-in-law

Yes: the only admissible answer

Zen: serve parents and husband

My arms wrapped around my stomach

trying to mollify the pain. She pulled them apart. 

‘Back straight. Smile. Yes.’

Protect her

Reading can kill

Traditional thoughts might evaporate

Dark clouds of opinion might gather

Lightning questions might strike

Thunderous debates might follow

She shouldn’t be drenched in knowledge

She shouldn’t write her story

It has been cast in stone, for generations.


Painting is injurious to health

She might observe the intricacies

of people around her.

She might adorn the canvas

with her personality

and immortalise her name.

She shouldn’t bare her deepest desires

She shouldn’t mould her destiny

It has been prophesied for generations.   


Being at home every day keeps death away

Gates of opportunity might open

Her energy might be sufficient

to turn the turbines of success.

She shouldn’t be independent

She shouldn’t be a powerhouse

She's been a tarnished machine for generations.


She is 

a blank book

a chaste canvas

a desireless dependent.

Ensure she stays that way.


My Big Fat Indian Wedding

Begin dance rehearsals

a month before the wedding.

Distract me. 

The gold-plated invitations look exquisite. 

His friends would be my friends. 

Dangle the Sabyasachi lehnga.

I will resign from work after marriage.

Showcase the jewellery from the 

latest Bhansali movie

the one that Queen Deepika wore.


His home is my home.

The exotic Udaipur hotel is 

available for my wedding dates.

Graciously honour the life my 

mother-in-law picks for me.

Intricate henna applied on my hands.

His name shines in dark red.

Thank God, my husband will love me.

I am a success story.

Wedding will be the most 

special day of your life. 

Walking down the aisle in reality,

why do I want to throw up? 

Arranged Marriage 

My parents enrolled me in a

chaotic, consuming, customary course.

Love was not a prerequisite

a postscript, maybe.  


Lectures with mother-in-law began


Moral Science: 

Wake up before him

Prepare breakfast, pack lunch

Leave for work

Welcome him home

Ask him about his day.



His father established an empire

because I stayed at home.



Plan a trip to Vaishno Devi Temple

pray for good health of your husband,

pray for obedient children.



Clock is ticking

Preferably mornings

Preferably facing east

Preferably a boy.



Every action doesn’t have an equal 

and opposite reaction.

Tolerate, suppress, forget. 


Complimentary cooking classes:

He loves okra.


Report Card sent to my parents: 

Needs frequent reminders to be attentive.

Physics seems difficult to grasp. 

Late with her Biology assignment. 

Scope for improvement. 


How do I 

graduate with Honours 

in a course I didn’t want to take?

The excerpt is extracted with permission from Mehak Goayl's Failure To Make Round Rotis: Poems on Rebellion, Resilience and Relationships; published by Juggernaut.

Suggested reading: 'Insatiable' Shobhaa Dé; On Her Book & What It Means To Have Choice

#Round Rotis #Rebellious Women #Mehak Goyal #book excerpts