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Busree Bread - The Sweet Winter Delicacy of Sindh

There is more to Sindh than the symbolic ajrak, topi, and mustache – made mainstream by the ex-president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. Since his tenure in public office, we are being barraged by food outlets putting mustache as logos and festivals being arranged on ajrak pattern. Sindh is a culturally rich province of Pakistan with a diverse fortune of Sufi music, poetry, thousands of years old language, and of course, organic food. The country seems to be swooning over these symbols now more than ever before; which is cool.

However, there is another symbol that should have made it to the mainstream, but couldn’t. I believe that’s because nobody could capture Mr. President’s eating habits? Here, we delve into some of the best culinary indulgence of the Indus land – busree roti.

indian bread sindhi cuisine              Busree (jaggery-flour bread) with butter-pepper sauce

Busree is one of the most popular traditional ethnic cuisines of Sindh with plenty of variations to suit a plethora of taste buds. Since bread is the basic staple of any cuisine worldwide and winter is just wrapping up here in Karachi, I decided to give it a deserved farewell. Winter, bread, soups - here goes a complete season!

When you think about winter cuisine, something with butter and nuts comes to mind. Similarly Sindh, which is a culturally rich province of Pakistan, has its fair share of buttery, oily, and nutty winter delicacies. Traditionally, busree is bread prepared with wheat flour, jaggery, butter, and a dash of black pepper.sindhi cuisine busree

Dough, enough for two rotis, is made with whole wheat flour and water. It is then halved; both the parts rolled out with a rolling pin and put aside. On one roti, leaving the sides empty, sprinkle crushed jaggery according to the level of sweetness required and place second roti on top of it. With your fingers, press the round sides of the roti so they are turned in to one sandwich and cook on medium flame on a tawa or any other flat pan.busree busri busry

Once it turns golden brown (or charred, if you are me) on both sides, place on the serving tray. With a knife, open busree from the sides and place a big dollop of butter inside, finished with a sprinkle of black pepper. Cut the busree in half or in the shape of pies; ta da! Yummilicious busree will be oozing out the sweet butter pepper sauce tempting you to indulge in this beauty.

Thinking about why busree has remained popular over the centuries, it has to do with the abundance of homemade butter and ghee. Even in the 21st century’s urban life, our Sindhi moms make organic fresh butter and ghee. They store fresh cream, process it to butter, and then turn that butter in to ghee at their own houses with no cost whatsoever. Regional customary techniques seem to survive for long.

Happy eating!

Note: Busree bread is locally taken as a breakfast; however, I like it more as a dinner meal considering its warming, soupy, sweety texture.

Photos by author

Sur Kedaro - The Battleground

Section I 

Month of Muharram starts, restless are the two Imams,

God ordains what He pleaseth and knows the reason why. 

Month of Muharram returns but not the Imams, 
May I see Madina’s leaders with will of God! 

The princes who left Madina, have not come back, 
O brother dyer! dye my clothes black, 
I mourn for those who never did return. 

Martyrs tribulations are in fact God’s mercy’s rain, 
Yazid is quite unaware to such divine grace, 
to sacrifice themselves was from eternity Imam’s fate. 

Martyrdom’s tribulation, is God’s grace, 
only the wise can fathom Karbala’s tragedy’s death. 

Section II 

Moon sets, Madina’s warriors prepare for war, 
with them are drums, axes, spears, swords, falcons, 
Ali’s sons will fight with hard steel weapons. 

In Karbala’s plain, they pitched their tents, 
with Yazid they fought, coming face to face, 
they hesitate not at swords’ sharp strokes. 

Perfect once from Prophet’s family, 
come to Karbala’s plain, 
with Egyptian swords they killed and put unbelievers to shame, 
Well it is, that Bibi Fatima gave birth to such brave sons. 

Brave expert warriors came on Karbala’s plain, 
The earth trembled, there was commotion in heaven, 
no ordinary war was this, but a display of divine love. 

God lets His dear once and friends be sacrificed, 
trial and tribulations are for the select once,
Eternal and absolute God, He does what He wills, 
Some deep secret lies hidden in this. 

Section III

Did anyone see these warriors in action? 
Elephant’s limbs got served, blood began to run, 
Brave warriors prefer that position which endangers life. 

The armour burnishers are here soon, 
arrows on their shoulders, warriors do not remove, 
Brave lovers of martyrdoms, remain on their feet. 

They strike, they ride the horses, they care for their companions, 
The brave constantly fight with steel’s weapons. 

Brave meet the brave, there is heard din of swords, 
charging they hit, bodies on bodies roll, 
Heads fall, plain echoes with sounds of moans and cries. 

Someone challenges from side, from the other some strikes, 
bugles and pipes are heard horns both sides, 
Horses and bridegrooms’ heads meet in battle ground. 

Horses and Bridegrooms have few days to live, 
sometimes they in palaces lodge, sometimes in deserts well. 

In swinging lapse are brought warrior’s frames, 
Their wives weep and throw handful of dust on themselves, 
They weep and cry aloud, the plain all this commotion resounds. 

"Oh Bridegroom! Come in festive clothes for your nuptials, 
Then where spear strikes against spear, come faster there, 
There is no danger till martyr’s marriage is complete” 

"I will not believe my husband fled, he must have been killed, 
I will hold my head high if he has wounds on his face, 
If he has wounds on his back, I will die of shame” 

10 With there heads held high they cry, 
"Friends this brave warrior has honoured us all." 

11 "T’s" well that you die on battlefield, if for you weep, 
Taunts are uttered for long, while life is brief. 

Section IV
Strong misty wind blew, dust storm came, 
As if to sons of Ali night strode on battle’s plain. 

Yazid, give up your animosity with Ali’s sons, 
you will not have the felicity which awaits Mir Hussain. 

Cruel Koofis acted deceit, jointed Yazid’s camp, 
They came face to face the gallant one in battle’s plain, 
To make him a martyr, they had it all arranged. 

Koofis wrote a letter in God’s name, 
"We are your subjects, You are our head, 
Come to us that we may select you as our lord.” 

In Karabala’s plain, Koofis prevented them from drinking water, 
The Princess then remembered Ali, their noble Father, 
Coming out of tents, glancing around, they call Prophet Mohammad for help. 

At dawn from Karbala came a bird covered with blood, 
reaching the mausoleum of Prophet Mohammad, 
It loudly said, 
"I have seen the glitter of swords, come Prophet be there help." 

Section V

1 No other comrade, nor Hassan in with Hussain, 
Far off is their native land, Yazid! Is that why you make quick attacks? 

Would that Hassan were here in battle’s plain, 
Like a moth he would have over his brother sacrificed himself, 
Who is there now to prevent enemy attacking Hussain? 

Those who come to wage war are not all brave, 
They lay down their lives, who with defeat will! Not themselves disgrace. 

In war, he who guards himself with an armour, 
To keep himself alive is his desire, 
Brave is he who without it fights. 

Brave warriors! remove all doubts if you intend to win, 
Attack with your spear, grapple with the enemy, hold not the slanting shield, 
Strike sword against sword, that you may never yield. 

Dauntless Hur bravely marches forth, 
"I am since long a lover like the moth, 
May the Prophet, your grandfather, be pleased, 
This venerated head, over you let me sacrifice.” 

Hur was given this advice since long, 
He left enemy’s camp and came along, 
To Hussain he said, “May I be over you sacrificed doing all I dare, 
God does not test a soul more than it can bear.” 
He too was wounded and as a martyr died. 

Peerless brave warrior Hussain, stood with a steel helmet, 
His head-gear studded with pearls and diamonds, 
It soon became red, stained with flowing blood. 

Blood red was his beard, his teeth shone like pomegranate flower, 
Like the full moon, his head gear did glitter, 
On judgment’s day, when all assemble, his mother may well be pleased, 
Bravo! To that fearless warriors, who died on that battlefield. 

10 His mother wiped from him Karbala’s dust, 
Ali cleaned from his wounds the drops of blood, 
All believers’ salvations got, in his blood’s exchange. 

Section VI

Prince, lover of war! As long as you live, 
Throw yourself on spears point, drink essence of steel, 
Be the feed of vultures, who since ages have longed for such meat. 

Like goats on a meadow, vultures roam on battlefield, 
Brave face brave, running to challenge one an other, 
Martyrs wives have made indigo’s price to rise. 

To cast off their heads in war, these warriors hesitate not, 
Courageous once laid down their lives in presence of Imams,
"Since they fought in the cause of God." 
Hoors in heaven, adorn these martyrs with garlands of flowers. 

Paradise became their home where the chosen ones have gone, 
United with God, in Him their existence they lost, 
God! Favour me with a glimpse of them. 

Three types of creatures mourn Hassan and Hussain, 
People in their homes, beasts in jungle, angels in heaven,
Birds in sorrow beat their wings for the loved ones have left, 
Lord! May you grant victory to princes so brave. 

Those whose hearts grieve not for Hassan and Hussain Imam, 
Can they be forgiven by the almighty, Lord of all. 

Translation by Madam Amina Khamisaani

- In memory of Dr. Muhammad Ali Siddiqui

Borders by Zubair Soomro - Reminiscing Sindh

Enduring the pain
That borders can impose
She continued to weep,
And wandering the myriad
by-lanes of the past
She continued to weep.
And in her altered city
now peopled with strangers
She continued to weep.

This woman from Pune
In clothes tailored from Sindhi fabric
Is searching for her home in Sindh,
Searching for closure of the past.
But the city inside her
Was orphaned fifty years ago!
And in her ancestral city
Where has her courtyard gone?
In the foundation of that courtyard
A child of thirteen is playing a game.
But her childhood is buried,
And her laughter is buried.
The echoing peals of that laughter
Continue to ring out.

Today that Sindhi woman
Who had never dared to laugh so loudly
Finds those peals of suppressed laughter
Are somehow still in Sindh.
She weeps
She is inconsolable
She never wanted to return!

And today the thirteen year old darling
Longs to play, once again,
In her childhood courtyard.
Who can console her?
Who will explain to her
The pain that borders can impose?
She must stop being so stubborn.
We are equally helpless.

This fifty-year-old trauma
Which clouds up our eyes,
Which can destroy in a moment,
The castles of our dreams,
This Sindhi woman from India
Will go back home again
Carrying the gift of this trauma
From Sindh.

The discrimination Sindhis faced was subtle but always present. However, in 1960, Bombay State was divided into Maharshtra and Gujarat. The Gujaratis were a business community and there were not many with education or administrative experience. As a result, the top government positions in Gujarat went to Sindhis
Sindh: Stories from a Lost Homeland (978-0-19-906861-6)

Reminiscing Partition: meat, slippers & laundry in Sindh & Gujarat

…during the first two years after partition we got the impression that others considered us Sindhis unclean. Partly it was because we ate meat; we wore slippers inside the house; we only washed our clothes once a week. But this was not because we were used to wearing dirty clothes! In Sindh, nobody washed clothes at home. Laundry was given to the dhobi who came once a week. During those years, it was difficult for us to explain that we were indeed Hindus. But soon enough many Sindhis found roots, partly by assimilating local culture; partly through goodwill and enterprise.

Aruna Jethwani, born in 1940 in Hyderabad, Sindh. 

From Sindh: Stories from a Lost Homeland

We had to watch our language too, because Sindhi Hindus use many expressions associated with Muslims. Even today, the exclamation “Ya Allah” slips out rather than “Hey Baghwan”. So you can imagine how many such expressions my parents’ generation would have had to be careful to avoid.

Sindhi Hindu woman, in an interview to researcher Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan

Excerpt from Sindh: Stories from a Lost Homeland

Memoirs of a Young Sindhi Hindu Woman - Reminiscing Partition

Sindhi Hindu women never wore bindis and this bothered Gujaratis. You see, in Gujarat, wearing a bindi on forehead indicated that a woman was Hindu; Gujarati Muslim women did not wear bindis. This is how you can tell women from the two communities apart. Sindhi Hindu women began to wear bindis so that they would not be mistaken for Muslims.

Sindh: Stories from a Lost Homeland

Reminiscing Partition: Stories from Sindh - Allah Dino lies to rioters and sings Kabir.

      Cities Ran Amuck

Streets roared: “Allah-o-Akber!”
"Har har Mahadev!"
In Karachi, on 6 January 1948,
Huddled in a store room,
we waited with bated breath.
The world, it seemed,
would come to a sudden end.
"Hand over the kafirs in your house,”
the rioters demanded.
God’s good man, God himself,
Allahdino lied to them:
"The people you are looking for
sailed to Bombay yesterday.”
Allahdino was an ordinary man,
Sindhi and Sanskrit dino in his Muslim name.
Allahdino lied once again:
"The poor creatures migrated to India,
leaving behind their precious belongings.
Do you want those instead?”
And we waited with bated breath…..

- Motilal Jotwani (translated by Anju Makhija and Menka Shivdasani)

- Motilal’s father was a teacher in Karachi. He, with his other family members was huddled in a small storeroom of the house that day. Allahdino let the rioters take what they wanted, and then spent the rest of the day singing songs of Kabir with Motilal’s father.


From Sindh: Stories from a Lost Homeland (978-0-19-906861-6)

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