My first Tandoor

Appears in

Mangoes & Curry Leaves

By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Published 2005

  • About

Framed by the color of her sari, Sangana Bai smoothes the clay mixture on the side of an unfinished tandoor oven.

Ovens are Sangana Bai’s specialty. She lives in the small city of Udaipur in southwestern Rajasthan, where she earns her living by shaping mud and clay into low hearths (chula) and tall barrel-shaped tandoor ovens. I met her outside her house; she was working in her front yard, smoothing wet mud onto the walls of a half-built tandoor, and I stopped to watch. She worked with skill and grace; she was beautiful, with good bones and large, alert eyes. I guessed that she was in her forties, but it was hard to tell, for age, sun, and hard work had left wrinkles and lines, a map of her life, on her face.