Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Grind

When we were school kids, most of us very likely have had the experience of going to the mill to get rice, wheat, chillies etc finely ground. Back in those days we either could not readily buy flour and chilli powder from the retail store or our moms preferred the freshly ground stuff. I particularly liked to visit the mill and always looked forward to it; and this was for many reasons. First of all, the grinding machines were impressive and it was wondrous to see how they could turn such huge quantities of wheat and rice into fine powder so quickly. Then the variety of smells; the smell of freshly ground wheat was bland while the smell of chilli powder tingled the nose.

And when we triumphantly carried the ground stuff home, I am sure we all had similar experiences regarding our mothers' response. She would feel the texture and be very happy, so much so that it made us feel we practically ground all that stuff ourselves; or she would be somewhat annoyed and complain about the mill owner not doing a good job inspite of the exorbitant price paid! Then ofcourse there would be the familiar admonishments about being careful not to have the rice or wheat ground just after some chill has been put through the machine.

But there was much more to these mills. I wondered for long how the actual grinding was done. Then there was the mystery of the twisted belt. If you had paid close attention to detail when you were at the mill, you might have noticed that the belt which carried the drive of the motor to the grinder had a twist to it and was not straight. While changing belts, the mill owner and whoever was doing it would always twist the belt and never install it straight. This practice was a big mystery to me. In those days I wasn't bold enough to ask someone there about it, and when I could well up enough courage to ask, none seemed to know! This remained a mystery until my undergrad days, when finally I realised that the belt was in the shape of a mobius strip. But why would you want the belt to be a mobius strip? Find out here.


UK said...

yes, i remember all those times very well and noticing the strip too..the most i remember was the comments from mom afterwards..but i never liked it, i liked to stare at the machine and how it ground it, but never being there cos it was too hot or it meant less play time!

Raj said...

Good one DP. Well, I did verified with the Mill worker why it is twisted when I am in high school, he is kind enough to show me a worn out belt and then I reliazed the twist. Of course I have no clue about the Math behind it until I read your blog today.