Yesterday I chanced upon a serious discussion on food, about how the traditional is making way for the modern, the ‘foreign’ or rather how the traditional IS BEING TAKEN OVER by the modern and the ‘foreign’. I could have laughed out loud at the self-righteousness on display. As a matter of fact I think I did, though no one heard me, which is a good thing. That’s what’s cool about the internet. If you chance upon something ridiculous, you can laugh your heart out without anyone the wiser.
One thing I have noticed in the traditional versus modern discussions is that there is a veritable love-feast going on with Every.Single.Person on the scene lamenting the loss of something precious and oh-so-perfect from the past and decrying the penchant of some to run after the newfangled.
Not a single voice could be seen questioning the logic of the dramatics on display. Not. One. Single Voice. Nope. Not even a whisper. Those whom you admired as sensible, level-headed people clearly displayed the chink in their armor. When it comes to the traditional versus modern, they prefer to toe the line and be appreciated, sensibilities be damned.
I badly wanted to butt in at the ‘party’ to ask a single question. But I know I am persona non grata at such love-fests since I cramp their style by removing crucial bricks from the edifice they are busy building. At my blog though I am welcome, what’s more, it can take my question without collapsing too.
My dear sanctimonious crowd, where do you think some of the ingredients of what you tom-tom as your oh-so-traditional-breakfast originated from?
Just that one question. Just one brick. I am only asking about breakfast. The much used and overused potato for example came to India in the 17th century via the Portuguese. Yup, right. Think of a life without your favorite vegetable aloo because obviously you now have to give it up as apparently some of your ancestors in the past went against all principles of ‘only traditional’ and started using a phoren vegetable. The horror!
Now I’ll name the others. Tomato. Bell Peppers. Cauliflower. Fenugreek. Garlic. Rajma. Okra. Coffee. Chillies. Coriander. Tapioca. Then of course there are the foods which many think are typically Indian but aren’t. Samosa, Gulab Jamun. Jelebi. Gajar ka Halwa. Biryani. All of them imports (If I am wrong about any one of them, correct me).
If our ancestors had the same attitude as the group who were having the discussion, it would have been a different song with totally different lyrics being sung today. A good portion of supposedly ‘our’ dishes would no longer be in the ‘ours’ list to moan about. Of course people-against-the-onslaught-of-the-new must have lived in the past too. It is reassuring to know they failed which is why we enjoy dishes like aloo-poori, tapioca-fish curry etc in the present.
It is not as if each region was ‘assigned’ certain foods when the Big Bang occured and Earth came into existence. Iddli-sambar for the south Indians, poha for the Maharashtrians and so on. Nope. Every single bite we take is the outcome of amalgamation. We experimented (out of necessity or otherwise), incorporated, accepted all along.
Some of the old things WILL disappear forever in time and new things take their places. That’s the way of the world. Not you, not me, not anyone’s gonna stop that from happening.
©Shail Mohan 2017