Move over all the miseries and ills ailing the nation. Our nation has a new crucial problem, unheard of until even a few minutes ago, which could deepen the divide between spicy south and the dicey north.
Come rain or storm, be it in the slushy bazars, or while deftly defending the splashes from the passing vehicles on the pot-holed roads, all that men in south had to do was to fold their ‘veshti’ up, the white open-ended lungi and wrap it, often exposing a blue and white stripe pyjama cloth underwear. The quite cultural invasion has succeeded in making men guiltily shun veshtis even during weddings, which they earlier wore with a macho élan and aplomb, now replaced by kurtas and paijamas.
Similar is the fate of our young girls, earlier clad in Pavadai and Dhavani and looking like chirpy joyous birds in spring time. Salwar Kameez has replaced all pavadai dhavanis, the latter left to be seen only in pseudo rural themed Kollywood movies.
Madarasis became ebullient and took to travelling all over India only after hearing of the appearance of Dosas, Idlys and Uppumas even in far off states like J& K and Gujarat, notwithstanding that the sambhar was a watered-down version, chutney needing a soup spoon to slurp in, idlys requiring knife and hammer to slice and dosas missing their 56 inches without the chilli powder. Places with misspelt menu boards proclaiming dosas and idlys were hunted down by never compromising southies.
What made Kichidi to be ever considered as a National Food, boils an average Tamil. “Can it match the flavour of Sambhar and rice?” they fume, the Telugus joining in hurried endorsement, vigorously nodding their head sideways like they shake in the north. See, even the shaking of the head in the affirmative or in disagreement is different south of Vindhyas. My Malayalee friends suggests it can be only rice and fish curry that can be acceptable. A Kannadiga butts in to further add to the turmoil, “It’s our Bisibela bhath,’ thrusting into me a mouthful as I get knocked-off, fire emanating from all my exits.
I return to Bengal heavy hearted, wondering if my favourite dishes will fade into oblivion like the tick-ticking telegraph. Didi would have nothing of it, my inner mind assuages. If kichidi is national, Bengal will never be far off, it whispers as I try to catch a sleep during the flight. ‘Jal-muri and Teley Bhaja,’ (puffed rice and fried vegetables) will be Bengal’s National food, roars Didi, as the plane also lands with a thud waking me up.
I must have had an awfully tiring time and my survey has not yielded any conclusive results. Perhaps I must seek approval from my ministry to go to Brazil and other juicy destinations to check how they tackle such complex problems!
As I tiptoe late into my home, my sleepy wife advises me to heat and eat up the kichidi from the kitchen.