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Food - India's First Love

Every day we are subjected to the familiar sight on television ads - over anxious mothers obsessed about their childrens' daily nutrition, housewives feeding their families lovingly, the food cooked in the country's "best " cooking oil, adoring mothers gleaming with pride as their child grows "taller, stronger, sharper" ! Makes me believe that India as a country, is obsessed about its food and we Indians have made it a natural and national passion.

In India moms are constantly worried about their child not eating enough,right from the time he's a toddler to even after he's married (and no longer her "bacha"). Babies, visited by numerous relatives are tortured by comments on how healthy, in other words plump and chubby they look. Health is seen as having a direct relationship to a family's well being and social status.In olden times,and even some places nowadays,anyone not qualifying as fat, was dismissed as "yeh ti khate peete khandaan ka nahi", indirectly implying that the family was not rich enough to feed (or rather overfeed), its members properly.

 

Indian marriages, mostly, are one giant food festival. During the wedding and the various functions that preceed it,the concentration is mostly on food (and of course, the ladies' jewellery and makeup, but since that is a purely female domain, the universal concentration is on food) The standard of most parties thrown is judged by the quality and quantity of food that was served and wether each guest went home well fed and satisfied.

Our festivals, also center majorly around cooking elaborate feasts. Sometimes we forget the significance of the festival itself, or the Pujas we are supposed to perform, but never the lip smacking delicacies associated with it for eg gujiya on holi, malpua on Diwali etc. Indians take their food very seriously. In fact they are probobaly the only creatures on this planet, to carry it along with them everywhere.

Be it a bus or train journey, or a long foreign trip, we are always well armed with our Mathris and Bhujiyas. All of us have sweet memories of sharing food with random strangers on train journeys and bonding with them over aloo, puri and achar. Ask a hostelite wether he has ever returned from his home, without a semester full supply of Laddoos and other home made snacks (which unfortunately, doesnt last for more than 10 days, owing to constant raids on those supplies by other hungry hostelites )

In India, food is a big business. From Mumbai's dabawallas to our local halwai and even paanwala its a booming market. Food critics, columnists, dieticians have sprung up everywhere and the demand for their services is ever increasing. Cookery books and cookery shows are instant hits . Girls take elaborate cooking lessons before marriage to impress their would be husbands and in laws

And why should food not deserve such a high place in our hearts and minds? In a country where almost every state has its own cuisine and speciality, and there is infinite variety not known anywhere else in the world, it is justified. But India, unfortunately, is also home, to the largest population of hungry people,and those for whom one square meal a day,is life's biggest fight. These glaring contrasts, between the two Indias, does give us some serious food for thought, doesnt it ?

Contributing Author: Gauri Sood, 86gauri@gmail.com An engineer by profession, have a passion for writing, reading and exploring new places and cultures.

 
   

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