When Ghalib asked- ‘If Barfi is Hindu then what is the caste of Jalebi…is it Shia or Sunni or Khatri?’
Foodies like talking about food and the reason which makes it special for the people of the region. Historians provide us the information about the availability of food in a particular period in past, however, using food as a tool for studying history evokes lighter reaction among people and professionals. As our philosophy about the food, is limited to fights over food, concept of purity in some beliefs, and of salvation and spirituality. And in the prevailing circumstances of chauvinism, where minds have become obnoxious of reasoning so, discussing it from a professional perspective become hazardous, as obvious sentiments get quickly offended when mind doesn’t work.
There are some very unbelievable and astonishing instances where food had changed the course of history, politics and society, creating scandals-affairs, aided revolutions, protection from annihilation, used as weapon in war(WWII), colonising continents, weapon for independence, tiff between states, subject of parliamentary debates etc. And to begin with, no other instance can be as witty and amusing as an episode occurred in the life of Mirza Ghalib. During a Diwali festival, while he was returning home, some offered him sweets, seeing this, a man irately said to him that if he was going to eat Diwali sweets, himself being a Muslim, to which Ghalib asked if barfi is Hindu to which the man answered yes, then Ghalib asked what’s the identity of jalebi, is it Khatri, shia or sunni, leaving the men puzzled.
The lust of Europeans for sugar led to the colonisation of the African continent. Gandhi evoked the spirit of unity and strength, among the mass of India, by his ‘namak satyagrah’ against the heavily levied tax on salt by the Britishers. Amidst the tussle over certifying a person or community as nationalist, less nationalist and anti-nationalist and debates over what has makes you a nationalist and anti-nationalist, one must study the American revolution which happened after the Boston Tea party incident, the impact of which been so great that drinking tea became unpatriotic in the US, as John Adams, one of the founding fathers of US, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail, in which he proclaims his love of tea but says he will have to learn to embrace coffee instead, because drinking tea had become unpatriotic.
In the contemporary politics of India, food always has a decisive role to play for example in 1999, the prices of onions soared so high in Delhi that it lead to the defeat of the then government in the elections. Nevertheless food is the basic requirement for the continuance of any species, and till your tummy is empty, mind will never work. Some may call the mentioned instances only facts not history but history is not only shaped by swords and men. How could have the humans evolved if Adam had not eaten the apple.
(This article is written by Vaibhav Mishra. He is a student of Anthropology in the University of Lucknow)
Featured Image: Copy of lithograph of Boston Tea Party (1773) by Sarony & Major, 1846