Implicit in the idea of life and its turn of tides is change. This potent six letter word carries polarized views and dichotomies that both bring and reduce our happiness and grimness. A change is our constant shadow that we all have to embrace whether we like it or not. Whether we are prepared for it or not. Changes in socio-cultural realities, financial turnstiles, cultural divides and even the basic trivial lifestyle related patterns is the only constant. We look at how in a 21st century India marked by massive cultural, lifestyle and economic divides, change is impacting us and those with whom are lives are tied.
“Fast life, commercialization, a certain paucity of time and space, love for money and materialism, a certain disconnect from roots and a genuine lack of interest. These are only some reasons that are sending traditional recipes, born out of pure love for great taste and food, toward a dustbin of history. And what is alarming is that no one seems to care about this death, striking at an alarming rate.”
Dadi…thou art is vanishing!!! I am sad to know this! The Times are changing all around us and implicit in this change is an emergence of new wave of thought!
Fast life making traditional home-made delicacies extinct
‘I do not have time’, shot back Anjali the moment I asked her if she loves to continue the legacy of making ‘til ka laddu in desi ghee’ on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sakranti. ‘We do not have time even to cook dinner, not to talk of all these ancient nonsense…I mean why should I grind myself when there is a good shop close by selling it in beautiful packing’, she added, almost taking pride in her busy and financially rewarding career and the weariness that accompany with it.
The story is same almost everywhere in cities, with some exceptions, of course, especially in parts of India. Perhaps, today only the villages can claim to take the tradition of community kitchen and home-made delicacies forward.
Every state in India has its own unique identity, not only in terms of food but also clothing, festivals and dialects. While culture is the single strong point which binds all the citizens of this great ancient nation, food specialties are a great topic of discussion at any occasion.
But nothing can match the original traditional sweets and savories that our dadis and nanis still make on important occasions. Children used to wait for these occasions in olden days. Not that their taste for these preparations is any less now, but the same old enthusiasm is slowing dying because of easy availability of modern ‘avatars’ of many of these delicacies in attractive packs in the markets.
The mostly unwritten recipes are like oral traditions being passed from generation to generation. Cleanliness of the cook, kitchen and ingredients were all part of the drill – almost like a ritual for them. Has the new generation that is hooked on digital gadgetry and ready-to-eat and cook packaged foods the time for all that? As a result, a connoisseur will always find a difference in taste of a sweet or savoury prepared in the traditional home and of that which is available in the supermarket. Then, there are delicacies galore, prepared with great care and skill only in the homes, which cannot be found in any restaurant or branded sweet outlets.
Leisure no longer exists for present day youth. They do not have time or inclination to sit in the lap of nature and hear the birds singing and rustling of the tree. Bungalows are being converted into multi-story flats to accommodate growing number of residents. So, nobody seems to have time to write poetry or read John Milton and Prem Chand. And they do not have time to learn and cook even good dinner and lunch items. So what can be the destination of these great traditional foods? Dustbin of history?
Fast life, commercialization, lack of time and space, love for money and materials, disconnect from roots and lack of interest are some reasons that are sending these ancient recipes, born out of pure love for great taste and foods, to the dustbin of history. And what is alarming is that no one seems to care about this fast death. Given the present scenario, it might be possible that sooner the officials at the National Archive of India may wake up to this extinction phenomenon, and be ready to prepare an exhaustive list of each region’s traditional delicacies to keep them safe, lest future generation may want it for some scientific investigation or just for plain e-reading.
Every one, no matter how much he loves fast food, will love a traditional delicacy, cooked on special occasion. And it should be everyone’s responsibility to shoulder these recipes and traditions and reach them to the next generation. In developed countries like UK, they take great efforts to keep tradition and modernism side by side. Forgetting history is like forgetting our own existence. Schools books – home science texts — should include these recipes and stories of dadis and nanis cooking these foods and the methods, hard work and entertainment that accompany them.
Many teen-aged children do help their mothers and grand mothers on special occasions, and this should be encouraged so that they acquire many tips and skills to be cherished forever. Dadis and nanis should also make a special effort to guide and inspire the children, and inculcate in them a pure love for our original home-cooked foods. They would thus know for the rest of their life, no matter how tall the claims of the food brands are, there are no real alternatives to home-cooked delicacies.
Commercialization and technological improvements are important, but we should not allow them to wipe out the traditional culinary skills and knowledge that deserve to be preserved for posterity. Another amazing aspect of our ancestors is the community living and sharing foods from community kitchen. Now and then, the elders should involve kids in their colonies and mohallas to use community kitchens and teach them how to share and love each other. This act also inspires nationalism in people, and a great sense of bonding, which is even more necessary in this age of nuclear family and individualism.
On occasions like Diwali, Holi, Pongal and Eid, schools and mohalla/colony samitis should hold special programme to use the service and skills of dadis and nanis, and hands of the kids to prepare the traditional foods. The government should create a National Register of such foods and make it available online, and create awareness to popularize the same.
An ideal nation is one, where old and new exists side by side; where tradition and modernism have no conflict. This spirit should be reflected in how we treat, consume and ideate around food as well.