Thursday, July 7, 2016

Biryani for thought

It's that day of the year (other being Bakra-Id) when the word Biryani gets tossed a lot. The stereotype is so strong in our country that you'll hear and read Muslims being addressed in conjunction with the aforementioned dish. "Biryani kab khila raha hai?" becomes a common refrain amongst non-Muslims. Of course, it's a harmless assumption because, let's face it, Biryani is associated with Muslims in India, be it Hyderabadi or Malabari or Lucknowi or Awadhi. But is it factually correct to call Biryani a Muslim dish like people usually do in their careless conversations? Especially when it has Persian roots, which predates even Islam? But then again, on a social scale, this stereotype doesn't hurt anyone as whoever consumes Biryani once becomes a lifelong fan. (No, there's no place for vegetarians here as there's no such a thing as veg Biryani; it's called Pulao, which again has Persian roots.) But the point here is purely etymological: we use words and analogies without paying too much attention to details and before we realize it, a stereotype is built. It's convenient to claim that we shouldn't mix religion with food but if you think about it, the very cornerstone of our so-called faith is based on what we choose to eat or don't. The only respite one can gather from this holy mix of food and religion is there's nothing called Hindu dish. For example, Idli-Sambar or Chole Bhature are Indian dishes, not Hindu dishes. Can Biryani be called an Indian dish without ruffling some feathers on the West front? 

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