Way back in Delhi, my Punjabi neighbor once happened to taste my south Indian Mango ‘thokku’, a preserve prepared with the grated raw mango, groundnut oil and the typical thokkumasala. With a desire to prepare the same at her place, she invited me to her kitchen. As she started making it according to my instructions, she said, ‘Let me add mustard oil in stead of groundnut oil. My husband cannot stand the smell of the groundnut oil”. When it came to adding the masala, she insisted on adding saanfalso for extra flavour. So, what turned out in the end was neither the south Indian thokku nor was it the Punjabi ‘pikkal”.
I remember the ‘masala dosa’ served in a restaurant in Shillong which was stuffed with shalgam instead of potato palya! It was like the speedily rendered ‘Bhajan’ by a South Indian classic music singer, accompanied by the vigorous slapping of the thigh.
The Pizza people in India have started serving Pizza with Paneer, Palak, garm masala and other ‘Indian delights’– totally Indianised versions to please the Indian palate, obviously to grab the Indian market. Similarly, adding a few pieces of pineapple hardly makes the pizza Hawaiian.
People are so good at localizing the Chinese food that, neither the Indian ‘Chinese’ food nor the American ‘Chinese’ food resembles the original fare even remotely, I believe. I am sure the original inventors of these popular dishes must be turning in their grave.
Having not tasted it, I wonder if the ‘curry’ adopted by England is more Indian or English.
God has created this world with incredible variety. Why this craze for ‘Indianising’ or ‘Americanizing’ etc? Why not celebrate the difference by choosing to enjoy things in their original ethnicity? If one does not want to enjoy it in the indigenous form, one is better off not trying it. One should respect the difference than resent it. To claim that ‘their’ food tastes better if it is made ‘our way’ is sheer foolishness. Who wants robots churned out on the assembly lines–dressed alike and eating alike? Once while speeding past the crater in the Big Island of Hawaii, a small deal wood board hung on a lamp post caught my eye. My greedy Indian palate interpreted the word as ‘Hot Masala Dosas’ and wonderstruck, I asked my son to stop the car. When I explained to him my reason for such a request, he laughed and clarified, “Mom, it is not ‘Masala Dosas’. It is ‘Malasa das’ a special local item”. To prove his point, he took us back to the place and bought some. Thank God, they were some sort of sweet buns, hot from the oven and not some local mal-version of our dosas. I thoroughly enjoyed other genuine Hawaiian specialties too like ‘Poi’, ‘pina colada’ (non alcoholic) etc, though the varieties for a vegetarian were limited. Incidentally, the ‘pina colada’ of California never tasted that good.
Even with people, this happens. When our children acquire foreign spouses, we try to Indianise them. It is alright if the girl herself expresses a desire to deck herself in Indian attire and accessories for a day or two. She may even show interest in our rituals and attend a cultural show. But, to claim that she has become almost Indian is to deny ourselves the beauty of the ‘difference’. Let her have her ways just as we have our ways. (Same applies to foreign boys too). The world will be much more colorful that way.
Vive la difference! More the merrier.