Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Indian Meal

First of all, I`m sorry my friends, that I have been such a bad, bad blogger, not updating, and perhaps doing too much work. But recently there has been too little time, and even in whatever time, I could save to sit and write, there came new demands to satisfy, and my constant battle with time, has been meeting with constant failure. But excuses apart, i`ve returned, with the definite will to keep posting once in a week. Let`s see how far it goes... Jac, hope I don`t upset you.. Thanks for prodding me.! Mathew, thanks for tagging me. Will do it soon.

I`ve not been able to think much, read much, but life still throws you challenges, you experience things, about which you want to pour your frustration.! , and so here I am.!

Recently at my workplace, in the cafeteria, the following conversation happened,
Mr X : Hi Srijith.!
Me : Hi.!
Mr X : So how`re things going..? blah blah...
Me : Blah Blah...

... and then suddenly...

Mr. X : Hey..! you`re eating with your hands..? You get spoons here..!
Me ( dumbstruck, angry and confused ) : WHAT..?!!

We`ve heard and talked about westernization, about corporate culture, but this was the limit.! Eating food with our hands has always been something so intimately Indian.! Why is it that we forget to acknowledge this.? In the book, the international bestseller, "The City of Joy", by Dominique Lapierre, the protagonist, a polish priest, visiting India, tries eating with his hands, and then observes, that he, for the first time, looked upon food as something full of life, as a gift of life, and not just something dead.!

We touch food, with respect and love, we eat with our hands accepting food as a gift, we get everyday. Would we wear gloves, before accepting a gift on our birthday.? There is a spiritual and emotional relationship which we need to build with food, and above all how can one simply ignore the heavenly pleasure in eating thus.!

It`s Onam season, which reminds me of how, as children, we used to sit on the floor and eat to our heart content, mixing all the curries, breaking the pappadams and at the end of it all, pouring the hot milk payasam on the plantain leaf and wiping it clean with our fingers..! I wonder whether that experience would have even been a fraction as memorable, if I had eaten with a spoon.!

Most Indian dishes are made to be eaten by the hand, to touch, pinch and tease those naughty white idlis, to tickle and deflate those bloated puris, to twist those rotis and dip in paneer butter masala, all require expert usage of the hands and fingers. How would a mere spoon suffice in ever providing that experience.!

I must, however tell you I am no glutton, I just try to make every meal an experience. Eating with our hands, washing our hands before and after a meal has all been something so integral to our culture, that i am truly finding it hard to digest, that eating with a spoon is becoming a "trend of sorts". Either due to this IT boom, or BPO wave, whatever we call it, we must still remain Indian.! Perhaps even show the world why this Indian gourmet experience is so heavenly because we use our fingers, and promptly lick them too at times.!


Vinod Narayan said...

Well written sir,
May be when people dont want to keep their hands clean (can mean a lot of things :), spoons are a better choice.

But then what can food taste if you cant feel it with your hands

Take care and cheers

Keshi said...

Good one Srijith!

**Eating food with our hands has always been something so intimately Indian

I agree and I love to eat rice n curry with my hands...nothing like it!

but for some others, germs worry em. so they prefer to use a fork or a spoon. There can be many reasons.

But I hate it when Indians/Sri Lankans who's eaten using their hands b4, pretend like they dun like it anymore!


alex said...


I prefer eating noodles and rice also with my hands as i enjoy eating food with my hand. I only use the spoon when i dont want to wash my hand. :)

Deepak said...

Heavenly pleasure in eating food....aahhh.. You're so right!

I have had numerous arguments about the very same topic. Many talk about germs and dirt in your hand. But who gives you the guarantee that there is no dirt in the spoons? :)

But I admit I eat with a spoon or a fork sometimes, just to avoid being stared at.

Sreejith said...

its sad but we seem to have washed our hands off this practice :(

MM said...

Am with u totally on this one, Srijith!! Theres nothing quite like the feel of food on hands before its popped into the mouth!!


Srijith Unni said...

@Marthyan: Yes what can food taste, if you cant feel it with your hands..! Thanks Marthyan, for your support..!

@Keshi: For centuries together, Indians, Srilankans, all, were eating with hands, and haven`t they remained generally healthier than westerners..? I too hate it keshi, when they pretend.. Thanks for your support..!

@Alex: Me too alex, only for hot soup, or rice gruel, i use spoons..

@Deepak: Yes i too am getting very uncomfortable with the staring part. I wish things change..!

@Sreejith: I truly pray we don`t sree..! even if it takes a revolution of sorts.. count me in..!

@Velu: Truly velu.. nothing like it..!
Velu, you`ve started focussing more on movies, I guess.! What about kaleidoscope, my friend.. miss your writings badly.. any plans to come back..?

Dwarak said...

Excellent post da.. There are certain things "Indian" that cannot be compromised on.. the feel is unbeatable.. can u imagine eating "mavadu" with spoon!!But bottomline i feel people should like what they eat and eat in a way that best makes them like the food.. not sure why people look up on people eating with fork and spoon and down on people who use their hands... first of all commenting on someones eating habit is by itself uncultured !!

Naveen said...

Welcome back Srijith ... I can't agree with you more ... the mess etiquettes imbibed from the british in our army don't allow me to eat with my hands when at work ... so i am always awaiting my next leave to get back home and lick my fingers ...:-) ....

Jac said...

Licking my fingers and my palm...yes I do when I am India.

I did it on Onam at Hotel Samudra, Kovalam.

I will do it again.
How dare anybody prevent me !!!

Srijith Unni said...

@Dwarak: Commenting about eating habits is one thing, totally forgetting something so Indian, is the depressing part..!

@Naveen: That`s so sad, naveen. Anyway hope you get to travel home, more often.

@Jac: //I will do it again.
How dare anybody prevent me !!!// -- Exactly..!!! How Dare..!

vallavan manmadhan said...

Do whatever you want, eat with your hand, legs etc... without disturbing others... Also some things like ice cream need spoons..
But I eat with spoon to restrict myself to eat less, with hands I tend to eat a lot

I do not like the forgetting so India, So Pakistani etc.. part, Nothing should be preserved if it is not so useful or comfortable... keep changing, move forward. If something seems to be more comfortable than eating with hand I will change to it

Somethings like rasagula etc are best to be had in a cup than in a banana leaf

Srijith Unni said...

@Vallavan: //I do not like the forgetting so India, So Pakistani etc.. part, Nothing should be preserved if it is not so useful or comfortable... keep changing, move forward.///

I beg to differ. I think these are basic things which define us..! and above all, you are again assuming here, that eating with hands is pre-historic.. Sadly many Indian traditions, which were scientifically and philosophically excellent practices were lost, due to this blind urge to move forward or keep changing. Change should happen, but not without a thought, about why or why not..? In the case of eating with hands, i simply felt that why part weighed more than the why not part of it.!

Prash said...

I am looking forward for that south indian meal served in a banana leaf !!! yummy yummy !!!

Vin said...

i admit i only started eating with my hands a few years back. but since then, my biryani has never tasted better. now to find out what mavadu is :).. hope it's something sweet.