This is the first chapter in this series and the topic for discussion was destined even before this idea was born. It had to be about the food. Nothing else could be thought of as being so mysterious and archaic about the north Indian food to the southee and vice versa. So there you go. Enjoy your meal.
Eating out in Delhi is a custom that is common to all metros. Mostly because the unmarried and educated working lads and gals do not have time to cook after a hectic day at work. The wealthy, usually afford a cook. But for post-grad-medico-students like us eating out is a routine act. It's usually the hostel mess, or the roadside dhaba and rarely the proper 'restaurant'.
Often I go out with my northee lads to such eateries. In the initial days, I wouldn't care less if someone asked for some piyaaz before ordering the meal itself or if someone asked for more piyaaz during a meal. By the way piyaaz is Hindi for onion or venkayam. Here in north, people use only the bigger version of the vegetable, I doubt that they would be even aware of the smaller variety that is so commonly used in the south and which is much more tastier (so says my mom!). Back to the hotel scene, as time grew I found myself wondering if this behaviour is normal. NO!! was the answer my brain immediately sprang at me. As any southee would tell you, eating raw piyaaz is a big no-no as it makes your breath go stale. It is true actually. However, the northee would almost obsessively and instantly look to chuck down a bunch of piyaaz springs down that throat, almost reflexively. The habit is so pervasive that they may have meal without water but not without piyaaz, even kids are affected. But, hey! who am I to judge?, they also drink sambar in a glass with spoon.
Ever wondered why there is so much political conniption when the piyaaz prices go up. It has always been my inexplicable mystery while growing up down south. Political parties take to the road, agitating against the government, accusing each other over hoarding, poor crop management and illegal exports. Recently in Delhi, the ruling party was staging a 'road roko' for the rise. Confusing, isn't it? It would be even for the seasoned economist if he wasn’t a local. The mystery finally unfolded, and I had to come to the Capitol for the answer. Piyaaz is so entwined in the northee cuisine and so ingrained in their taste buds, that it is almost equivalent to the breathing air for them. If you ask me for a southee equivalent, I would probably think for a while and still I would come up with a few competing answers, no unanimous winner. History shows us that piyaaz holds to the key to government, here at least in the north. It has the power to make or break The Government. In my opinion, piyaaz symbolizes the true spirit of democracy in a country where common symbols are uncommon.
I must confess now, that after three years I have taken a liking to the piyaaz, as a symbol of unity, as a vegetable and as a revolutionary. However I miss the taste of small onions and the rice broth that goes along well with it.