Fasting and Feasting

Update for fortnight ended 20 February 2015

This week, many Indians spend most of their Tuesday fasting. And Fasting takes a different meaning in India depending on the region you are in. It is by no means, staying away from food. It is staying away from chosen foods….. or in some cases, excluded foods. So in the North of India where the devout Hindu believes that by fasting, they will get the boons that the Gods are about to bestow upon “fasting” devotees, they decide to stay pure to fasting. So no grains, no pulses…. but all else will do and there is no moderation here. So grains are replaced by carb loaded sweet potatoes, or plain potatoes and water chestnuts, and buckwheat. These are patted into little doughballs and flattened and cooked on hot griddles with loads of pure “desi” ghee. Oils are to be avoided as well. Sometimes, these flatbreads are fried into golden puffball breads or “puris” and eaten with potatoes seasoned with rocksalt. Peanuts are welcome, as also fruits in all shapes and colours. Milk is not only used for worship, but also gulped down in litres, if not gallons. And as you move east, where the fish is considered vegetarian, this is a day, when males in the house can partake of their vegetarian fish while the women cook their favourite sweetmeats to be offered to the Gods. As one traverses to the south, the only exclusion to the fasting feast is rice. So no rice…. which is unheard of in their meals, is a huge sacrifice. The rice is replaced by snacky wheat chapatis or rotis. sometimes, the craving for a ‘ricey’ dish gets the innovative south Indian to mix the wheat flour with water and salt and temper it with the ever present mustard seeds, and then ladled onto a well oiled hot griddle, to be spread out into thin doshais. Of course, the common factor with their northern brethren are the fruits. However, as India fasts, their close competitors (or at least in Indian’s minds) start preparing for their annual feast with the families. Families start getting together as many traverse miles in sardine can packed trains that criss cross the cold and frosty countrysides of China to get their hometowns, almost like salmons that brave dangers of rapids, and have jump up waterfalls to reach their “birth places”… trying to avoid the hungry, fat paws of the grizzlies as they wait for easy prey that swims against the current and so is tired. Much like these salmons, the packed sardine Chinese are also prey to petty thieves aboard these crowded iron snakes that gorge on and vomit out human beings as they snake  through the countryside. So the family dinner will have the favourite pork and perhaps some chicken and for seaside residents, there will be plenty of seafood on the table; all to be eaten amidst gaiety and family fun.

Festivities were in the air on D Street as the D Boyz gathered their favourite fast foods for the festival around the corner. Many had asked fro boons or blessings at least, and hoped to get them answered by “sacrificing” the excluded food group from their meals during the day. While some D Boyz did not touch wheat and pulses, some stayed away from rice. But all of them had their share of fruits and milk which must have kept them in good health, as they could not only lift their SENSEX, but actually hoist it above their shoulders to above 29000 for the entire fortnight or so … and even today when they sat down to partake their meal, the SENSEX did slip and that too about 240 points, but still the SENSEX was at 29231… The red buntings of the Chinese New Year feast not withstanding, the treats on the table did get the D Boyz’ mouths watering and they are waiting for their “competitors” to be back next week to see if they can taste the mandarin oranges and its goodness as well hope to receive their red packets.

The Chinese believe that a monster like creature visits homes on the Lunar New Year new Moon night, so to ward it away, they light up red lanterns and paste red sayings on their doors. This is supposed to scare away the monster and therefore protect the Chinese. And then they gift little red packets of cash to the little ones for staying awake all night on new year’s eve, as gratitude while also gifting it to older members of the family as a way of telling them that they need not be worried of expenses as now they have the cash. And for the givers, the saying goes that “One who gives is One who has”, so it means that prosperity is already with you.

With that thought, wishing you all a Happy Lunar New Year …..



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