Other States

'Poha a poor man's meal, indispensable to Indore'

As a group of labourers ate Indori poha — for which vendors are seeking a GI tag — heaped over a plate in their centre, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed they were Bangladeshi migrants, and had to be extradited. Yet, the city’s residents claim the flattened rice dish is very much their own, affords them a headstart each morning and remains indispensable to the local cuisine.

“I got suspicious which country are they from that they eat poha filling plates like this,” said Mr. Vijayvargiya at a meeting to spread awareness on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. “You don’t know where all infiltrators could be.”

Pushpesh Pant, food critic and historian, said poha is the city’s signature dish, a nutritious cereal breakfast. Yet, it’s origins lie in the realm of conjecture - though still in India.

“The Holkars and Scindias came to Madhya Pradesh from Maharashtra where the dish is popular. In Madhya Pradesh, wherever Maratha rulers went you can find common dishes like shrikhand and poha. So, it is logical to assume marathas warriors brought it to the north india and the Malwa region,” he said.

A possible reference to poha is also made in the epic Mahabharata, when Sudama offered it to his childhood friend Krishna.

While the dish is blended with potatoes or curd in Maharashtra, in Madhya Pradesh, especially in the Nimar-Malwa region, either bhujiya is sprinkled on the top, or jalebi or kachori is crushed with it, resulting in a tangy blend. “The Ratlam district, close to Indore, is famous for sev, hence the bhujiya touch. It lends a texture, a crunchy taste to poha which is otherwise soft. And chillies or peanuts help variate it seasonally,”

The easy availability of Poha of streets, and labourers' dependence on it, claims Mr. Pant, is an incorporation of urbanised living. “The poor mostly have roti, daal and chawal before going to fields in villages. But, when they come to a city, they must change their diet. So, poha comes up as a low cost, filling meal,” he said.

“Labourers eat it because it’s cheaper. And they can have it the way they want,” he said, of the staple breakfast sold for Rs. 10 a plate on the streets in Indore.

Asserting that India was still a free country, Mr. Pant said, “Indoris should be proud of poha and others having it. The poor can eat only what they can afford.”

Stating that Mr. Vijayvargiya, being the party incharge for West Bengal, had studied the State’s culture thoroughly, BJP state media chief Lokendra Parashar said, “That poha was not the issue, but how it was had by the labourers. He had inputs that Bangladeshi infiltrators were after him, and that’s why he’d even received a security cover after request to the Centre.”

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 7:31:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/poha-a-poor-mans-meal-indispensable-to-indore/article30649954.ece

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