It is rather cumbersome to listen to people talk things of past and present, what’s better or worse, their thoughts on change. So when poha crossed the state borders from Maharashtra in all directions, a hotel breakfast poha in Rajasthan becomes an object of contention. But a poha doesn’t have tomatoes, or coriander, cannot be too spicy, but tomatoes make it better, no they don’t, who puts cashews. They could let it rest but why should they, it is a matter of pride for the taste of home. But home is different for everyone, so why can’t poha be too?
I wanna start a sentence saying “originating in Indore” but it leads to instant snooze while writing, let alone reading, and it is especially irrelevant here. While it was probably invented in Madhya Pradesh, it “feels” like a staple of Maharashtra, perhaps what happens when people are loud enough to claim it so for decades and a white lie becomes part of public memory. Another piece claimed it originated very much is Maharashtra, and reached Indore to be its final form that we know today. I should probably write a piece saying it was invented in Tripura and confuse the internet. But the poha I know best was invented in my mum’s kitchen, and for many years I did not enjoy it until I did, one day, for nostalgia over my college food and freedom. In my own experience with it from past to present, it went from a dish I avoided to one I throughly enjoyed. From my changing financial dependence from others to self, and independence in kitchen from being fed to feeding, I worked with the dish myself and it grew with me. Many now frown over my ego, all the drawbacks of “women with own minds”, and my version of poha remains under-appreciated. But you sustain, and go on cooking, thinking, making your own decisions, skip the peas, change your job, add coconut, don’t call-back that person, milk and curd, say no.
But I am getting philosophical here about beaten rice based dish. Studying in Pune made it the cheapest, healthiest and most accessible breakfast food. And what a delight it was to walk to college and halt at a poha stall that served it with chilis and tea. It was also one of the rare items the hostel mess did not destroy, and our spirits were intact that one day a week when poha was on the menu. Chinese menu broke our spirits usually, and our intestines. My mother’s poha includes no tomatoes, even though she is an ardent supporter of the fruit. So it was wildly refreshing to eat a friend’s version one time, my eyes popped out with a new taste in my mouth that was unlike my mother’s cooking and nobody came to collect my soul so I consoled myself that liking it wasn’t a sin. Hotel poha dhabas poha friend’s tiffin poha all different, all unique, all tasting like home.
So I find it rather annoying that someone sitting at a breakfast buffet can call out to the waiter and say they didn’t “like” it. Change is a constant human experience, and so is our resistance to it. They talk of women changing with times and being more independent as “something good but also something bad you know old ways led to such good family lives”. This need to validate the experience of self as the prime most important experience is shortsighted, and it stops people from enjoying something evolving with time and borders to dwelling over little ingredients, tomatoes, bhujiya, cashews, freedom, financial independence, motherhood, freedom. Accept a poha for all that is it, however it is, as long as it tastes good to you.
Does growing up mean you like cooking of other mothers? Shivers.