Tuesday, April 7, 2015

No meat, What to eat: Poor dalit Maharashtra asks: NaMo,

New Delhi | Published on:April 5, 2015 1:00 am                                         
For example, chunchuni is dried and salted beef which is stored sometimes for an entire year, and consumed when families have no money to buy vegetables. Kandawani is a dish made with only onions, with a similar philosophy: to be made when nothing else is available. “Rakti might sound gross to you but is quite nutritious. It is made of coagulated chunks of cattle blood. No part of the animal was wasted,” says Thosar, whose family is from Rohkal village in Osmanabad district’s Paranda Taluka, and who belongs to the Mahar community. Dalits possess their own distinct culinary traditions, she says, but they never figure in any cookbooks, “which only mention upper-caste recipes”.
The book acknowledges that food was central to the concept of untouchability as the Brahminical order first decided who would eat what, and later made it a mark of pure and impure status.
The probable history of why Dalits took to beef lies in the upper-caste Hindu’s aversion to meat as he began to afford a range of vegetables and dairy products. For Dalits, who couldn’t buy richer meats like chicken or mutton, beef remained a staple. “Often it would be the dried meat of dead and decaying cattle. One cooked liver or innards which came at one-third the price. These are fatty portions and require less oil to cook too. For a woman like Ratikar, who gets Rs 50 a day can only spend Rs 40 once in a week to buy beef innards, any other meat is unthinkable,” says Thosar.
The Ingles live in a mixed colony. Here, the mostly fisherfolk Dalit community cohabit with the Qureshi butchers and meat handlers working at the abattoir across the street. The Ingles would buy beef twice a week, mostly at a discounted rate, from their neighbours. While the market rates were Rs 140 a kg, the Ingles would get fresh beef from the abattoir at Rs 100 a kg.
“We bought beef, because it is tastier and relatively cheaper,” says Lalita, who sells fish at the docks. “Now, we bring home more prawns and Bombay Duck to compensate,” she says. More than the dish, the Ingles say, the grim mood at their neighbours’ makes them wish the ban would be repealed. “Chalo, in desperation, we can manage with dal-chawal also. But for our friends, it is a question of their livelihood,” says Sagar Ingle, Lalita’s 22-year-old son.
Thosar believes the ban on beef (except meat from water buffaloes) in Maharashtra will spell disaster for the community. “Imagine the chief protein source vanishes from your diet. Soon prices of water buffalo will go up too. Will they be able to afford it?” she says.
But April 1 was a special day for the Ingles. Their neighbours and close friends wereback on duty at the abattoir. “It’s twice the excitement today. Our neighbours have got their jobs back and we will get beef tonight,” says Sagar, referring to the Qureshi community returning to their jobs, this time culling only water buffaloes. “Just yesterday, my father who cannot live without beef, planned to go to Mumbra. He heard they were selling beef there. Legal or illegal, my father did not care. That’s how much he misses it,” he says.
For one night, at least, the smell of beef curry would waft through this lane

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