‘Exploring traditional food and modern dilemma’ | Milaap

‘Exploring traditional food and modern dilemma’

I did not have to wait for my field officer to direct me towards the working space of Bimola. My body floated towards the aroma of something which was in the process of baking. I couldn’t tell just from the aroma of what was in making that was helplessly making me gulp down my saliva all the way to her working room. I was guessing of ‘nakuppi (Asian chives)’ which is used widely in North-east India or Asia as garnishing ingredients. In Manipur, nakuppi is often replaced over onion. It exerts a blended overwhelming aroma of onion and ginger. And you cannot imagine how it soothes your palate until you have tasted it.

                                                                        Figure 1: Asian chives

I witnessed Bimola and two other women who were working in a poorly structured shed. The thatched were all covered in black fumes, which kind of bring out the rustic rural frame.

                                                                        Figure 2: working space

I didn’t waste any time and noted down the ingredients of preparing bori (local soy chunks). Surprisingly, they were basic ingredients such as grounded lentils, gram flour, cumin seeds, asafetida, coriander seeds, salt, oil, nakuppi (Asian chives) and napakpi (winter leek). Charcoal is also one of the materials required for cooking it. One cannot prepare bori in high flames, it needs to be placed over a low flame and keep changing their position.

Bimola and her friends are popular for their products. Because of them, the neighbourhood is known as ‘bori-leikai (bori-place)’. Bimola learned it from her mother-in-law and now everyone is her protégé. She is bringing in uninterrupted income to her family. I noticed her passion for her work, but she is glad that her children will not be replacing her. ‘All of them are educated and will soon be working in an office. I respect my work but I am afraid they will do the same. Their generations have a different understanding of work. They all want to earn more and soon, they do not have the passion or even patience. And my work requires patience’, she said it out loud without any pinch of disappointment.  

                                               Figure 3: Bimola and her famous bori

Her statement gave away the dilemma of many more mothers who are proud of their work. They learned their work from their elders and they want to pass it on to their children, which seldom works.

Traditional occupations are often not receiving the attention and respect it deserves. I have met 120 rural women in the span of 3 months, who are either in handloom business or artwork or native food producers; and most of their children are least bothered about their work.

I would be the inappropriate person to comment on why the present generation is distant from traditions. It saddens me how our traditional ways are fading away with time. I am beginning to question my contribution towards preserving native tradition. I can think of one thing, and that is, to keep pace with modern society, we have suppressed the necessity of keeping our traditions alive.