NOTE FROM THE SERIES EDITOR
by Dr. Sourav Banerjee
TMYS Review, a quarterly imprint of www.tellmeyourstory.biz (TMYS), began in 2020 with the vision of popularising stories from personal experiences and academic research. Diverse themes covered under TMYS Review are conscious about documenting women's history of a generation because for every subject, every topic, women have a different story to tell which points towards all those aspects that the society as a whole and people individually must take note and respond to. The effort has been recognised by global thought leaders and universities with their generous participation and/or collaborations. TMYS Review works on sparking gender sensitivity by engaging a community of emerging and established scholars/writers through creative writing and critical thinking. The primary audience comprises of students – the future torchbearers and other literary enthusiasts, who are constantly inspiring and moulding the world with their words.
By Dr. Sarmila Paul
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving, and identity.”
Jonathan Sofran Foer
Under the broad theme of “Cultural Identity and Ideology” the TMYS Review September 2022 attempted to pursue the evolution and augmentation of the extraordinary culinary culture of India through the exploration of “Food and Drinks”. Considering the sheer abstruseness of the religious and ideological intricacies prevalent in India, the idea of critically engaging with the culinary traditions of this vast territory called India initially seemed to be an audacious attempt on part of the team. However, the expansive canyons of the culinary terrain turned out to be the continuous source of inspiration and encouragement to unearth the yet unexplored avenues in the understanding of food consumption behaviour and the influence of religion, culture, ideology and identity in determining the same. If the synchronic study of the consumption patterns in India across religions emerged out to be a sinuous process, the diachronic study appeared to be no less anfractuous. Nevertheless, this assiduous endeavour to extensively investigate into this enormous field of study turned out to be pertinent in fecundating the existing oeuvre of research.
Poet: Somrita Urni Ganguly
Dr. Somrita Urni Ganguly is a professor, and award-winning poet and literary translator. She was a Fulbright Doctoral Research Fellow at Brown University, and is an alumna of the University of East Anglia’s International Literary Translation and Creative Writing Summer School. Somrita served as a judge for the PEN America Translation Prize, and an Expert Reader for the English PEN Translation Grant, the National Endowment for the Arts Translation Grant offered by the US federal government, and the National Translation Award (US). She is currently Head of the Department of English, Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, University of Calcutta. Her work has been showcased at the London Book Fair, and she has read in cities like Bloomington, Bombay, Boston, Calcutta, Cove, Delhi, Hyderabad, London, Miami, Providence, and Singapore. Somrita edited the first anthology of food poems, Quesadilla and Other Adventures (2019), and translated 3 Stories: Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (2021), Firesongs (2019), Shakuni (2019), and The Midnight Sun: Love Lyrics and Farewell Songs (2018), among other works.
As the monsoon clouds came ripe
So did our love
Pregnant with possibilities
We walked through wet fields
Our feet sinking in the mud in unison
Hand in hand
Skin against skin
Playful fingers intertwined
Poet: Vinita Agrawal
Author of four books of poetry - Two Full Moons (Bombaykala Books), Words Not Spoken (Brown Critique), The Longest Pleasure (Finishing Line Press) and The Silk Of Hunger (AuthorsPress), Vinita is an award winning poet, editor, translator and curator of literary events. She is based in Indore, India. She was joint recipient of the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2018 and winner of the Gayatri GaMarsh Memorial Award for Literary Excellence, USA, 2015. She was awarded the third prize in the Proverse Poetry prize 2018 and special mention in the Hawkers Prize 2019. Her work was shortlisted for the inaugural Dipankar Khiwani Memorial prize 2021. Her poems have won first prize at Hour of Writes. She won the Wordweavers Poetry contest in 2014 and the first prize in the Architectural Poetry Competition, 3rd Cycle – Improvisation 2021. She is Poetry Editor with Usawa Literary Review. Her poems have been published in Mascara Literary Review, Human Obscura, The Global South, Amphibian, Fox Chase Review, Indian Quarterly, Asian Cha, Punch Magazine to name a few. Her edited works include Open Your Eyes- an anthology on climate change (Hawakal) and a Memoir-Anthology - Kashmiri poet Ghulam Rasool Nazki (Ink Links). In 2021 and 2022 she co-edited the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English (Hawakal). She was featured in a documentary Deepest Uprising, on twenty women poets from Asia, produced in Taiwan. She is on the Advisory Board of the Tagore Literary Prize and on the Global Judging Panel of the SheInsprawrds. Her manuscript Twilight Language is a finalist for the Proverse prize 2022. She is a keen birder and an amateur photographer. www.vinitawords.com
It isn't just food
this melting sweetness
encrusted in a crisp pastry
murmuring in the mouth.
The crests in the painstakingly crimped
dough that forms it’s decorative edges,
seem like the peaks of our tender bond.
Poet: Smeetha Bhoumik
Smeetha Bhoumik is a poet, artist, founding editor - Yugen Quest Review, and founder of the WE literary community (2016). She is Chief Editor of Equiverse Space - A Sound Home in Words (a WE anthology, Notion, 2018). Her art, mainly the 'Universe Series' has shown in exhibitions in India and abroad. Her favourite poetic form is the sestina. She facilitates poetry at #CeWoPoWriMoWE. As Founder – WE, she has helped establish several awards, including the WE Kamala Das Poetry Award. Her poems feature in national/ international journals, anthologies including Oxygen - Parables of the Pandemic 2022, Quesadilla & Other Adventures 2019, Muse India 2017, 2018, Life and Legends 2018, Modern Indian Poetry – Sahitya Akademi, 2019, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Open Your Eyes - A Climate Change Anthology, Freedom Raga, Poetry & Covid project - Universities of Plymouth, and Nottingham Trent, Writing Language, Culture - Asia vs Africa, Mwanaka, among others.
Introduction to the poem:
Somrita Urni Ganguly's adventurous vision of food (Referred after the poem) weaves in intricate strands of history, sociology, literature, politics, prejudice, culture and tradition into tasty morsels, seemingly embedded like spice in every bite we've ever tasted; for food is a geography too, where everything melds! It is the great bubbling cauldron of hierarchy that measures out portions - how much for whom (women, men, this group, that group, others), in what way (women may party, but daintily - Victorian fiat), and when - festive rituals, ceremonies, fasts, traditions, or just normal, everyday fare.
Chandra, Nishita, Somrita Urni Ganguly and Sarmila Paul. “Gendered Subjectivities Governing Nutrition Patterns”. Religious History of Food Consumption Series. “Cultural Identity & Ideology (II)”. Interview by Stella Chitralekha Biswas. TMYS Review. 5 June 2022, https://fb.watch/eMk2E7p70d/
In short, food is not just about nutrition and ingredients,
But a theatre of dichotomies,
An enhanced sensory perception of almost every
Human emotion/facet that defines or differentiates it.
Food is where cultural highways meet or
Where people bond or
Go their way,
Fish Out of Water
Author: Sarveswari Saikrishna
Sarveswari Saikrishna is a short story writer, currently working towards her MFA Creative Writing degree from Writer’s Village University. Her stories are published in the literary magazines, TMYS Review, Third Lane and Meanpeppervine (scheduled). One story fetched The Best Story title from the highly regarded literary magazine, TMYS Review. She was a finalist in the mentorship project offered by Writers Beyond Borders in the year 2020.She is proud to be a part of several anthologies published by Artoonsinn and Hive. She also has articles published in The Open Page, The Hindu, to her credit. Apart from literary magazines and anthologies, her stories are available in Artoonsinn website (https://writers.artoonsinn.com/members/sarveswari-sai-krishna/submissions/). She lives in Chennai with her family and dreams of a day when she can write without interruptions.
The class of eager 10-years-olds, who were enthusiastically answering all her questions on nutrition, fell silent when Kayal told them that meat was an excellent source of protein. Many looked at her as if that information could not be of any use to them. A few giggled and threw looks at Sebastian, the new boy, who did not make friends even after three weeks of joining the school under RTE act.
“And fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. I am sure many of you know this,” she continued.
One bold girl in the front desk crinkled her nose and said, “Sebastian brings the smelly gravy to school every day.” The giggles threatened to spill over into a ruckus.
Kayal knew what they meant. Dried fish gravy was not for the fainthearted, certainly not for kids who had never tasted meat. As for her, she loved the pungent and tart gravy, one of those dishes that always tasted better the next day. Oh! How much she missed eating it with hot rice and a dash of gingelly oil.
Kayal looked at her class and said, “Did you know our ancestors ate plump rat meat roasted in ghee?” She smiled and nodded in answer to their collective gasp. “I mean it. It is mentioned in Sangam literature.”
“Eweooo,” someone vented out their repulsion and thankfully, at that moment, the bell rang for lunch recess. Had the kids asked her more about it, the paadal or thogupu from the ancient Tamil literature in which the lines were mentioned, she would have not known. This was just one of those information she had picked up while she was dating Sridhar, to boost up her moral support in favour of eating meat. Luckily, Sridhar, her husband now, never questioned her eating habits and there was no need for her to use the unnecessary trivia. But there were days when she felt defensive about it because he was a vegetarian. When their relationship had shown promise, she had tried to persuade him to taste meat.
Author: Sangeetha Vallat
Sangeetha Vallat had a memorable career spanning 14 years in the Indian Railways after which she opted for voluntary retirement. She now stays in Qatar, surrounded by Books and Water. The balcony overlooking the Persian Gulf inspires her to weave tales. She believes that life is a roller coaster ride and the adventure one encounters while soaring or plunging are worth sharing. Books, friends, and conversations spice up her lifHer short stories are part of anthologies titled – 21 stories for ’21, Everything Changed after That, Asian Literary Society 2021 Anthology, Existing Loudly, and Grieving and Healing.
I trudged down the stairs with palms spreadeagled under my football belly. The chanting of AUM from the stereo pervaded the room. On the swaying wooden swing sat my Appa rolling the beads of the tasbih (Islamic prayer bead).
‘Do you still listen to this every day, Appa?’ I eased into the high-backed chair and rested my swollen feet on the footstool.
‘Old habits die hard, kannamma. Along with your Umma's coffee, this too percolated into my system. I will get you coffee.’ Appa ambled to the kitchen, not before thrusting a cushion for my back.
My Umma smiled, perched on the wall behind the haze of incense. We took this picture on vacation in Ooty. Umma made matching outfits for us. She looked adorable in any attire. I was a pale shadow of her. A recurring joke amongst my friends was that the hospital must have swapped me as an infant.
Umma hailed from an affluent Iyengar family of lawyers and antagonized everyone when she eloped with the son of an Imam. Fortunately, the families were non-believers in honour killing, and Appa and Umma became the poster couple for religious harmony. Well, I addressed Umma in the Malayalee-Muslim way and Appa like the Tamil-Brahmin.
‘Nothing like a fresh decoction coffee.’ Appa's eyes crinkled as he cautiously handed over the steaming cup.
‘Ah, the aroma! Where's yours?’
‘Ramzan roza (fasting), Kannamma.’
‘Tch, I forgot. Suraj has sent a box of dates for you.’
‘Nowadays, I am turning into a tea person. Suraj prefers tea. He loves sulaimani (spiced black tea).’ The colourful bangles on my hands from the valakaapu (baby shower) ceremony tinkled like the wind chime back home. Hah, wasn't this also my home? I missed Suraj. Already. While there, I missed my Appa. If only, one could have everyone around.
‘Hmmm. My choice changed into Umma's beverage, so the cycle continues.’
The caffeine smell conjured a memory, and a smile tugged at my lips. When I was in grade six, Umma was unwell, and I wished to surprise my Appa by making coffee, unaware that he always had tea first in the morning. So, mixing a smidgen of filter-coffee powder into a cup of lukewarm milk, I offered it to Appa. He beamed at me, unmindful of the flotsam, gulped it and declared it the best coffee ever.
Wind Beneath Your Wing
Author: Natasha Sharma
Natasha Sharma is a freelance software developer who moonlights as a writer. She has been a voracious consumer of the written word since her childhood and is never without a book (or a Kindle) by her side. A true-blue feminist, she is passionate about creating awareness of gender inequality and other social issues. At the same time, her work displays a characteristic streak of cleverness and wit. Her stories have been published in several online magazines like eShe, Reading Frame, Thinking Pen, eFiction Project, and Penmancy, amongst others. Her op-ed pieces and other articles can be found on leading web portals such as MoneyControl, SheThePeople, and Women’sWeb. Last year, her winning story was featured in the eShe and Embassy Books joint venture, a paperback, Everything Changed After That. She has finished penning her first full-length novel and is seeking to publish it while working on her second one. Natasha lives in Pune with her husband and daughter, and their furry friend, a Labrador Retriever by the name of Biscuit.
‘Uda ja kale kauva, tere mooh wich khand paawa…’ blares on, annoying me, and I’m tempted to knock it off, but the only reason I don’t is that the owner of the erstwhile mobile is my only child. He’s also partly the reason why I’m languishing in this… crow avatar.
Angad, despite my several lectures on the importance of traditional ceremonies, never paid attention, forever busy with his friends. And when I breathed my last, he skimmed over the rituals, always in a hurry. As a result, my soul was denied the chance of reincarnation. I’m stuck in the body of a crow, hovering over Angad in a real helicopter-parenting mode.
As I perch on the truck’s open cabin, the sizzling tempering scatters, and I angle my neck to avoid being hit by the incoming hot mustard seeds. Sheesh! When will Angad learn to lower the burner to avoid the violent spluttering?
I flap my wings to express my displeasure, and catch his attention. He stares at me with his mouth agape. I’m overwhelmed by an urge to run a comforting hand over his head, but I remember I’m a bird. With wings and talons. A big, ugly bird. And a black one at that!
When I was alive, my complexion was peaches-and-white-cream, and to be reduced to being a black crow is demeaning. Punjabis are extremely proud of their fair skin. Why couldn’t I’ve been a dove? They’re white and gorgeous. Maybe it’s something I did in my previous birth. Actually, in the human birth… thoughts for another day.
Today I’ve got to keep a beady eye out on my still-human, still-stupid son as he cooks. It’s that time of the year when we celebrate Ma Durga for nine days, and Angad is solely in charge of the food truck since I’m dead. He’s expected to cook homemade food for the office-goers who still want to fast but don’t have access to very-specific dishes.
The food truck, Khaan-di-load, was my idea. Punjabis have a strong bond with lorries, and to convert its loading dock as part-kitchen/part-restaurant, despite my husband’s many objections, revved off surprisingly well. Youngsters, especially, enjoyed the novelty of dining on a truck, and slowly the aroma of my cooking led their elders here. My specialty is… was vrat food during the religious festivals. People would flock to Khaan-di-load to savour my aloo-chat, rajgira puris, and sago kheer. Devotion to God and stomach pampering – two Punjabi milestones – were fulfilled here.
Author: Karen Dipnarine-Saroop
Author Intro: Karen Dipnarine-Saroop is the granddaughter of East Indian immigrants to Trinidad and Tobago. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Political Science and Literature from Osmania University in India and a master’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Her first short fiction story, “Mohur,” was published in an anthology of short stories on Moolah in 2021. Karen is a contributor to Chintan India Foundation Blogs and has delivered academic papers on Indian Diaspora and Culture at Columbia University in the USA, Pravaasi Bharatiya Divas, and the University of the West Indies, among others. Karen served as an Associate Editor in Pragna Bharati in India and as Vice President of Health & Wellness in the International Center for Cultural Studies in the USA. She co-founded The Green Brain Initiative (Sacred Earth Project) with her husband, Sudesh Saroop, in 2010.
Ramu, the village leader, arrived at Sharma’s house at the top of the hill. He bore a noticeably heavy brow as he steered the creaky bullock cart into a small open space at the back of the unstained wooden house. The barahi (twelfth-day childbirth celebration) was almost finished. A short distance away, Sharma’s daughter, Devi, sat in the middle of a wide, brand-new, light pink bedsheet, which had been spread flat on the short grass in the shade of a laden starch mango tree. Most of the village ladies sat in concentric circles around her. Devi rocked her 12-day old baby gently in her arms while her mother circulated five small rocks around both and chanted, “Royni joyni peechhe chal, hasney khelay aage chal (crying and sorrow go away, laughter and playfulness come here).”
Ramu alighted from the cart. There was a bustle of activity underway in the makeshift kitchen beneath the open navy-blue tarpaulin shed, which adjoined the side of the house. The fire leapt and skipped from the open seams of the loosely woven dry wood to the surface and fuelled three large, smooth, charred, earthen chulhas (stoves). The playful banter and laughter of a few village ladies rang through the air. One of them shouted, “Nobody juthaa (taste) this food until Devi eat, eh! Maruti, the roti finish cooking?”
The lone man amidst the ladies responded, “The last one ready to go on the tawa now.”
Ramu watched as his best friend, Maruti, the thirtyish, lanky, village prayers-and-wedding- cook, moved with the enchanting grace of a dancer in front of the cast-iron tawa (flat plate), which measured an enormous three feet in diameter. Maruti picked up a weighty piece of layered dough that had been rolled out thin and folded into quarters. He placed it carefully on the hot tawa with the pointed tip in the center and unfurled it. The dough occupied every inch of the tawa. Maruti moved quickly now. Tiny bubbles began to form on the surface of the dough. He picked up a wooden wand on which there was a bundle of broad, greasy strips of cloth tied to one end and brushed the dough lightly with oil. Then, in a nimble manoeuvre using two long, flat wooden spatulas, Maruti lifted the mammoth roti and flipped it. Ramu, his mood visibly lightened now, almost applauded the deft move, but instead exclaimed, “Arey vaah!”
Note on the Cup
Author: Shivangi Singh
Shivangi Singh lives in the U.S. with her husband, two boys, and Happy Singh, the dog. A self-published author, she is passionate about creating storybooks for children. Currently, she works as a content writer and educator. When creative ideas visit her, she captures them in her blog - Stories by Shivangi. She loves the folk-art forms of India and often creates art inspired by the Indian culture. Before coming to the U.S. from India, she worked as a journalist with Zee News and covered entertainment and literary stories. She had the opportunity to interview writers like the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, Khushwant Singh, Ruskin Bond, William Dalrymple, Hari Kunzru, Amitav Ghosh, and Chetan Bhagat, to name a few. She holds a master’s degree in English and has received recognition for her creative writing skills from organizations such as UNFPA and TMYS.
The Handyman heard gentle footsteps on the stairs and smiled. Rubbing his rough cold hands, he swiftly walked towards the stairway to receive tea.
He thought of thanking the lady for making tea and chatting a little about the weather but before he could do that, she left.
This daily ritual of giving and receiving began when he first met the lady and her husband, Kumar to discuss their basement project. He noticed that while Kumar was chatty, the lady hardly spoke.
Was she shy or just uncomfortable speaking English? Or both?
Minnesota winter is brutal, especially in January when the festive season ends and the long dreary wait for Spring begins.
But that winter had been unbelievably cold and busy for him. He was working on multiple projects one after the other to save enough money to buy a cabin by Lake Superior. But raging snowstorms jeopardized his schedules and resulted in payment delays.
At most homes where he worked, couples led fast-paced lives balancing work and life. They would give him instructions about their projects and then leave him to it.
But working at her house was different. There was a sweet sense of respite that reminded him of his childhood when he lived on a ranch with his grandparents. His parents had died when he was young, and he found solace in nature. Towards his middle age, he began to prefer non-committed relationships after a failed marriage. On most days while measuring the walls, the Handyman could hear her walk on the upper floor. Sometimes, he heard her speaking to her folks in an Indian language. Occasionally, she hummed a strange melancholic song that reminded him of the fragrance of her tea. And every day at twelve, she would bring tea for him, without fail.
Writing Against Hunger: Foods of Deprivation and the Making of the Marginal Subjects
Author: Dr. Samrat Sengupta
Author’s Intro: Dr. Samrat Sengupta is an Associate Professor, Dept. of English, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University. His research interests include Experimental Bengali Literature. Gender studies, Post-structuralism, Memory Studies and Posthumanism. He has Guest edited a special issue of the international journal Sanglap on “Caste in Humanities”. His first Bengali monograph on Pratibader Pathokrom (Syllabi of Resistance) has been published this year. His co-edited volume on Bengali experimental writer Nabarun Bhattacharya titled Nabarun Bhattacharya: Aesthetics and Politics in a World after Ethics has been published by Bloomsbury.
The present essay attempts to trace the aesthetics and politics of food through a reading of Bengali literary narratives on hunger. What is understood as food gets transformed in moments of hunger. Hunger, however, this essay shall show, is not confined to states of exception such as famine. It is a continuous and permanent disaster for some even in plenitude. Food from the standpoint of the marginalized is not something to satiate hunger but is understood in terms of the lack produced by hunger. Through terms such as ‘hunger food’ and ‘foods of deprivation’, this essay would further examine the strategies of the marginal community to survive and resist the lack of food and how perpetual deprivation determines their understanding of food. Foods of deprivation unlike hunger food is not only related to particular moments of hunger but to a culture of deprivation for the marginalized outcaste communities which makes them resilient to the food hierarchies they experience. The present essay focuses on the food hierarchies and culinary apartheid and examines their role in the formation of resistant identity of the subaltern, more particularly the Dalit subjects. The article shows how in the moments of crisis familiar food like rice or bhakari gets defamiliarized and hunger food is produced. Unlike the traditional narratives of hunger that focuse on specific moments like famine, the more recent narratives from Dalit writers show how certain communities experience culinary apartheid even in supposedly normal times and how instead of being passive sufferers they offer ways of resistance through different dietary choices and eating practices meant for surviving hunger.
Keywords: Food Hierarchies, Culinary Apartheid, Dalits, Discomfort food, Hunger, Famine
“The rice, cereals, oil, salt that is transported from warehouse to warehouse, bought and sold, but never reaches the poor is called food…It is difficult to spell out ten different things and hence you use the general term food, you demand a solution for food crisis. But instead of stressing yourself you could have simply replaced the word food with chal [uncooked rice]”
– Manik Bandyopadhyay, “Kere Khayni Keno” (“Why Didn’t They Snatch Their food”, Translations mine) [Bandyopadhyay 204, 1972]
The Astonishing Smell of Rice – Proper Food versus Hunger Food.
The above quote from a short story by mid-twentieth century Bengali author Manik Bandyopadhyay employs a play of meanings around food and rice. It deepens when translated from Bangla, as both bhat and chal, the words for cooked and uncooked rice, in the English language would be denoted with the common word rice. Bandyopadhyay’s narrator Jogi while trying to describe why people in hunger during the 1943 Great Bengal famine did not just snatch and eat, gives a list of probable items that could be classified as food, ranging from more common everyday items like fruits, vegetables, rice, cereals, oil, salt up to relatively luxurious ones such as fish, meat, milk and ghee. Interestingly the word ‘food’ is used in English in the original Bangla story, while the individual food items were in Bangla. This perhaps is suggestive of the language of bureaucracy and governance which in India is predominantly English. The usage of food in English also hints at the coldness and objectivity with which relief programs are organized during famine, English being a language removed from the masses and official in nature. ‘Food’ for Jogi, we have seen, is something that is meant for relief measures for the poor that never reache them, and are sold out through insidious networks of corruption. For people at the receiving end of astute hunger, the ‘food’ is enough to be chal or uncooked rice as they can survive on that. In Bengali narratives of hunger, there has been a primacy of rice not only as the most desirous food item but as staple food or food as such. It becomes metaphorical for something that would comfort one into satiating hunger. However,, rice is generally imagined as bhat which is cooked. In the margins of this cooked bhat as comfort food, we have the discourse of chal which is yet to be cooked or fyan, the starch water from cooked rice. These could be termed as discomfort food following Bhaswati Ghosh’s coinage in her article “Discomfort Food: Exploring the usage of food as a symbol of distress and political violence in Bengali literature”, where she describes the traumatic memories of marginal men who experienced food more in terms of hunger than plenitude. We may also call it hunger food as they scintillate memories of hunger and is intricately linked with lack of food than its presence. It reminds one of inadequacy as we observe in the preference given to chal or uncooked rice to be adequate food for the underfed. Chal is also the food that waits cooking, remains yet to be cooked. To understand the aesthetics of food for the marginal, one needs to think of it in terms of plenitude and absence, satiety and hunger, comfort and discomfort. The disconnect between food and its absence, especially what is food in its apparent absence or how the idea of food can be constituted in terms of its lack also needs to be explored. Here we will look at food in terms of hunger instead of fulfillment and presence and, will show the perception of food in the imagination of marginalized subject alienated by hunger.
The Elixir of Life, Transitioning from the Ingestible Elixir to the Inner Elixir
Author: Dr. Adina Riposan-Taylor
Dr. Adina Riposan-Taylor (Saraswati Devi) (http://www.satyasattva.com/adinas-bio/) is the founder of Satya Sattva studio and study group. She has completed her PhD in Biomedical Informatics and has international experience as an active researcher, independent bilingual journalist, and traveling teacher. Adina is lifetime committed to self-development practice and study, such as traditional Yoga and Meditation, Qigong and Tai Chi, philosophy and contemplative comparative studies in Buddhism, Hinduism, Shivaism, Sufism, Daoism, and Christianity, as well as Self-Inquiry and Transpersonal Psychology. She is particularly interested in the impact of these activating and contemplative practices on balancing the human nervous system, establishing the heart-mind coherence, the mind-and-body integrated approach to health and development, and the impact on the ageing process. Dr. Adina Riposan-Taylor is 500-hr Hatha Yoga and Meditation Certified Teacher, as well as Wu Style Tai Chi and Qigong Certified Teacher and 200-hr IIQTC Tai Chi and Qigong Certified Teacher.
This paper discusses the “Elixir of Life” across history and cultures and its transition from the ingestible elixir concept, a food, a drink, or an alchemic potion, to the inner elixir, the subtle essence to be developed within, through the interiorization of alchemy and the shift toward the inner plane. Originally, the purpose of the alchemists or physicians was to seek out ways of formulating the elixir, with the promise of health and longevity, eternal youth, immortality, creating or recovering life. This article reviews a series of variations of the ingestible elixir with historical, mythological, or medical roots, ranging from the legendary alchemic concoctions and the “Philosopher’s Stone” to a variety of herbs, natural medicines, remedies, fruits and their juices, to “the foods and the drinks of the Gods”, and even entheogenic agents – generally forming the goal for the elixir seekers and the prize for the meritorious ones, thus granted the privilege and the grace of receiving the elixir. Over the centuries, however, the term evolved across most cultures, and the promise of immortality or youth was further linked to the process of inner evolution, enlightenment, self-realization, and transcendence. The article addresses the archetypal human mythology of the ascending person in the Greek, Latin, Vedic, Daoist, Buddhist, and Egyptian mythologies, and points out the connections with Western Alchemy. Ultimately, the paper highlights the “inner elixir” becoming the symbolic representation of the most refined essence of self, our true nature, and the elixir is thought to be achieved when we reach our original state of being. It concludes that the elixir seeker may eventually regard the nature of immortality not as an intent of living forever, but as a way to experience the original peace, equanimity, contentment – expression of the highest form of cultivation – realizing the profound truth of eternal being.
Keywords: elixir of life, immortality, alchemy, esoteric alchemy, Philosopher’s Stone, Ambrosia, Amrit, Soma
Concept, Names and Evolution:
Generically, the “Elixir of Life” was a term used to represent a mythical alchemic potion which would presumably confer immortality, rejuvenation or ageless life to the person consuming it – possibly if ingesting it in a certain context, or from a certain cup; in some traditions it was also believed to have the power to create life or recover it. The word “elixir” (Arabic name for miracle substances, al iksir) was first used in the 7th century AD. However, there are hundreds of earlier known names across history and cultures, in the extensive sense comprising: Ambrosia, Nectar, Ichor (in ancient Greek mythology); Amrita, Amrit, Soma, Haoma, Hum (in Indo-Iranian and Persian cultures); Mansarover (“Pool of Nectar”, “Mind Lake” in Tibet); “Water of Life”, “Fountain of Life” (in Christianity); Aab-Haiwan (Persian for “Water of Life”); Chasma-i-Kausar (“Fountain of Bounty” for Muslims); Jindan (in Daoist Alchemy); “Philosopher's Stone” (in Western Alchemy); Cintamani (in Buddhism and Hinduism), etc.
Alchemy traditions historically talked about metals and the core idea was transmuting base metals into gold. However, gold-making was not the only goal in Alchemy, and often the main purpose was medicine. The impact of ancient traditional medicine became clear in the history of elixirs – Siddha Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine creating the basis for the System Medicine. Originally, the purpose of the alchemists or medicine men was to seek out ways of formulating the elixir. Over the centuries, however, the term evolved across most cultures towards the interiorization of the elixir and as we seek deeper meanings, we discover different levels of interpretation. An archetypal human mythology of the ascending person can be found in the Vedic, Greek, Latin, Daoist, Buddhist, Egyptian mythologies, to name a few, which all started with the elixir as an ingestible potion, yet the concept later turned toward the inner plane. The promises of eternal life or youth are further linked to the process of inner evolution, self-realization and transcendence. In most traditions, the alchemical symbol transitioned from an ingestible elixir to an inner essence to be developed within, the “inner elixir” becoming the symbolic representation of the most refined essence of self, our true nature, eternal soul.
Fasting and Feasting Practices of the Muslims and their Impact on the Market Availability Patterns
Author: Sameena Tabassum
Sameena Tabassum is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (a Central University in Hyderabad). Besides holding an M. Phil and an M. A. in English, she has qualified B. Ed., CELTA, NET and SET. A winner of eleven gold medals in B. A. and M. A. from Osmania University, Ms. Tabassum has seventeen years of experience in teaching English Language and Literature. She has chaired and presented papers in several national and international conferences. She has delivered many workshops for the teachers and students. She enjoys public speaking and academic writing. Her research areas are English Language Teaching and Communication Skills.
Fasting, as a ritual, is common across many religions of the world. It is an integral spiritual practice in many faiths. Feasting too has religious significance in many communities. All religious festivals are marked by grand feasts with family and community. In most of the religions, both fasting and feasting are considered to possess several spiritual benefits. While fasting reinforces sacrifice and self-control, feasting promotes sharing and generosity. The fasting and feasting practices of all religions inevitably influence the market availability trends. The fasting rituals and the feasting styles of the Muslims bear a prominent impact on the production and consumption of certain products in the market. Some items experience an increased demand and supply in the market on certain fasting and feasting occasions of the Muslims. Whether in India, Saudi Arabia, or any part of the world, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan has some common effects on the market consumption patterns. It is interesting to see how the Ramadan and the two great Muslim festivals, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al- Adha, exert a significant influence on the trends in the food market.
Keywords: Fasting, Feasting, Muslim practices, Ramadan, Eid, Food market
Fasting and feasting are common practices in many religions. According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the word ‘fast’ means “a period during which you do not eat food, especially for religious or health reasons” and the word ‘feast’ means “a large or special meal, especially for a lot of people and to celebrate something”. ‘Fasting’ means a partial or complete abstinence from eating and/or drinking and ‘feasting’ refers to relishing a lavish meal, especially with others. It is difficult to trace the history of fasting; however, it has been revered as a primary spiritual act in many ancient scriptures and it is, indisputably, a popular practice across most major religions of the world. In some faiths, feasting follows a phase of fasting. Most of the time, a period of fasting precedes a major religious celebration. In the Catholic faith, the best-known period of fasting is Lent, which precedes Easter (Dasgupta). In Islam, Eid al-Fitr, one of the two biggest Muslim festivals, comes after a month-long fasting during Ramadan. Both fasting and feasting practices shape our cultural identity and vice versa.
Fasting and its Significance in Islam:
In Islam, there are two types of fasts: the obligatory fast and the optional fast. The obligatory fast is observed during the holy month of Ramadan when it is compulsory for every healthy adult Muslim to fast. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. The optional fast is voluntary; one may observe it or not. The Arabic word for fast is Sawm. A typical fast begins with Suhoor or Sehari, the meal taken at dawn before the sun rises; it ends with Iftar, the meal taken at dusk or sunset, with the call for the Maghrib or evening prayer. During the fast, there is a complete abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, etc. from dawn to dusk. Following the practice of the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is recommended to consume dates for Suhoor and Iftar because of their high nutrient value.
Fasting is not a mere abstinence from physical nourishment. It actually rejuvenates our health through effective management of weight, blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, etc. (Bloomer). It is, more importantly, a practice in spiritual replenishment. It reinforces the relationship between body and soul. It helps us resist temptation, observe discipline, master self-control, learn humility, embrace empathy and strengthen solidarity with the needy. The month-long fasting enables us to feel the hunger of the deprived and the pain of the less-privileged. It inculcates care, concern, compassion, charity and generosity.
Feasting and its Significance in Islam:
During Ramadan, the fast breaking hour is cherished as a mini feast where the whole family sits together to break the fast at Iftar. Both Suhoor and Iftar bind the family bonds better through the month-long practice of dining together. People, often, share delicacies with their neighbours and friends, and organise Iftar parties for relatives, friends and the poor.
Ramadan, the month of fasting and alms-giving, culminates in a grand feast on Eid al-Fitr, a huge festival when Muslims revel in cooking and sharing sumptuous food with family and friends. The other biggest Muslim festival is Eid al-Adha, when people engage in animal sacrifice. This Eid too is marked by sumptuous feasting and a spirit of sharing with the community, at large. Both the Eids are reminders to enjoy and share God’s blessings with others.
Decoding the Bengali Identity, Gastronomically: An Evolving Culinary Sojourn of Fasts, Feasts and Festivals
Author: Dr. Parama Basu and Pooja Roy
An academic by profession, Dr. Parama Basu works as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Higher Education, West Bengal Education Service, and presently teaches English to undergraduate students at Government General Degree College, Singur. She completed her Doctoral Thesis from Jadavpur University and her present areas of research interest include Gender Studies, Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Novels, Criminology, and Food and Folk Culture. She has been the recipient of UGC-NET Junior and Senior Research Fellowships in 2012 and 2014 respectively. She has published articles related to her areas of research and interest in reputed journals. Born and brought up in Kolkata, the culinary treasure trove that the city proudly offers never ceases to amaze her. When not teaching or correcting hordes of answer-scripts, she likes to write poems and try her hand at new and old recipes. On Sundays, you can find her rustling up delicacies, while her goofy little Shih Tzu, Chérie, continuously urges her to share a nibble of whatever is being cooked!
A keen observer of human nature, Pooja Roy is intrigued by the chimeral permutation and combination that make up human nature and it's this enigma that she dares to capture in her write ups. It is the visual that appeals to her the most which she loves to vivify for others. She enjoys painting through words, human relationships, the diversity of human nature and her favourite city Calcutta in all its glory and squalor. One would find her at most times drawing up images of all that she reads and delivers to her students; sometimes even grammar comes alive before them! At other times, you would find her in all those alleys, dingy lanes and antique localities collecting fragments of her past to make sense of her present.
Bengal has always been hailed as a land of feasts and festivals, wherein food culture has often helped define the predominant pleasure of the people living here. The lavish spread which defines every Bengali feast is integral to the spirit of celebration and often enough, the food bears a ritualistic significance. Every festival in Bengal is passionately celebrated with a special serving of mouth-watering delicacies rustled up specifically for the occasion. Mention of the quintessential Bengali’s love for food finds its way even in historical records, regional literature and art. Food practices have evolved over time, with some being lost in oblivion, while others have been carefully preserved, sometimes with a few modifications, to stand the test of time. The Bengali platter and the kitchen where it is prepared have continuously evolved under the impact of diverse culinary influences, and the joint forces of globalization and liberalization affecting the very structure of the Bengali household. This paper shall look into the symbolic importance of food in feasts and festivals; the effect of gender, history, and religion in shaping food choices and transforming food traditions; and how food became an important social identifier as well as unifier in Bengal, the land of multicultural convergence.
Keywords: Bengal, festival, feast, food traditions, Babu culture, colonial influence, cultural exchange, gastronomic, identity, indigenisation, Domingoism.
Bengal, the land of plenty, has long prided itself over its food, and today, much of its identity as a region has been fashioned by the way in which it responded, in terms of food preferences, cooking styles and eating habits, to colonialism at various stages and under various colonial rulers. The self-fashioning of Bengal is thus not merely as a region under the yoke of different political regimes, but also as an evolving territory trying to reckon with the immense force of cultural colonization as the land encountered , absorbed and rejected influences of food from other cultures. In the process, Bengali cuisine too has left its indelible mark and distinctiveness of flavour upon the culinary practices of others.
Though the Aryans invaded Northern India in 2nd millennium BC, they reached Bengal only after sixth millennium BC. Till then the Bengali kitchen served shuddha paak like anna (rice), dal (supa), paramanna (milk products) and fruits. The use of spices was minimal, and mainly limited to turmeric, green ginger, mustard and long pepper. Interestingly, though the Brahmins generally refrained from eating ‘rajasik’ and ‘tamasik’ foods, the Bengali Brahmin found it hard to confine his taste buds to ‘satvic’ food alone. The Kitchen of Bengal was marked by distinctive culinary habits from a very early age. While few Brahmins abstained from the intake of fish and meat, many argued for the right of the Brahmin to eat fish. Finding the flavours of Bengal’s sweet-water fish irresistible, the Bengali Brahmin connived a way out of his dilemma by ‘vegeterianising’ the fish as the ‘fruit of the ocean’!
A variety of flavours marked the Bengali menu. Dishes like Shukto carried the bitter flavour. Use of ginger juice and mustard brought about a pungent flavour. Hilsa and Rui were the most loved varieties of fish consumed. A sour flavour was created with the use of tamarind and amla. The recipes also varied from boiled dishes to fried items. The Bengalis had a special inclination for sweet dishes like kheer, payash, rabdi, naadoo, pithey, sandesh, etc. After 1850s rosogolla and rasa malai were added to this list. Francois Bernier, a French doctor, who visited India to meet the emperor Aurangzeb happened to pass by Bengal. He observed in his seminal work: Travels in the Mogul Empire: AD 1656-1668, that Bengal was so fertile and cheap that the Europeans had a proverb among them which said that, “The kingdom of Bengal had a hundred gates open for entrance, but not one for departure”.
The Juxtaposed Taste of Ilish and Chingri: A Case Study on the Conflicts between Ghoti and Bangal
Author: Silpi Maitra
Silpi Maitra, is a former student of English and Foreign Languages University, Shillong campus. She had completed her M.Phil. in English Literature with a specialisation in Partition Literature from EFLU in 2014. At present, she has submitted her PhD Thesis entitled “The Jatrapala Tradition of West Bengal: A Study in Theatrical Communication” in the Department of Cultural and Creative Studies, North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. She has also worked as a Guest Faculty of English Literature in English and Foreign Languages University, Shillong (2016-2019). She had also worked as a Guest faculty of English in Vivekananda College for Women in Kolkata for one year before joining EFLU Shillong as a course instructor in 2016. At present, she is working as the Assistant Professor of English, in Falakata College, Alipurduar, West Bengal. She has to her credit a rich compendium of national and international seminars, conferences, workshops and several research papers which have been published in several books and journals.
Ilish and Chingri as two subgenres of antithetical fish categories share their uniqueness and disparateness whenever a squabble takes place between Ghotis and the Bangals. Taste becomes a logo of not only food culture but as a category that embellishes all the ideological stances connected under the heading of food and drink. Fish as a form of community edible often becomes a massive arena of contestation among Bengali groups. The cultural phenomenon associated with the two typical species collaborates with certain assimilating and dissimilating studies whenever it is researched from the lens of Glocalisation. Although a taste-based tussle exists between these two groups which highlight the tradition-bound differences, from both global and local perspectives, the parameters for judging those based on taste seem inconsequential. Reflecting deeply on this dissociation, it must adhere that a light, humorous and mock-serious approach is contextualised regarding this contention on rivalry. The present paper will focus on the juxtaposed or connected alliance of palatability of Ilish and Chingri. Rather than focusing on the differences, the conducted study will present the cultural contestation from an alternative perspective. Casting aside the conjectures and dilemma regarding this cultural antagonism, the study will incorporate the intense psychological dimension that food culture can cater to concerning one’s identity, culture, tradition and community.
Keywords: Food culture, identity, taste, community and Glocalisation.
The entire Bengali community is conflict-ridden when it comes to the rivalry of the taste buds concerning the antagonism between the two excellent categories of fish. The supremacy of Ilish as a custodian fish for Bangal is challenged by Chingri as the emblematic fish for the Ghoti or the Edeshiyo. Bangals are mostly the immigrants, migrants and refugees who were relocated to different parts of West Bengal, Assam, Jharkhand etc. from East Pakistan during the trouble-tossed time of Partition. Food is an important aspect of culture which becomes a form of collective phenomenon. Apart from the ritualistic endeavours and traditional approaches, food also becomes a statement and a major form of ideology. The concept of food and culture are intertwined invariably because of the folkloric context of a particular community. Just like the Bengali community, all other communities have different markers or categorisations of identification. Food and drink become a challenging medium through which the cultural ethos is represented. Among the major food items, fish is an eminent category for the Bengalis in general. The diverse categorisation of fish as a whole also becomes a site for contestation, competition and rivalry between two groups known as ‘Ghoti’ and ‘Bangal’. These two groups have their cultural fascinations, fantasies and own interests in a variety of dimensions. Culinary habits form a basic area of comparison among these two groups where on a very light note they boast and compete about their areas of expertise through food. Food becomes a platform through which its specifications are constructed and deconstructed from time to time. Food also becomes a form of cultural invasion and a ritualistic endeavour.
The Paradigm of Taste: A Contextual Analysis of Ilish and Chingri
With each community, the inextricable relationship of food culture is integrated as it is with the approaches, beliefs and practices that the emblematic stance of uniqueness is formed. Food culture is also one element through which the ethnicity, roots and heritage of a group come to the surface. It is an obvious fact that with the culinary habits and food culture, a community becomes more vocal about its likes and interests. The normative structure of any community is designed on the heritage of food. Food becomes a critical facet and a foundation of study for socio-political-cultural and religious aspects. The bifurcated obligation of belonging is often demarcated based on the food culture. The food culture reflects specific choices which integrate a form of selfhood and bond among the community members. Ghoti and Bangal are the subdivisions of the same community. These two groups have their unique taste and individuality which is customised by the nature of their dialects and the concept of home. Bengalis are fond of fish and their variability. Ilish and Chingri are two renowned categories of fish which are considered to be tokens of a cold war between two subgroups, although on a sportive level. If food and drink personify the cultural ethos of a tradition then fish itself seems to be an irreplaceable category of delicacy that modifies and regenerates a conscious level of singularity. There is an intricate mechanism of communication-related to food that unifies families, castes, sects, ethnicities and communities in particular.
Milk - Of Devotion and Desert
Author: Dr. Ranjini Guha
Ranjini Guha is an Associate Professor in History in Gour Mohan Sachin Mandal Mahavidyalaya who blends her passions into her work. She graduated from Presidency College and after completion of Masters, she took up teaching as a profession. She was the Coordinator the US Consulate Historical Society for over two years and curated various academic programmes and events. She is the IQAC Coordinator of the college looking after quality initiatives in higher education. Her passion for solo travel, heritage walks and research pursuits in food history blended to the beginning of her now popular blog www.foodscapes.blog. Her first book, Foodscapes Lockdown and Dinner Diaries, took shape after her 10 p.m. Facebook posts called “Lockdown Dinner Diaries” became very popular. The book is awaiting publication. She contributes food columns in Get Bengal, India Today and several other publications and has lectured across the country on food history. She has completed UGC minor research projects on food history.
Milk is a food with history across cultures and religions. In Hinduism, milk is more than a drink extending much beyond dietary and nutritional facts- it is a gift from gods. The paper describes how Hindus use milk and its products- kheer or payasam for religious purposes. Milk accompanies much of Hindu life- its rituals from an infant’s first food to the last ritual after death. The paper also brings into focus the varieties of kheer across India and its ritual significance. The paper highlights the democratic and equalizing aspects of milk in the Indian society as milk became synonymous with life, survival and prosperity. From the myth of the Samudra Manthan to the miracle of the milk drinking Ganesha, milk is an indispensable food in the everyday life and religion. Milk in a sense also transcends religion as milk-based deserts like rice puddings are prevalent in diverse cultures across the world and appear as imageries in literature and art across the world.
Keywords: Milk, Ritual, Religion, Kheer, Payasam.
Food has evoked the interest of gourmands for ages, however the study of its history and of the myriad social, cultural, and political influences on our palate is a relatively recent academic development. Food history reveals a lot about a society’s past and its present, including what people ate and how they managed food production. Changing dietary tastes have influenced a number of key historical events. Historians have primarily studied the history of specific foods; anthropologists have emphasized the role of food in religious rituals and group identities; sociologists have primarily examined food as an indicator of social class and a factor in social ties and nutritionists have focused on changing patterns of consumption and applied medical knowledge to study the effects of diet on health. As an everyday activity, sustaining life, food reveals a complex relationship between food and society involving material and symbolic aspects of cultures and religion. Food as a central identity marker defines religion, social class, ethnic identities, gender roles and relationships. Food as a lens to analyse society order, historical changes become a cultural act. The way we understand food and food practices is related to our religious and social identity. Culture is created, shaped, transmitted and learned through several symbols-food being one of them. Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacobsen provided us with theoretical tools to understand and analyse how food is more than a tool for satiating one’s hunger. According to Ronald Barthes, eating habits and culture are very closely related and culture influences tastes and so does class. Food as culture is related to tradition and nostalgia, with the rhetorical repertoire of aesthetics, identity, and uniqueness. According to Barthes, food is considered to be multidimensional, as something that shapes our identities, and our cultures and in the end society (Barthes 27, 2008).
Food has symbolic meanings based on association with religion. Hinduism and rituals associated with the practice of the religion has a plethora of associations with food- choices, taboos, etc. Hinduism places so much emphasis on the role of food that it has been called “the kitchen religion"(Vivekananda 2018). Food in Aryan civilization was part of a cosmic moral cycle. The Taittiriya Upanishad states, “From food are all creatures produced, by food do they grow…The self consists of food, of breath, of mind, of understanding, of bliss”. Prasad which is the leftover of food offered to the Gods is thought to be pure rasa leaving no residue. No religious or public function is complete without the distribution of food especially prasada. Food plays an important role in worship, and the food offered to the deities (prasad) bestows considerable religious merit purifying body, mind and spirit.
Panel Discussions under the Project
The Consolidated Link: all panel discussions can be accessed here
Religious History and Food Consumption
Project Assistant and Author: Dr. Stella Chitralekha Biswas
Dr. Stella Chitralekha Biswas completed her PhD in April, 2022 from the Centre for Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, India. Her research interests include juvenile literature, pedagogy, speculative fiction, postcolonial studies, sexuality and gender studies, etc. She has published papers in peer-reviewed journals such as Bookbird, Indialogs, postScriptum, Middle Flight, Lapis Lazuli and has also contributed chapters to a number of edited volumes by national and international publishers of repute. She has a few forthcoming publications by the Edinburgh University Press, Bloomsbury Press, Routledge and the Nordic Journal of Childlit Aesthetics. She has worked as a reviewer for the Journal of Juvenilia Studies, published by the International Society for Literary Juvenilia and hosted by the University of Alberta Libraries in 2021. She has also been appointed as a contributor to SLM in English by the Directorate of Distance Education, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata in 2022.
“Food is a common ground, a universal experience.”
Conversations about food are endless and especially when it comes to a country as diverse and rich in cultural heritage like India, the dialogic engagements with culinary patterns are very interesting. The Democratic Republic of India boasts of people belonging to various religious backgrounds and communal groups who indulge in different habits and customs of cooking and sharing of meals. In fact, the documented history of such varied practices of food consumption in India can be traced back to the Vedic times, where different prescriptions were available in the form of scriptural diktats. Parallel to these prescriptive norms, there also existed proscriptive regulations that made the intake of certain foods as taboo or forbidden on various religious grounds. It is also a well-documented fact that the food consumption patterns in India have changed radically over time throughout the course of several invasions by forces like that of the Mughals or the British, finally culminating in the currents trends that are again, heavily influenced by cosmopolitanism and globalization. Such an intricately detailed history deserves extensive in-depth research that promises fresh avenues of exploration which are by no means exhaustive. This is precisely why the choice of the broader theme for the panel discussions to be organized under the TMYS Review, September 2022 issue pertained to the ‘Religious History of Food and Drinks’. The dynamic relationship between food and religion, and their influences upon culture and ideology, and vice-versa were proposed to be the crux of the various sub-topics which were discussed thoroughly over the course of several sessions. The speakers, having been professionals with many years of experience in their respective fields, expounded upon multiple rare and meaningful insights pertaining to the topics of discussion which greatly enriched the sessions.
Culture, Rituals and Home-made Food
Author & Project Assistant: Deyasini Roy
Deyasini Roy is a budding poet, editor hailing from Chandannagar, West Bengal. She is currently an Executive Content Lead at Tangent Ideas & Technologies, New Delhi. She is also the Copy Editor of the esteemed TMYS Review. She has worked as a Project Assistant under TMYS Review's June 2021 Project on the Indian Diaspora in collaboration with the University of Birmingham and has also assisted in TMYS Review’s December 2021 Project on Women’s Resettlement and Displacement with reference to Gender Identity and Social Inequality in collaboration with Oxford University Press. She is published in several journals and anthologies of repute and has been conferred with the South Asian Literary Award by Sahitya Deshkaal in 2019 and the Nobel Laureate Kabi Rabindranath Tagore Award for Poetry in 2020.
“Food has a culture. It has a history. It has a story. It has relationships.”
The term ‘food’ has its etymological origins in the Old English ‘foda’, the Middle English ‘foode’, and the Proto-Germanic ‘fodon’ which means ‘to feed’ and stands to signify a source of physiological nourishment i.e., any substance metabolized by an organism to nourish and sustain vital life processes. The ever-expanding complex dynamics of food override ordinary public conceptualizations and give it a dimension beyond the plenary evolutionary trick of survival. It is a multi-layered amalgam as Roland Barthes upholds, of a ‘situation’, a ‘statement’, a corresponding ‘communication’ beyond the cognitive, sociological, and defined anthropological registers and cuts through the morass of contingent facts to relate to the fundamental metaphysics of philosophical inquiry. It is a living insignia that catalyzes the regenerative power of nostalgia, anchors the past into the present, reinforces relational ties at personal, social, psychological, and ecological levels, and unfolds a categorical array of attitudes, practices, and rituals that reflects a culture’s upending approach to life. In its attempt to negotiate identities, cultures, and environments through a diversified culinary imagination it forms the nexus of intangible cultural identity and heritage.
To discuss potential ways forward to understand the historiography, geography, and semiotics of food production and food consumption behaviour, its interdependent ecological relationships, complex functioning in everyday life, the decisive role ‘food’ plays in shaping cultural identity and ideology, the re-imagining of the domestic kitchen sphere in building nutritive forms of gustatory aesthetics and to address its associated matrix of eco-conscious sustainability in a more accessible and responsible way, TMYS Review September 2022 had envisioned “Culture, Rituals and Home-made Food” as one of its overarching sub-themes under the broad spectrum of Cultural Identity and Ideology.
Drinks in Culture and Culture of Drinks
Author & Project Assistant: Snigdha Basu
Snigdha Basu is a postgraduate in English literature. She writes about fashion, beauty, art & culture, and wellness for women at chiclife.in. Snigdha is also a part-time freelance writer and is a Research Assistant at Tell Me Your Story for TMYS Review Sept 2022 on Cultural Identity and Ideology. In addition, Snigdha was the Project Lead and Curator of the Disobedient Girls series at TMYS and has edited the e-anthology DISOBEDIENT GIRLS (The Story Project 8).
In many societies, one's identity can influence one's drinking habits, but this has primarily been evaluated in terms of sustaining cultural identity. It is a little-known fact that India has a wide range of delicacies to offer when it comes to food and drinks. If we focus just on the drinks in Indian culture, the stories of these beverages provide a unique lens through which one can view the social and cultural history of India. TMYS Review September 2022 considered using the subject, "Drinks in Culture and Culture of Drinks," as one of the subthemes to unravel the approaches and understand the complex dimensions of cultural identity and ideology from the standpoint of "Food and Drinks." Six panels discussed relevant subjects relating to this particular sub-theme. Eminent scholars were invited to present their perspectives on how the history of beverages in India has influenced the identity of a multicultural society and other critical social issues. Through their extensive studies, research experience, in-depth knowledge, and subject-matter expertise, the panelists provided a wealth of provocative perspectives.
The first session, titled "Traditional Ayurvedic Drinks and Ancient Wisdom," highlighted how traditional and ayurvedic drinks are becoming more popular globally. One of the most well-known ancient medical systems that have endured and thrived for centuries is Ayurveda. Moreover, the old wisdom embedded in this traditional medical system has not yet been thoroughly explored. The panel started with a discussion on tea and alcoholic beverages in Ayurveda. As Dr. Megha mentioned, "Alcohol consumption has a value attached to it, and the value depends on the culture you belong to." While drinking alcohol is frowned upon in traditional and conservative households in India, it plays a significant role in the lives of indigenous tribes of the Indian subcontinent. She also discussed the erroneous perceptions that some people may have regarding the approach of alcohol in Ayurveda. While Ayurveda mentions the effects alcohol has on health, it also points out that it can be beneficial if ingested by the right individual at the right time and quantity. Another aspect we frequently overlook is the long-standing Indian custom of drinking tea. We have a mosaic of cultural traditions in India, according to Rekha Sarin, who notes that the variegated forms of tea has generated out of diverse regional cultures. Rekha Sarin then went on to give instances of the various ways tea is enjoyed throughout India, such as butter tea, which is produced in Ladakh from yak butter and salt, and Kahwa tea, which is made in Kashmir from saffron, rose petals, and almonds. Dr. Gurmeet Singh strongly emphasized innovation as the cornerstone for expanding traditional beverages like tea and ayurvedic drinks. He asserts that "without innovation, nothing can survive." He examines three reasons—health advantages, taste, and innovation—for the rising popularity of tea and ayurvedic botanical brews. The panel concluded by discussing how innovation might foster long-term cultural growth while preserving tradition.