The call for a ban on momo by a BJP MLC in Jammu and Kashmir a few days ago took me quite by surprise. As a lover of the white, crescent-shaped piece of instant gratification, I couldn’t for the life of me understand what did it ever do to the poor man to evoke so much hatred. And it also got me thinking about my long-standing romance with this Himalayan contribution to the Indian palate.
I was a six-year-old when I laid my eyes for the first time at this dish, contrary to popular myth that it is a staple for the people from the North-east. It was the year 1998 and my then teenaged brother’s girlfriend was visiting our family for the first time. She, unaware of the fact that ours was a Hindu-Brahmin household, brought pork momo for everyone. I remember how my orthodox mother scrunched up her nose at the sight, made a face and declared it to everyone that whoever wants to eat it can do so, but only on the condition that they’ll have to wash their own dishes. My siblings, who enjoy meat of all kinds despite my mother’s dismay, agreed to the condition happily. I, on the other hand, as a consumer of only white meat, then and even now, walked away following the heels of my mother.
It was only in the early 2000s that my romance with momo happened after I moved to the national capital. As roadside momo stalls were yet to spring up at every nook and corner in those days, the weekly visits to Dilli Haat were like a pilgrimage. It was always a tough call to decide upon the three states that served the best momo in town namely Sikkim, Manipur, and Nagaland. But no matter where I would always place the same order – a plate of piping hot chicken momo accompanied by a glass of chilled fruit beer.
Despite it being more than a decade now, I still have not moved on to something else. My friends regularly make fun of me about how I am obsessed with dumplings and would never order anything else when eating out at an oriental restaurant.
Though I crave for it every couple of days, I know I am not addicted, the grounds on which the BJP leader is asking for a ban. My love for it is as equivalent to my friends’ craving for samosas or gol gappa. While no calls for a ban can be heard for such food items, the issue with momo in the current political discourse is the fact that it is mostly loved as a non-vegetarian food item and in the words of the same leader, an “outside influence to Indian food” culture. The former is a problematic issue considering the BJP’s love to impose their will upon the people, non-vegetarianism does not really feature at the top of their acceptable food habits. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that one of their so called ‘fringe’ has been tasked to test the waters for the public’s reaction, in their larger agenda to make India eat and do only what they approve of.
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