The Curious Case Of Mutton Biryani

A lot of hue and cry is being made about the preparation of 600 kg of mutton biryani and on the supposedly low attendance in a party meeting called by the Janta Dal (United) in Patna. It is being claimed that despite the advertisement about the special delicacy on the menu, not more than 500 people turned up to seize the platter.

It makes one wonder how pitiable the condition of a community would be if it can be mobilised at the cost of a plate of biryani. That it can actually be an idea worth executing – speaks even more about the certainty with which the organisers assess the community’s socio-economic condition. If not anything at least Nitish Kumar deserves appreciation for this precise understanding.

Sources close to the organisers of the event claim that the menu was intentionally selected to attract more number of Muslims to the function held at Shri Krishna Memorial Hall in Patna, after a fortnight-long district-level program coordinated by the party’s Muslim faces to rebrand Nitish Kumar. However, the meet witnessed a poor turnout.

As the news came out, critics got busy theorising the offering of mutton biryani as an act of allurement and insult to the Muslim community. There were also others, the notaries in the community, who got busy attesting the attendees morally corrupt and sold out.

Politics aside, there would be hardly anyone, non-vegetarian by choice, who would detest mutton biryani. It is a dish, so royal in taste and feeling that even the news of it like the fragrance when it’s cooked in the neighbourhood kitchen, stimulates one’s taste buds.

It’s also one of the inheritance of the now much reviled Muslim rule that has stubbornly kept up with the changing times without much change in its flavour or aroma. Yet, unlike the era when it was accessible to the lower middle class its reach in contemporary Muslim kitchen has remarkably shrunk.

Mutton being mostly priced between rupees 500 to 600 per kg though high on protein is too costly to be cooked in the majority of Muslim kitchens. But apart from the time of Baqra eid when friends, neighbours and relatives distribute mutton obtained from the sacrifice of goats as a customary practice, it’s hardly ever cooked in over 99% of Muslim households throughout the year.

The eating habits of a community are a vital indicator of its financial health which in turn sheds light on the priority it occupies in a welfare state. Faced with a systemic bias and devoid of necessary state support, a huge majority of the community hardly earns enough to make ends meet, much less to spend money on such a costly dish.

The periodic consumption pattern and the limits with disposable income the community possesses at any point of time are also marked by the manner and quantity in which it consumes fruits. Here again, like in the case of mutton, the consumption rises only during the time of festivities. In most of the households owing to the financial stretch, there is hardly any consumption of fruits throughout the year except for the month of Ramazan.

Muslim culinary habits are further highlighted in poor health conditions across different age groups as a result of insufficient nutritional intake.

The critics of this remarkable idea have perhaps missed a very significant point. It might be the case that the surplus was meant for the parcel to be taken for their family members by the attendees who in any case are poor, jobless and marginalised people in any such gathering, quite remarkably separated from the world of critics themselves who essentially belong to the Muslim upper caste and class combine.

As long as the community stays sharply focussed on its own interest in any such gathering and is not swayed away by any false promises, there is hardly anything to worry about. Till then, even mutton biryani would do – which they might as well take home.

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