Opinion: Does The Pre-Budget Halwa Ceremony Hint At Elitism?

I’ve never attended a halwa ceremony but hear about it every year before the annual general budget.

As the term halwa denotes something sweet, it is not surprising that it finds its origin in the Arabic language in the word, ‘hulw.

It can be asked why halwa is linked with the annual budget making process, why not sabzi puri for this very important ceremony? Was the rite begun by the British?

When first used in English, halwa denoted a Turkish confection of ground sesame seeds and honey. Abdul Halim Sharar, wrote that this dish came to India via Persia. If not this, then what convinced the organisers of the ceremony to name it the halwa ceremony?

It does not smell of a very Indian tint because of its Arabic or Turkish or Persian or Urdu flavour. Can anyone dare to put the exact Hindi taste in halwa? No dictionary describes it. Even halwa and halwai are inter-related words in our daily conversation. I tried to search on Google but that failed to provide accurate Hindi.

Both expressions have a strong message which we find in our much-acclaimed Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb (referring to the culture of the Ganga-Yamuna plains). A very soft and delicate sweet dish somewhere develops a soft feeling of togetherness in our pluralistic society.

It appears to be a confidence-boosting observance. We have recently seen how our Finance Minister Sitharaman was taking out some of the sweet dish from a big cauldron. This year’s halwa ceremony was finally complete when everyone began talking about the traditional halwa ritual in order to disclose to the whole population that the next financial year’s budget has been finally finalised.

Every year, the central government follows a tradition of hosting a halwa ceremony, a few days prior to the declaration of the Budget at the Lok Sabha. It is done to prevent any leaks before the budget is presented. The ceremony also recognised and lauds the efforts of every staff who have been a part of the budget-making process.

This yellowish, sugar-like tasty sweet dish was never on the common man’s plate. As it used to be prepared with rich ingredients, how could it have been possible for a poor man to consume? I am sure, the common man, since the Indus Valley Civilisation was never as rich so as to be able to afford things like halwa  in their everyday consumption.

Since the history of the Mauryan dynasty, there was no written evidence available to ascertain the availability of the particular dish to the common populace. Later periods also do not indicate anything about it. During British rule, the farmers remained busy in paying lagaan (tax), so how could they consume it either?

After independence, the situation changed but still, halwa was not eaten by the general masses. So it can definitely be kept in the category of elitist eatery.

Robert Anson Heinlein, an American science fiction writer, appears to be reasonable in his words, “Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. Democracy’s worst faults is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents – a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect?”

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