Durga Puja 2019 Update: Food wins

Every year the same set of hawkers come to south Delhi’s Bengali neighbourhood Chittaranjan Park to rake in some moolah during the four days of hectic festivities. The beggars also get to occupy the same spot year after year. Business looks good during this time.

A food stall that cooks ‘Singapore chicken’ and ‘veg Manchurian’ for 361 days suddenly turn into a mutton kosha stall for four days. You can’t be sure if the cooks, who appear to be from Nepal, can handle the recipe switch that’s more due to exigency than a desire to make good food. The sidewalks that are used as a parking lot for motorcycles turn into main street, lined with carts with burning gas lamps from where aromas of known and unknown dishes waft through the cool October air.

One of the reasons why the hawkers and the beggars and the jaywalkers are interesting during Durga Puja, at least in this south Delhi neighbourhood, is the unlimited scope for capturing their expressions. You can shoot the idols of Goddess Durga at pandals only so much. After you have given your respect and prayers to the Goddess, every framing you try of the pandals come out looking the same. People wearing similar clothes, people with similar expressions, it gets a bit monotonous.

But if you took a walk about the side where the hawkers are, there are interesting things happening there.

Those who like stuff as mutton kebab or chicken roll or fried fish (“fish fry”) will like Durga Puja because it’s a Hindu festival where you can eat meat in celebration of God. On a related note, the period after fasting during Ramzan has great dishes of mutton, but Muslims anyway eat meat even during religious events, which is not the case with most Hindu festivals.

So Durga Puja is the probably the winner when it comes to festival food in India. You can always eat vegetarian stuff at any religious festival. But it’s the meat that makes it interesting. Certainly, you should disagree with this if you saw another way of looking at it.

But I’d like to know it too.

So long then.

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