Pride and Prejudices of Desi-ness : Book of the Month
My friend from New York Erin is such a great cook. I regularly
follow her on instagram. She's been an inspiration to me even when i barely knew how to boil water. She loves this book and has this fantastic idea of having a book club. She posted it on Instagram and I prematurely told her I would love to join. I have been very torn since that day because I got a hold of this book. (Amazon isn't delivering hardcopies just the Kindle Edition.)
So once I got hold of my copy I began going through it and truth be told, the book began to annoy me. I don't know if its the quarantine 4.0 finally getting to me or just that the recipes were so basic that it didn't challenge but then I gave it a lot of thought and went through the book, over and over again. And realised that I was being so racist and judging the book because it was "Indian cooking". It's the same deep rooted prejudice that makes most Indians think a Bandra girl like Freida Pinto is basic and not as exotic as Hollywood makes her out to be or looking down on a a Mindy Kaling's show on a desi girl "Never Have I Ever on Netflix".
I've been a cross cultural kid all my life so I do tend to look down on certain NRI type Indians who are over enthusiastic about Indian-ness that it becomes a brand. Yes yes, I'm bashfully admitting my own deep rooted self racism mostly because I believe we all have the potential to be racist toward our own. So the question is why do Indians look down on ourselves? Is it the slavery mentality we'd like to blame the British for (again), or is it that culturally even though we are rich— our low self esteems and self loathing never allowed ourselves to feel "pride" real Indian pride.
Why would I rather appreciate and buy a Nigella's or Jamie Oliver's Veg cook book rather than a Sanjeev Kapoor's cook book. Why is it if Jamie plugs in his products 90% of time in his episodes, he's cool but if Sanjeev Kapoor does the same he's a slimy opportunist.
If you too feel this way of Desi celebrities and shows and products I can assure you that many Indian feel this self loathing embarrassment.
All that changed when I thought of giving an episode of Never Have I Ever a try. It was brilliantly written and by Episode 10 (which i binge watched) I was crying with Devi and her mother at the beach spreading the ashes of Devi's dad. (spoiler alert).
I felt foolish to be so racist towards my own culture and fellow country men/women. It's like that scene during Ganesh Puja where Devi's Indian friend comes back from college to celebrate his culture because others from other indigenous cultures have far more cultural pride.
I realised that many of us have so much respect for 'other' cultures but never glorify our own 'desi'.
So it was my prejudice that made me think negatively about Meera's book. But once I went through the book with a non suspicious eye (which gives Freida Pinto the same love as I would Kristen Bell) I saw that this book was really quite apt for new cooks who would want to know more about Indian cooking. Eventually there's a lot I can learn from this book — and there's no need for me NOT to enjoy reading this as much as I would enjoy reading a Nigella's Lawson cook book.
I would recommend this book to all, but also to a lot of my fellow young Indians who are struggling to learn spices and dals because this is a great guide to getting to know Indian cooking from the basics.
Desi should be cool and celebrated and it is nice to have celebrities like Mindy, Freida, Priyanka, Meera Sodha among others to be the beacons around the world … Celebrating Indianness. It's all a learning process of course. I'm learning to have Pride for my culture and tone down the Prejudice toward emerging legit talents in all fields. Jane Austen will be happy (sorry British slavery mentality unlearning still in progress).
To Buy Meera's Book