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    Published On : Wed, Oct 21st, 2015

    ‘Varan’ disappearing from Maharashtrian cuisines since dal has become so costly

    Nagpur: Since tur dal climbed over Rs. 200 a Kg. it has put unbearable strain over managing food budgets – specially for lower class hand-to-mouth families.

    It has to be be understood that tur dal or arahar dal out which the Marathi ‘Sadha varan’ is made is a very important constituent of the cuisine of the area. Whatever else is made for lunch/ dinner – vegetables, kadhi, besan, sadhi dal has to be served. This is dal cooked with haldi and salt and served just as it is with a spoon of ghee. Naturally more dal is required to make this kind of a dish.

    But due to its exorbitant price, this daily staple has become rare.

    Said Vandana Tawde, who works in many local homes as a cleaning lady and has three kids and old in laws to fend for “I have just stopped making dal any more. Earlier, I would buy it once a week, a 1/2 Kg. packet at a time and somehow make it last for 6-7 days. Now I make it once in 8 days…. that too by adding a liberal amount of water.”

    So what do they eat? I asked her.

    “Whatever vegetable is cheapest. Aloo-baingan or aloo with tomatoes is made most commonly.” Said Vandana.

    She said all her friends and neighbours in her basti have similar experiences and are coping in the same way.

    “Our children cry for dal since they often find sabzis unpalatable, but what can we do? Every dal is expensive” she moans. And by the end of the month, even the sabzi disappears. Then it is pickle and rotis – pickle often provided by one of the better-off ladies the maids work for.

    We asked some upper middle class house wives what they are doing.

    “We like to pretend we are not affected, but we too are to be some extent” says Chaya Nilawar who husband is a retired LIT Professor and who has a house in Bajaj Nagar.

    “We do tend to cook lesser quantity of tur dal and unconsciously add a little extra water while boiling it” she confesses. She also adds, if the prices climb up more she would prefer to do away with it altogether from every day food.

    “Why not eat eggs instead? They have more protein and are cheaper” she says. “Families who do not have food taboos should also go ahead and eat more chicken and other non veg” advises Chaya.

    Lata Dahiwade, who lives in Raj Nagar and has to cook for just two, since her daughters are married and gone says they try out different cuisines – both as a change and to use less dal.

    “Why not eat more of paneer and other dals which are cheaper?” She asks.

    She also says that some days ago she had read that poor people were being asked to go in for ‘lakhoti’ dal instead of Tur dal.

    “But I have advised my servants not to use this dal. It is bad for health” says Lata.

    Kirana shops even in affluent neighbourhoods say they used to stock tur dal in bigger packaging like 5 Kgs and 1 kg.

    “Now for the first time we have to package and keep dal in 1/2 Kg packing also… even rich people are buying it less” they disclose.

    Dieticians and health specialists are concerned about this new challenge to Indians’ food habits.

    “To begin with Indian diets are not very healthy and so we suffer from higher occurrence of heart problems and diabetes” says Smita Wagh, a dietician at a big hospital in Nagpur.

    “Indians eat too much of carbohydrates to begin with. Chapatis and rice are both are eaten at every meal. Les of vegetables is consumed and the most popular one is Potato – which is not a vegetable at all, but pure starch. Now with dal prices going through the roof, less of this will be consumed and there will be more of carbs and sugar – it is a very worrisome situation, she says.

    Indians are coping with it the best way they can. Making jokes to lighten their suffering and dal jokes are now doing the rounds a lot…

    I liked this one the best –

    I ordered dal fry at the local restaurant and I was asked to show my pan card number!

    And this one, by a leading jeweller-

    Earlier ladies would ask us to make ‘nav ratan’ jewellery with various gems…now they are asking us to make necklaces with five kinds of dals embedded in it! So instead of ‘panch pakwan’ we have panch malas….

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