Fusion of flavors from faraway lands

Whether it’s a crispy plateful of Manchurian Vadapav, an irresistible dish of Chicken tikka pizza or pani puris with vodka shots, Pune has officially welcomed fusion foods to its grandeur. A city that boasts of hundreds of restaurants and with a truly diverse and cosmopolitan population to cater to, chefs across the city have started experimenting and putting their thinking hats on to bring us innovative dishes with intermingling flavor that cover a thousand miles.

Speaking of this connoisseur of tastes and the phenomena of fusion foods, an excited sixteen year old Puneite, Prachiti Sharma exclaims, “You can spoil yourself to a chocolate samosa or a Chinese bhel in any corner of this city! What I love about Pune is its ever growing wide variety of food choices and it is truly a heaven for food-lovers like me!”

A visit to the Phoenix Market City food court is enough to dazzle a person of the innumerable options that one encounters these days. Whether it’s a plate of cheese momos or schezuan momos at Momo Stop in Viman Nagar or just a simple plate of quesadillas or nachos at the Phoenix Food Court, the snacking options are limitless. Several assortments and aromatic delicacies will especially lure the food-lover at Malaka Spice in Koregaon Park where the best of the oriental land meets the Indian halfway to concoct portions for the delightful food-lover that is sure to leave one mesmerized.  The lanes of serene green Koregaon Park also harbor Esquisito, an Italian restaurant for vegetarians who leave the Indian spices alive in their Italian and Mexican delicacies.

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Mexican food with an Indian blend at Phoenix Market City in Viman Nagar

Chef Aman Shah of Copa Cabbana at Wakad explains, “Fusion food is an art. It gives the chef the ultimate freedom to experiment and there are truly no boundaries! From your naani-maa-ki-recipes to getting inspired by different cultures, we assimilate the ideas from diverse experiences and interactions with different nationalities and bring it alive over a cooking pot!”

Historically, fusion food has always been an integral part of our culture. The all popular Mughlai cuisine that is now found in every nook and corner of this country is a testament to this fact. ‘Khoresh Fesenjan’ is an example of a timeless Indo-Mughlai delicacy that has Persian roots. This dish includes a glazed duck cooked with pomegranate juice and sometimes, the duck is replaced with other meats such as chicken and served on saffron flavored basmati rice which is a typical Hyderabadi style of cooking! The famous “Shaahi Paneer” or the mouth watering “Chicken Tandoori” belong to the same school of cuisine.

With innumerable and exciting choices put on a platter, even the average lay man, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, is lured to give their taste buds a refreshing change! Food-lovers all across the city and innovative chefs with their conspiring minds trying to please our inquisitive taste buds, the phenomena of fusion foods is here to stay and food lovers can look forward to many more mushrooming paan shops in the street corner that serve honeymoon and chocolate paans to your delight!

“Oh, East is east, and West is west, and never the twain shall meet.” But it looks like the fusion culture has altered Rudyard Kipling’s analogy.

It is Time – break the silence

“We use cloths during our menstruation period which we have to recycle but because of shortage of water, it is not possible,” says Deepali Balote a 14-year-old girl from Dolasne drought hit village of Ahmendnagar city in Maharashtra. But that is not all. The girls in rural India are not allowed to touch water taps or vessels because it is believed that they will pollute it. “We cannot cook for four days, cannot touch idols and cannot touch pickles or other cooked food while menstruating,’’ she adds.

This is a common scenario in the villages across India. Menstruation is still considered a taboo causing a real harm especially to girls who have just reached their puberty. The girls feel shy and avoid talking about the problems that they face. Women in most of the tribes are forced to sleep in cowshed throughout their periods. Many women and girls in this village are found to use materials such as old rags and newspaper every month due to unavailability of sanitary products and water during the time of periods.

Government of India has been promising sanitation infrastructure for quite some time. With the approval of the National Urban Sanitation Policy in December 2008, the Indian government seeks to address the gap of sanitation in rural areas and organize a systematic sanitation programme. However, in Dolasne, Darewadi and many other villages the gap of sanitation still exists.

“It is difficult to get water from the tankers,” says Aruna Ganesh Shivsagar . She despite being eight months pregnant carries about five buckets of water every day. Like Aruna there are many other women who face similar problems.

These women are also told not to cook food when they menstruate because they will pollute it. They are also not allowed to touch idols as it is believed that they will defile them. Pickles are also not allowed to be touched as they will go rotten by their touch.

The health related problems is one of the main issues the girls and women face during the time of menstruation. Lack of proper hygiene during menstruation also attracts lot of infections.

Ahemadnagar being one of the 19 pilot cities of Maharashtra is yet to come up with a proper sanitation plan. “There is no toilet in my house and it is really painful to always go to the fields,” says Laxmibai Baban Jadhav. The situation worsens during the drought season. “Forget washing clothes, there is no water even to wash ourselves during the time of drought,” she said.  There are hundreds of these villagers who defecate in the open because of the lack of access to toilets. It is because of this that there are a lot of health related problems such as infection of the small intestine and lack of nutrients for proper growth and development.

Beyond superstition and discrimination, many Indian women face lack of clean, safe and proper lavatory facilities.

Sanitation is among the most dismal and depressing topics in Ahmednagar. It is stuck at a primitive stage and very few people have access to toilets.

These women having differing views on menstruation are unsurprising. They have strong personal, cultural and societal views which are associated with menstruation. What is surprising is that they women have lack of accurate views of menstruation. The whole process and the hygienic care that they should go for is lacking in their views. The menstruation taboos limit women’s access to these accurate views and to appropriate resources for hygienic care.

Concentrating on lessons is really hard for these girls when they are in desperate needs for the bathroom. It is nearly impossible for a girl who is menstruating and has nowhere to change or dispose of her pads. The girls of this village are tired of dealing with it. Their families often encourage them to stay at home from school and get married. In fact, majority of the girls at Dolasane village have dropped out of school when they reached puberty.

Even for the people who want to adopt proper sanitation by constructing a toilet near their house are unhappy. The water shortage has affected them a great deal in achieving proper sanitation facility as their toilet construction has been on hold. “I am regretting my decision to construct a toilet as it has been kept on hold for two years now. I am still going to the fields,” says Savita Roy Das Pawde, resident of Dalewadi village.

Water shortage has heightened the problem of menstruation and sanitation. It is indeed a trying time for women to bathe during the time of menstruation because of the scarcity of water. Forget about proper disposable methods, these women do not even have any privacy when they have to change their sanitary cloth. It has also been observed that there has been a drastic drop in the number of girl students after they reach puberty. “There is no toilet facility in my school and I have nowhere to change or dispose of my pad. My family insists on me to stay at home and get married,” says Dipali Arun Auti class 9 student of Bhairavnath Madhyamik Vidyalaya in Dolasne.

These girls and women do not bathe during menstruation and most of them reuse previously used cloths for absorption. Without any accurate knowledge about menstrual hygiene, the girls adhere only to cultural practices and taboos. In fact, bathing restrictions is just one example from the wide range of menstrual taboos that they go through. They have dietary restrictions such as milk, potatoes, meat or rice. The physical restrictions include visiting the temple or mosque, cooking, being anywhere near open water and even changing the clothes. The physical ostracisation of menstruating women and the taboos reflect on an array of different cultures and religious rules and regulations.

It will take several years or probably generations to bring in systematic sanitation in rural India. Apart from having a proper lavatory it is education also that matters. The taboo needs to be changed. Anecdotally, it is observed that only those girls in India who do not believe in any superstitions regarding menstruation are those with educated mothers. The best way to change the minds of all the future women in Ahmednagar is to keep the girls in school today and to have basic lavatory facilities are one of the easiest way to do that.Image