(By Rutajeet Karmakar, my elder son)
Variety is said to be the spice of life.
India, the most diverse country on earth, ensures variety.
So India is the spice of life.
Rather, India is life – my life and yours.
India’s variety enables us to enjoy similar things in different flavours.
Our BHOGALI BIHU, for instance, is celebrated as MAKAR SANKRANTI across the Hindi Heartland, UTTARAYAN in Gujarat, SHISHUR SAENKRAAT in Kashmir, MAGHA SAAJI in Himachal Pradesh and PONGAL in Tamil Nadu.
The rituals are different, the food is different but the essence is the same – celebration of a good harvest.
Bihu brings us to rice that turns from an everyday staple to delicious festive PITHA. Festivity also turns rice into beer or wine elsewhere in the Northeast, PAYESH in Bengal, KHICHDI in Uttar Pradesh, VAGHERELO BAAT in Gujarat, BISI BELE BATH and ARISI PARUPPU SADHAM in southern India.
Yes, there’s BIRYANI too for a festival of a different kind.
And biryani has Northeast Indian variants, such as JADOH of the Khasi community in Meghalaya.
The cuisines underline the linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity of India, matching her geographical diversity – from snow-capped mountains to the sea shore with desert and fertile plains in between.
India’s variety with a common thread is like the seven colours of the rainbow that combine to produce white, the symbol of peace and purity.
Ours is a difficult country to manage, just as white is a difficult colour to keep stains away from.
But India has a way of getting over social, economic and political stains. It also has a way of emerging stronger from adversities – from attacks by the Greeks, Huns, Turks, Mughals and colonisation by the British in the past to homegrown enemies now.
This is because India, like a mother, teaches us unity in diversity – unity to work for her development and defence, to lighten her sorrows and to celebrate her joys.
Or in other words, live a life called India.
(Disclaimer: The thought and rough draft was entirely his, helped a bit with the rewriting)