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Posted at: Jul 20, 2019, 6:46 AM; last updated: Jul 20, 2019, 6:46 AM (IST)

Chicken meal, the Hindu way

Chicken meal, the Hindu way

Parbina Rashid

Summoning every bit of my willpower, as I opened my eyes, I found a handsome hunk towering over me. ‘Here is your Hindu meal,’ he said with a smile. ‘Hindu meal?’ I was bewildered. I didn’t remember ordering a Hindu meal. How could I, when I had never heard of it? I have had Assamese meal, Bengali meal, Gujarati meal, even the latest entry into the thaali business, the Bihari meal, which claims litti chokha is the mainstay food, when I know for sure that many of my Bihari friends have not even eaten it once.

But what is a Hindu meal? Something Sita would have cooked for Lord Ram when they were in exile? I was trying to give a mythical dressing to the box he was holding out to me, considering that everything, right from cosmetic surgery to nuclear weapons to the Internet, has a Vedic packaging in today's socio-political narrative!

The smile on that handsome face turned into a frown. He looked at my seat number and said with some authority, ‘Your ticket says about your preference for a Hindu meal.’ 

We were flying over Germany and the flight information page on the screen said it was 5:30 am in Munich. I looked around, most of the co-passengers were sleeping. But then, as the frown became pronounced, I had no alternative but to accept the box with a meek question, ‘Is this vegetarian?’ The idea of having to munch vegetables at the crack of dawn was too much to stomach.

‘No, yours is chicken Hindu meal.’ I gave out a sigh of relief. Thank God, this airline recognises chicken as Hindu. Not everybody does. Recently when I met a group of Satria dancers who came from Majuli in Assam — the seat of the satra culture initiated by the great Vaishnavite saints Shankardev and Madhavdev — to perform in Chandigarh,  I was told by the troupe leader how they were wolfing down chicken dishes every day.  

At the satras, the bhakts are not allowed to have chicken. Only fish is permitted.

Fully awake, I couldn’t wait to open the box. A cold bun with a pouch of butter and jam, a fluffy omelette, chunks of baked potato, boiled spinach and a chicken cutlet stared at me. The only ‘Hindu’ element was the curd.  

By the time I finished, my co-passengers, too, were served meals. I glanced at the box of my fellow passenger, a burly German. I could spot the same aloof bun, the omelette, the greens, potatoes and chicken. 

Overcome with curiosity, I asked the airhostess how was chicken Hindu meal different from the non-Hindu continental meal? ‘Hindu meal has a cutlet made of minced chicken and continental has chicken nuggets,’ she explained.

So much for the thought behind the Hindu meal! But I was happy that I would no longer have to defend halal against jhatka anymore. The new philosophy just made both rituals completely redundant.

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