I put up a photograph on Facebook, featuring the outcome of one of my culinary expeditions during this Navaratri. The caption reads: “Mysore Pak for the festival.. with paraphernalia also included...I'm being extra cautious at a time when asking for proof appears to be the flavor of the season.”
Having shot that missile, I go into virtual hibernation because there’s too much happening in the real world. A phone call from a honcho whom I have offered to help with some writing; preparing ‘muruku’ and the day’s ‘sundal;’ welcoming guests; serving them the snacks and seeing them off after the customary ‘taamboolam.’
Around midnight, when I finally log back onto Facebook, I notice that my wall has begun to resemble Arnab Goswami’s Newshour.
Some people are making polite noises by ‘liking’ or ‘loving’ the picture, others are more volubly passionate in their expression. One Mysore Pak fan – obviously a puritan – comments that the sweet needed to be more porous and offers a tip on how to get the texture right. He gets seconded by someone (one of my closest friends – Brutus!) and the latter’s husband joins the party to express an opinion opposing hers.
He is promptly chastised by the puritan, who brings in the great “Pak Divide” – a conflict that has held the citizens of two neighboring states in its vice-like grip for ages before it had to cede space to the more pressing Cauvery issue. Because, of course, we don’t have the equivalent of a Marie Antoinette to tell people without water to make Mysore Pak instead. The only one with a tenuous link to Mysore royalty defected to the other side. Over the years, she drew our water too, away and whether it is the ravages of time, or retribution for trespassing holy fault lines, she now lies ailing in secrecy.
Sigh.Talking of Arnab, I have unknowingly taken on a quality of his panelists and digressed from the issue on hand. Let’s re-orient our mental compass and get back to the Pak debate.
On my wall, one guy steps in with a comment that, with ‘surgical’ precision, reveals the drift of my caption’s intention and rescues the discussion from paradropping into a culinary debate.
Today, much longer, after my expedition and public acceptance of the event, the picture continues to attract attention. I cannot help but think of how similar the situation is to the current debate that initially inspired my caption.
Some people take things as presented and say it’s perfect the way it is. Some others try to point out their opinion of how it should have been done. Some people want to know how it is done. For some people, the doer’s claim of having done it and the body of proof provided is not good enough – they still ask, did you really do it?
And, perhaps most important of all …wait, I need to spell out a disclaimer here. No offence intended to Nandhini, a close and dear relative who I know didn’t mean her comment to imply what I’m going to say it did….just that in an Arnabesque way, I’m using her comment to drive home a vital point of the larger issue here.
And perhaps most important of all, the one sounding unbelieving – despite the doer providing proof – is not an outsider, but an insider, who, one expects, would have known better than to doubt the doer’s capabilities.
It’s not as if such expeditions haven’t been undertaken before – they have. It’s not that the efforts have passed unnoticed – they have. But there have been two major features that set this episode apart.
First, the obvious one – the event has been made public on a social platform that engages far more persons than those who are only at the receiving end. The second, and more astounding one – this time around, there has been a drastic veering off the standard track in such a way that the product itself is a different one. To the ones watching from afar, it looks like the same old stuff, but those with a ringside view and sampling opportunity, know it’s a distinctive development.
The Mysore Pak is not actually Mysore Pak.
It’s a related sweet called ‘7 Cups’ because it is made by mixing 3 cups of sugar with 1 cup each of gram flour (besan), milk, coconut and ghee. Faced with a power cut that prevented grinding of the grated coconut, I changed tack to come up with a leaner and meaner product. Discarding the 1 cup of coconut and correspondingly, half a cup each of sugar and ghee, this confection-without-a-name was successfully planned, executed and publicized to great fanfare.
The bottom line – about 12 people (equally distributed on both sides of the "Pak" divide) who consumed the product have heaped praise on the one preparing it and that’s good enough – for now. Will there be more such daring expeditions? Maybe – at a time of the doer’s choosing.
Will the experience gained from making the expedition public this time, cause a change in recipe? Maybe, maybe not – it will depend on the flavor of that season !