State of the Papad

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It was after many phone calls to assorted PR agencies and  after being given many a run-around (as they say: bahoot papad belna para) that I was ultimately able to get an interview with the famous Lijjat Papad Bunny, the face of the multimillion dollar Papad industry and together with the dancing Nirma girl and the Hippo of washing powder Hippolin, an icon of the 80s Doordarshan days.

Crunching into a spicy papad, Mr. Bunny appeared relaxed and upbeat.

“It’s been a good year for us”, he chortled “with Shilpa Shetty being called Shilpa Poppadum in the British Big Brother, foreign interest in papads or poppadums has never been higher.”

Indeed. If a has-been like Shilpa Shetty can use this platform to launch her career in the West and even get invited to join the BJP, imagine what a mention on Big Brother would do for something as tasty and addictive as papads.

Yumm.

Coming to the immediate reason for the interview, I pointed to this news item about the standardization attempts of the great Papad, currently underway at the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization.

Is your papad 0.3 mm?

Hyderabad, Jan. 20: The papad, a traditional accompaniment to the Indian meal, will henceforth be made as per international standards. The Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants, controlled jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has decided to include papads and lassi in its list of food items.

The committee has directed that “papads shall be in the form of thin circular discs having a diameter ranging from 5 cm to 25 cm. The thickness shall be 0.3 mm to 1.2 mm”. The committee has also specified that papads should be of “pleasant taste and smell…free from rancid or bitter taste and should not crumble”.

Papads should also be free from frayed edges, holes, dirt and fungal growth. On being fried, they should be crispy, and should not be soggy or sticky. Papads, generally prepared from soaked rice flour or black gram mixed with salt and spices, have to be manufactured and dried under strict hygienic conditions from now on.

[Item courtesy Joy Forever. Related Link here.]

With one ear up and another dropping, the Bunny (his picture from the 80s to the left) laughed.

“We welcome standardization attempts —as a matter of fact papad engineers from all over the world collaborated on those standards. With nano-fabrication technologies and laser-guided cavity detection no longer science fiction, papads will soon be engineered to the highest quality standards. And also this will help real papad manufacturers stand apart from those cheats, who we keep warning against.”

Cheats? In the papad world?

“Of course” said the bunny, baring his buck teeth in a distinctly unfriendly fashion “ In foreign markets, we have to deal with cheap imitations —those that burn and shrivel in the microwave and cause stomach gas when consumed. Particularly insidious is the “L-Izzat” brand, which is an abbreviation of “Lootoonga Izzat”, and whose mascot is Shakti Kapoor in a bunny costume.”

I was shocked. Is there anything that the corporate world won’t stoop to?

Wiping off papad crumbs from his big nose, the bunny reached for another papad good-humouredly.

“Only one regret. With the standardization of papads, we no longer will have those small random production defects—-which have for long been used to determine the character of would-be bahus.”

Excuse me? I asked.

The bunny pointed to a print-out.

It was the norm till about 40 years back, and even today, there are several Marwari families that practice it. In the small towns and villages of Rajasthan, the original practice has seen little transformation. My own grandmother went through it, and till the end averred that it was a sure-shot way of fixing life partners’, begins Puja.

‘Once the traditional matchmaker of the community ‘the ‘nai’ (barber) – had introduced the families of the prospective bride and groom, the women from the boy’s side would pay a visit to the girl’s house. The sole purpose was to put the bride-to-be through a ‘fool-proof’ test: get her to roast a papad.

The secret to her temperament lay in the way she carries out this task. If she was not careful, then parts of the papad are roasted black. For the future in-laws, that suggested the girl was hotheaded, and likely to spread discord in the family. If there were parts that remained unroasted (kachcha), the girl was deemed too mild-mannered or even spineless. She will not be able to hold her own in a joint family where the women-in-laws came in all hues.

Interpretations were also dependent on which part of the papad remained over or under-roasted. If the edges of the papad had been turned into carbon, then the bride-to-be will be hassled by small, relatively insignificant issues, but she can still be moulded as per the wishes of the matriarchal in-laws. God-forbid though, if the burnt parts were around the centre. The young woman was done for. She will wage war on each and every issue ‘ big or small, important or not .

‘It didn’t mean that hotheaded women didn’t get married’, my grandmother would add hastily. ‘Wise mothers-in-law, wanting to create the right balance, opted for such a woman if the son was too mild or gullible or if there was another daughter-in-law who needed countering. Likewise, for the women who under-roasted papads during the test.’

The mother and other female relatives of the bride-to-be couldn’t dream of faking the test. The bride inspectors would bring in their own exam material, and each household would prepare the basic papad a bit differently, forcing the bride to be alert. She needed the ability to discern when a particular side of the papad was done, so she could turn it. A hesitation of even a fraction of a second could make the difference between a yes and a no for marriage.

‘There could not be any proxy roasting either. A bevy of women from the boy’s side would all be present while the bride sweated it out.

Interesting. Being totally besotted by the Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding, I asked the Bunny if he thought that the Bachchans would use the papad method to check out how “domesticated” Aishwarya is. After all, as we all know they are really serious about her being “gharelu” —-look at how they got Sanjay Gadhvi to edit out the kissing scene in Dhoom 2 because the Bachchans are a very traditional family. I am sure that also being sticklers for consistency, they will soon ask Sanjay Leela Bhansali to edit out Amitabh’s kissing scene with Rani in “Black”.

Mr. Bunny shook his ears from side to side, as his nose turned even redder.

“Do you want to drag me into a controversy, young man? What if the B’s do not serve papad at the reception because I have made a statement about their personal affairs? No no…I cannot comment.”

“But Mr. Bunny. Please. I need an exclusive.”

With Mr. Bunny pressing the papad-shaped big button on his desk, I realized the interview was over. As I was being led out by security, all I heard was a high-pitched voice repeating:

“Enh heh heh Enh heh heh.”

[Bunny picture courtesy here]

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67 thoughts on “State of the Papad

  1. Surf (Lalita-jee),
    Nirma,
    Lijjat Papad,
    Amul,
    Rin,
    Fair & Lovely,
    Rexona,
    Liril

    These ads icnonized our long lost days of innocent Doordarshan fun.

    Remember those good old serials of Buniyaad, Lifeline, Karamchand, Kile ke Rahyass (mystery of the castle), Udaan, Campus. Does UGC even produce those afternoon programs anymore ?

    Gosh Arnab, you hit a raw one. Memories come rushing back. Thanks.

  2. Add to that, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
    I remember the streets used to be empty on Saturday and Sunday mornings when those used to be aired. And also the DD news every night. The sole source of e-news in those days.

    Those were good old times, GB you bring back those memories.
    Great post, once again, BTW.

  3. …cheap imitations —those that burn and shrivel in the microwave and cause stomach gas when consumed…

    I think these were the ones that Jaggu Dada consumed in Rituparno’s Antarmahal. And he always thought the oil was bad!

  4. Forgot Chitrahaar and Chitramala?
    It was annoying to wait for your native-tongue song to appear in Chitramala. Especially if it is Tamil. More often than not, the alphabetical ordering meant that time was up before it came to T. Much worse was the case of Telegu songs.
    And who could forget those sunday-afternoon award movies?
    DD rocked.

  5. Yeah the “Enh heh heh Enh heh heh” brought back memories of the ‘karram kurram’ papad eating Bunny…
    And, bengali guy, talking about iconical Doordarshan serials how can we forget “chunauti”? The “chitrahar”s every wednesday and friday was incidentally ‘banned’ by our mother at home, but we got to see it if some guests dropped in at that time as mother would be either busy with the guests or wary of ticking us off in front of ‘other people’. And I remember the disappointment if Doordarshan chose to play only old black and white songs on that day! Another spoilsport in those days was the load sheddings by the electricity department…for some reason they would spare Buniyaad, but would black-out ‘Chunauti’ or ‘Fauji’!!
    Great post GB! It brought back pleasant memories which were otherwise long forgotten!

  6. it would be prime time viewing every news channel.. [BREAKING NEWS: Aishwariya frying pappads] with her standing in front of the stove, the whole bachachn parivaar behind her, the enitire media in front of her filming it Live.
    Complete silence… ‘ek lammmmbi khamoshi’, except for the sizzzz frying sound.

  7. Man, did you actually watch these mannequins work upon me? why would you do that? why would you actually work upon a human being with such disadvantages?
    f8cking mummies, i love them,
    in a way,
    but who knows?
    all we’re tring to do is break our on boundries till i go fucking !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but who knows right?????
    Gotta take it easy.
    Too many ppl on hand.
    Yup.

  8. Dear GB,
    Gr8 post as usual…..
    Sir Psycho-Just to know all of us know to swear as well.
    Kindly refrain from such posts.
    GB-Remove his post…………..

  9. While on the papads… one more thing I would like to point out.

    Being a Marwari myself I have seen/heard that Women, who are having their periods on, were not allowed to roll papad or even come closer to the place where the making is going on. It is said that would make papad reddish brown when roasted and hence tasteless.

    Totally absurd thing– but then Marwaris will be Marwaris.

    Good post BTW 🙂

  10. but nobody mentioned Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi???? The serial which used to be aired on Friday evenings. I was wondering whether its possible to get a DVD of the episodes….just to bring back those good ol’ days!
    🙂

  11. The comments section is awash in fifty fathoms of nostalgia.

    Back in the days when only Delhi had a TV station, I had watched a moon landing live.
    It was circa 1971, I guess.

  12. Absolutely delightful reading! Loved the way you connected the dots and brought up the current saga of the hypocrites Bachchans. Oh yes! the doordarshan days of the 80’s, I wish I could relieve those days again!

  13. Oh the good old days when DD rocked. So much time to play & then run to watch the Sunday evening movie.

    BTW, does anyone remember the name of the radio programme hosted by Amin Sayani….it used to be a 1 hour detective programme. I was hooked but don’t remember much about it now.

  14. Very boring post. Not at all enjoyable. I suggest u pick up better ideas. Not at all entertaining. Neither fun nor enlightening. Poor post.

  15. @Kishore – how old are you? This post is enjoyable to us dinosaurs. I mean us critters who used to watch TV with a iron curtain rod tied to the back of the B/W TV set in the good ol’ days when you could see the TV tower from our house.

    Plus the socio-dynamics of interpretation of papad burns is fascinating. Reading dreams, tea-leafs, tarot cards or crystal balls is peanuts in comparison.

    @GB: See I occasionally do comment (where I have not advocated plantago ovata husk to anyone!)…

  16. @Asterix: I think it was Binaca Geetmala (broadcast by Radio Sri Lanka). That was the gold standard of radio programmes – that was!

  17. Hey GB,
    your post is very timely. Last month I was pleasantly surprized to find Poppadum among a few other Indian grocery items (e.g Patak’s achar, curry paste and Lipton’s Green label tea)in a very upsacle grocery shop (note: NOT an Indian grocery shop) in Charlottesville,VA. If poppadum has arrived in a small hamlet in Virginia, then I am very hopeful about its international career and future.

  18. If only J.K. Rowling had known it, Sybil Trelawney would have had a papad reading course where the Patil twins would have scored straight ‘O’s.
    And Hermione could not have scoffed at Trelawney at all.
    A great pity Dumbledore got avada kedabraed before he could introduce these fascinating courses.
    I hope Minerva McGonagall will be more open minded. The Lijjat Bunny will only be to glad to add this Hogwarts gurukul to his line of loyal customers.

    And as for the aachar to be eaten with the papads,that should be concocted in the Potions class.

    Munna Maharaja or Baedekar to be the next potions teacher.
    All in favour raise your wands and say ‘AYE!’

  19. What if she only deep fries but papad instead of roasting it, probability of it now getting burned is less, hence prospective mother-in-law should include- she thinks out of the box ….

  20. @Raj: Thank you.

    @Bengali Guy: Yes I do. Innocent times. And all serials did not start with K

    @Varahamihira: Thank you.

    @Joy Forever: :-). And now with quality-controlled papads, Soha Ali Khan can get some relief.

    @Sriram: Was it alphabetical? I never knew that. So it was the always the Asomiya song first?

    @Rick: “The “chitrahar”s every wednesday and friday was incidentally ‘banned’ by our mother at home, but we got to see it if some guests dropped in at that time as mother would be either busy with the guests or wary of ticking us off in front of ‘other people’”

    Sounds familiar.

    @Sang.Froid: And this would be after she married the tree?

    @SirPyscho: Whats with the profanity? More importantly, what are you trying to say?

    @Tapan: In this case, Sugato sent me the WHO text.

    @Kalias: Well first let me understand what hes trying to say.

    @Tantrik-Porter: I do !

    @Me: “It is said that would make papad reddish brown when roasted and hence tasteless”

    Ahem.

    @Debopam: Maybe for a later post.

    @Swati: Moon landing ! Wasnt that in 1969?

    @Alpha: 🙂

    @Suzi: Not to speak of Rajiv Gandhi every 10 minutes.

    @Asterix: Wasnt much of a radio man.

    @Kishor: Thank you for your kind input. I am sorry to have bored you. I mean I really love the constructive criticism you shower me with. Why? Because they keep me honest. Unlike the crap I get from my sycophants, many of whom are none other than me.

    A little history.

    The first comment you ever made on this blog was not about me. It was that Afzal should be hung by his beard and not by his neck.

    Then on my Vivah post, you concentrated on my writing skills. You said the punch has been missing last 4-5 posts. And that was because of age catching up with me.

    That was constructive.

    Then there was this comment from someone called Gnan, who incidentally had the same IP as yours (I am not claiming he is you of course)

    He said: “I find this a totally time waste stuff. This kind of posts suggest that u have too much time on hand, doing nothing, and ur brain has become devil’s work shop. Why don’t u write some intelligent stuff like Gaurav Sabnis or Jai Arjun?”

    That was also constructive.

    Then there was a comment from someone called Richie who also shares your exact IP address by some fluke. Again I am not saying he is you, because he is definitely not an Indian.

    He said: “After reading the comments, i now realize that there are so many people without proper work who read this medicore blog and post comments. Pity on Indians”

    Again that was interesting. And informative.

    The reason I am telling you all this is just to give you some examples of good advise I get from you and other commenters from the same IP address.

    In conclusion, please keep on guiding me so that I may be more successful in my mission of enlightening and entertaining you (of course taking into account my age and other intellectual limitations).

    [PS: Regarding these IP addresses, it’s not that I track anyone’s IP address (which I very well might do of course, being an Indian and not having proper work). WordPress affixes the IPs of all commenters and they show up by default.]

    @Sayon: It’s Kishor not Kishore.

    @Ronita: Shilpa wins Big Brother. Papad in chic shops. India shining.

    @Swati: 🙂

    @Mohan: You are welcome.

    @Tarzan: Thanks

    @Sam: Hmm.

  21. All this nostalgia stuff is okay of course, but wen I hear papad i remember only this mama (uncle) of mine who would ask me to say “Kachha Papad Pakka Papad” fast, 10 times in a row – the prize for success supposedly being the best softy ice cream in town.

    Never got that ice cream.

    Chintzy bastard!

  22. @AnIdealBoy: What’s the harm? Tagore once described himself as one.

    Reference: Leela Majumdar once dropped in at his house after school. The great man asked her what happenned in class. She replied that she had asked for an essay on “A Cow” – one boy had written “The cow is a domesticated vegetarian”

    Tagore was very excited – he said “But that describes me. I too am a domesticated vegetarian.”

    Apologies to those who know the story…

  23. Arnab, you should give due credit to Rituparno Ghosh for making papad internationally famous, in his now critically-acclaimed film Antarmahal. A man of Jackie Shroff’s stature talks about Papad while making love. I mean what else testimonial do you need for Papad’s importance in one’s life.

  24. Hi GB:

    I know that one day you will find out based on the IP address. Yes, I am the one posting comments with different names. Hope yourfan sr. and yourfan jr. won’t attack me.

  25. I will explain here why I post with different names. Actually I was having some bad time in my business and my astrologer told me that there is some kala nazar on me. So, he told me to get bad remarks and curses so that the kala nazar would get satisfied and go away. That is why I post irritating comments on ur blog. Once my astrologer tells me that kala nazar has gone away, I will stop posting such comments.

  26. Very nice. Most commentators above have echoed what I wanted to convey and so I wont add anything more.

    But meanwhile, heres something interesting i read in today’s TOI: 🙂

    Ganguly success excites Boycs
    TIMES NEWS NETWORK

    Mumbai: Despite England’s poor show in Australia during the Ashes and the ongoing Tri-Series, Geoffrey Boycott is in a ch e e r f u l mood these days.
    Reason: His two favourite Indians — actor Shilpa Shetty and former India captain Sourav Ganguly are doing well in their fields of interest.
    Shetty recently won the Celebrity Big Brother contest in UK and Ganguly is back in the Indian cricket team with a bang. Boycott who is in Mumbai to mentor contestants of a reality cricket show, Cricket Star couldn’t stop speaking about them.
    Boycott cannot stop talking about his favourite Indian cricketer. “My Prince of Calcutta is a very good player, a tough cookie. Very good to see him back and in form. He was the best captain India had in a long long time. Mentally tough,” praised Boycott.
    The former England opener preferred not to take any further questions on the Indian team and a century by Sachin Tendulkar. “I haven’t seen them play today. Sachin’s a lovely lad.”
    Boycott, who cut short his holiday in South Africa, backs Australia to win the World Cup.

  27. GB, it was alphabetical in chitramala. Assamese, Bengali … Kannada … Tamil, Telegu. I know it well because we used to wait for the Tamil song and it appeared at the end always.

  28. Curious about the IP addresses you mention. If I am working from a large corporation how can wordpress or any agency get to know the actual IP of my machine. I thought they just give you the IP of the gateway something, no? Man If I am wrong then it is actually a bit scary 🙂

  29. LOL Kishor is funny… kala nazar BS. LOL again..

    Hey Kishor add an “e” to your name. That might work. You never know with all this stuff right? Maybe the kala nazar will get fooled into thinking it is not you but someone else.

  30. And one more thing. GB’s reply is very lucky. Actually, I was struggling to find a good house to buy one month back. I posted an irritating comment and GB replied to that and the next day I found a very good house. I was having problems with my house loan clearance, and GB replied yesterday morning, and in the evening itself IDBI people called me to inform that my loan has been cleared. So, i suggest all people to get a reply from GB to get ur important things done.

  31. @Arnab: Wow! I’m having problems finding a house too! May I send you nasty comments to reply to? Pretty please?

    Only issue, I now need to find different avatars – shouldn’t be a problem – I count around 15 different nicknames bestowed on me since childhood.

    Now you can charge people for replies to insults. What a wonderful way to make money (unless one is Shilpa Shetty, and need to only cry on camera)!

    @Kishor: Are you real? Or am I more humour-challenged than I fancy myself to be?

  32. To add to the list of serials:
    Sansar, Junoon, Oshin, Street Hawk, Knight Rider, Phantom 2040, He Man, Chandrakanta, Mahabharat, Superhit Muqabla…
    Ah! Amazing times! Probably the peak of DD. I tried to sample the current shows for old times sake.. they simply suck! Or maybe its just nostalgia.

  33. @Lalbadshah, Street Hawk 😀 I used to wear a cap with Street Hawk written on it. Guess its just nostalgia as our parents always claim their era was better 🙂

  34. @GB
    Those days I did not mind watching Rajiv Gandhi at all, actually I used to be awestruck with this young, handsom, Prime minister of our country mingling always with the poor, shabbily dressed (or more of an undressed) down trodden people of our country. What a great man he was?

    @ideal boy

    Yes, that word domesticated was rubbing my conscience the wrong way too. Actually I was just thinking about commenting on this. In our 3rd or 4th standard science books, read about domesticated and the wild animals, how could the science book miss out on the domesticated homo sapiens? Maybe frying a perfect papad is the sign of being domesticated. Must have to admire the wisdoms of those great ones, who invented these simple tests to check out ones domesticity. I am sure GB would be able to dig out more such tales of wisdom.

  35. ROTFL at “Lootoonga Izzat”!!
    I am surpised to hear about this new technique of judging a prospective bride. I now guess its the same reason why the girl is supposed to make tea and serve it to the boy’s side.
    Wow, I dont know how to make tea and my papads catch fire. I wonder what that means! 😉

  36. Superb artcile.. how on earth do u get to dig out such topics n present them beautifully.. just to add to the list – nukkad, mungerilal ke hasin sapne etc..

  37. @Launda- Just to add to the list Byomkesh Bakhshi……..probably the best Hindi Detective series ever made!!

    🙂 🙂

    I am amazed at the number of people who seem to like Byomkesh Bakshi and it just shows that the charm of detective stories is not limited by restrictions imposed by a particular language. I wish that someday Saradindu’s 2 volumes of Byomkesh and the reminaing volumes on historical writings are translated, and translated well into Hindi. Translation is a delicate act that must strive to retain the flavors which are intrinsically that of a particular language along with the mood, period, setting and culture.

    I first bought the translated compilation of Sherlock Holmes from Kolkata Book Fair when I was in Class 3 as Conan Doyle’s english was just too hard for me at that age. A couple of years later, when I bought the original English edition, I was mesmerized again by the master detective writer, but it also enabled me to admire in hindsight the brilliant translating skills of Manindra Dutta, who translated the work into Bengali.

  38. I wonder if you guys ever watched a series called ‘MacGyver’
    (http://rdanderson.com/macgyver/macgyver.htm)

    well, it was not on DD, we used to watch it on Bangladesh TV…in North Bengal, we used to have two antennas, one was for DD (Kurseong relay centre) and another for Bangladesh TV. We had watched Street Hawk, Knight Rider & Tarzan etc well before DD viewers ! and of course 1982 world cup !

    btw, this kishor is just wonderful! and deserves a post by his own merit !!!!!!

    ;))

  39. Since we are down the nostalgia lane, I wonder if anybody remembers this show called Videocon Flashback. Javed Jaffery used to host it and it was absolutely over the top hilarious. Rather than the flashbacks he was narrating, it was his mimicry skills that had me ROFL. Sticking his thumbs into his jeans pockets, looking sideways and then in his Feroze Khan imitation saying….’kyon re, mein tujhe sexy nahin lagta kya?’…..Priceless.

    Have been trying to find the source on VHS/DVD. Wonder if anybody knows???

  40. @Indranil- Thanks for bringing back the memories of Mcgyver, Street Hawk and Night Rider. I also enjoyed Bangladesh TV a lot, in the early 90’s when Doordarshan used to be such a pain in the ass. In fact I fondly remember the booster and the antenna which enabled me to watch Bangladesh TV. DD only showed so many matches of WC 92. I saw all matches courtesy Bangladesh TV which was taking the feed from Star Sports….yes Sunil Gavaskar in the studio. I also enjoyed ‘movie of the week’ and those Bangla Natoks a lot. Bangladesh Tv also used to start religious programs at about 4 pm…Gita Path, Tripitakh Path etc. and then…..the azan started……and if my dad was within earshot…i knew it would be a wise decision to switch the TV off or change the channel.

    So here is a nostalgia quiz for you. If you have followed Bangladesh TV closely, from which religious text was this quoted regularly after the azan everyday?

    “Hey allah!. Ei poripurno aobhan ebong namaz er tumi i probhu. Hazrat muhammad salla la hu a alai hua sallam ke dan koro sorboccho sonman, ebong beheshter shresthotomo sthane take protishthito koro, jar protisruti tumi take diyecho. Nischoi tumi bhongo koro na ongikar!”

  41. WOW!
    you still remember that “Nischoi tumi bhongo koro na ongikar!” stuff ????

    and bangala natok ! yess..there was one tele serial called ‘edi sob din ratri’ which was quite popular…!

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