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The Biryani Lech, His Pimp, And the Pimp’s Geishas

Friday, July 08, 2011

I met a biryani lech once. Ok I am lying. I’ve met him many times. Ok I am lying again. I have met many leches many times in my life. Actually I meet a biryani lech every other time I meet someone new.  So who’s the biryani lech you may ask?

You.

Yes. You. Don’t look left and right. I am talking to you, you salivating lech. You. Didn’t like that now did ya? Then perhaps you may want to listen to me for a bit. Why don’t we start with a few affirmations to de-lechize you?

Your first affirmation.
1.a My first sentence to someone Muslim will not be “I love biryani.”
1.b My second sentence to someone Muslim will not be “So can you make biryani?”
1.c My third sentence to someone Muslim will not be “So when are you getting us biryani?”

Done? Now now, you may think that’s not applicable to you. But trust me it is. And if you sit firm upon this affirmation, you would have successfully excluded yourself from the group of biryani super leches. And I know this is falling on deaf ears cos now all you can think is - “I Love biryani.” Yes, I am sure you do. In fact I’ll know you love biryani when your eyes super light up on discovering that I’m Muslim and this brash grin crosses your face in forewarning. I know your next sentence will have something to do with biryani.

Your second affirmation.biryani_1
2. I’ll stop envying Muslims for eating a kilo of mutton for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The real story is that we don’t. Well, not a kilo at least :)
2.b I’ll stop envying Muslims for the kabab and biryani orgies I presume are conducted behind closed doors. Wrong. They are not. Well not daily at least. ;)

I know I know, it’s hard not to believe it. But it’s true you know. We are not the super pleasure hogs we are made out to be. Indian Muslims are not Arab Muslims (I ‘m as guilty of stereotyping!). Our extravagances and meat-thirst is not more than the next meat-eating Indian.

Okay okay I made my case. Now let’s get back to you. I can spot a Biryani super lech a mile off. Hey hey, not painting a stereotype – but usuallllyyyyy a biryani lech has a slightly distended gut, strong muscular cheeks, and a gleam of saliva on his lips. And when he laughs, all 32 teeth roar from the very depths of their calcium caves. Always ready to grind into that chunk of mutton. And so when I am introduced to him, I try and morph my name to Ramya – in an effort to suppress my biryani heritage. But hey at least the superlech is honest and straightforward. No beating about the bush.  It’s the smooth-talking lech who should be watched out for. The smooth-talking lech is very suave. He puts in his time. Let’s say he’s a colleague at a new office. The first thing he does is come over and make friends with you. Next, he starts lunching with you. He times it perfectly. Sparingly at the beginning, then frequently as Ramzan approaches. And during Ramzan, he discusses Iftaar with you. Even drops hints of being wanting to be at one. He takes care. He is sensitive to your fasting needs. So by the time Eid comes, you’ll feel this burning compulsion to bring him that hotcase of biryani. Perhaps even invite him home on Eid day!


I gotta tell you guys something. Statistically speaking, only about 13% of Indians are Muslims. And a large chunk of those live in UP and MP. So while we are a prominent community – there are not those many of us. The auto-wallahs and commercial street shop keepers might give you an alternative impression, but frankly not so many of us around. I rarely meet a Muslim outside my own family (discounting the auto wallahs and the shopkeepers). Once in an Eid moon perhaps. But the point I am trying to make is that the ratio is terrible. For every one Muslim that exists in this country, there are 90 others who are not. So, if a typical friends and colleagues circle goes up to say 400 people, it makes for a minimum of 400 possible Biryani requests (assuming one request from each person in a year). And if we were to practically cater to 400 biryani requests in a year, we would be conducting a tidy-sized wedding right there!!!

In fact we almost do. You need to come home and see the size of our biryani dekchis. You can put a little lamb in there and roast it. During Eid, each member of the family sends in requests for at least 10-12 plates of Biryani for their “friends”, “colleagues”, “business acquaintances”, “family of some important man who is going to pass my tender”. 

And sure we are largely to blame. We know. We know as Muslims, there is no better bribe we can offer, than one dekchi full biryani by the ladies of the houses. ‘Thanks so much for the favour! ‘(extends a tiffin of biryani). ‘Please dude, please help me do this’ (turns up with a hotcase of biryani and tandoori chicken to the office). ‘Please sir, please pass my tender’ (invites ‘sar’ home for a biryani and chicken feast). Actually, if I call you the Biryani Lech, it would be fair to call us the Biryani Pimps. Yes fellow Muslims. Accept it. We are the Biryani Pimps. We have all varieties, grades, and tastes to offer the discerning ‘customer’. If we were to put a price on it, it would go such

50 rupees: One plate shivajinagari coming up (Read zeera barik rice, lots of oil and tomato, beef instead of mutton)
100 rupees: One plate bengaluri (Read zeera barik rice, lots of oil and tomato, greasy mutton)
120 rupees: One plate bengaluri – kerala hybrid (Read basmati rice, strong spices, and good lumps of mutton)
150 rupees: One plate hyderabadi (Read basmati rice, one egg, and nice juicy chicken, all mixed)
200 rupees: One plate dum biryani (Read basmati rice, the choicest of meat, beautifully layered rice, and that garnish of saffron)

Can’t put a price on it: A table spread of any flavour, any colour, any flesh, served to you by the fairest maidens of the house. Supervised by the healthy, sometimes stern, sometimes loving madame. And presided over by the head-bobbing pimp with a grin gleamier than that of the super lech.


Okay. I’d like to exclude the female species from the ‘we'. It's the men who wear the Biryani on their sleeves. For every Muslim lady knows that strange pride a Muslim man harbours for the biryani made in his house. Secretly or openly – they compete with other men for the title of ‘The Man With the Best Biryani Maker Wife’. Never mind if their begum is the ugliest, the nastiest, the loudest of the lot. If she makes the best biryani – well she’s won the right to be the clucking hen of the roost.

Every Muslim woman is aware that when she gets married, she needs to be prepared to take on the unspecified and undisclosed role of the Biryani Geisha. And that’s just a polite way of putting it! There’s a ranking system. Again - unspecified of course. If there are multiple women in the house, you start off as a standard Geisha. You may churn out a biryani once in a while for the house people - but the pros will handle the daawats and parties. Only after years and years of service you graduate to be the madame. If it’s a large khandaan, then the Geisha with the best skill is someone nobody dares put off. Cos they need her to come take over the biryani when they have thrown a large party!! And such a Geisha knows her worth. She’s secure. She’s proud. Secretly in her head she’s better than the rest of them. There’s a lot of ego around the biryani-making skills. Even the most disinterested young wife will attempt to learn to cook biryani. It's kind of a paradox. The better you are at it, the more requests you get. Requests that drive you up the wall!! But you can't help but be good. Cos like I said - it's an ego thing. Even the worst biryani is always ‘nice’. And the grades go upward from there. It’s an unwritten rule. When you sit at a biryani table – you must automatically go “wah wah”. Because as we all know it, ‘nice’ biryani is better than no biryani at all!

The biryani offers you hidden powers. You can dangle it as a promise. You can crack it like a whip. You can hold it back – and blackmail. You can dress it up in glorious diamonds and unveil it upon the throne of the peacock. While the maidens around you chant “Zafron Zafron”.

You my lady, can be more than just Geisha – You can be Queen.

And he my lady, can be more than just Pimp – He can be King.

And they my lady, can be more than just leches – They can be courtiers. Subjects.

Of the grand lecherous Kingdom of Biryani.


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rabia, your writing never ceases to surprise and impress!! This was a lot of learning for me - and I absolutely love your style :)

Asha

Rabia Fathima said...

Ashaaa! Loved that you read it and commented! I am just happy I have found a group that likes reading my stuff! :) ... thanks once more and hope you keep reading!

Anonymous said...

hey rabia ,, i found your blog today while browsing the internet... all day i have been reading your articles.. i enjoyed reading them...nice..:)