BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Thursday said he suspected that there were some Bangladeshis among construction labourers who worked at his house recently. The reason? He saw them eating poha.
Now, poha is Maharashtrian for "flattened rice", a dish where the rice is flattened into dry, light flakes. The flattened rice is usually cooked with turmeric, onions, tomatoes, nuts and other ingredients to make 'kanda poha', which is traditionally eaten all over Maharashtra. As a matter of fact, the dish may very well be considered synonymous with the state. In Indore too, poha, cooked almost in a similar way, forms an integral part of the diet. Not just Maharashtra, poha forms the staple breakfast for thousands around the country for three reasons - it is simple, it is filling and most importantly, it is cheap. For a few bucks, you can get a plate of steaming hot poha, which can satiate your hunger and let's face it, it's delicious.
Vijayvargiya's comments on the innocent poha did not sit well with desi foodies, who may have just sat down with their bowl of poha on a cold winter morning as they read what he said. The pertinent question then became, "Does eating poha makes one "anti-national"?
If eating Poha , gets you a tag of being from Bangladesh as per Ch. Kailash Vijayvargiya then almost every guy from our Maharashtra does belong from Bangladesh whose morning doesn't start without Poha and Chai .. pic.twitter.com/q2FLBepPZp — Niraj Bhatia (@bhatia_niraj23) January 24, 2020
I didn't even know poha had anything to do with bangladeshis .. I can eat poha for breakfast. Lunch and dinner if possible. What does that make me. — shilpi tewari (@shilpitewari) January 24, 2020
If eating poha is a proof of being Bangladeshi, then half of India, including my family, is Bangladeshi! https://t.co/VmspQnpYbW — nikhil wagle (@waglenikhil) January 24, 2020
The other day I saw an Uber driver drinking Frooti. I think he's stuck in the 90s. — Meghnad (@Memeghnad) January 24, 2020
My dhobi showed up eating a burger. I think he's American. — Kajol Srinivasan (@LOLrakshak) January 24, 2020
Vijayvargiya's totally uncalled-for attack on poha has stirred up another debate. By associating poha with Bangladeshis, he's essentially pointed fingers at Bengali speaking communities in India, who have now come all guns blazing to defend their version of flattened rice.
In Bengal, flattened rice is known as "chira" or "chire", which is eaten in uncooked form. Now, Bengalis from around the country have begun a comparison between poha and chira, claiming that their version tastes better and is healthier.
Chira > Poha. You're talking of Bengalis. But who will tell that to Vijayvargiya. ♀️ — Ananya Bhattacharya (@ananya116) January 24, 2020
The workers were eating poha. Poha. Because it's cheap and filling. But no, I must be imagining the systematic persecution of Bengali speakers. pic.twitter.com/HRzLXHM5cg — mata hurry (@basjagteraho) January 24, 2020
I think he means 'chire' which is an integral part of Bengali diet. How would you represent bengal if you don't understand Bengali culture/food? — Initnamees (@SeemantiniBose) January 24, 2020
চিৰা is also a part of Assamese Culture. In villages it is the first choice of Breakfast. — Mᴀɴᴀs (@JajaborManas) January 24, 2020
Vijayvargiya probably had no idea that he would trigger a food war of sorts or even end up pitting one culture against the other. But hey, here's a lesson for the future - just don't mess with our food!