Lunch-box- a quintessential mystery in our life. A uniform dangling structure forced into our fist every morning, or shoved into our school bags in our childhood. As I tune into FM while driving to office, the box lies wobbling in bangalore roadbumps, untended in the backseat of car. My junior staffs would smile when a well dressed doctor often in his dashing suit tries to sneak this shabby box behind his ass; hides it in the closet as soon as he reaches desk. As the security guard smiles at me, I feel like he is asking, “Kya sir? Aaj fir lauki?” How did he know its ‘Lauki’? Is it an uniform content irrespective of caste and social status, a security guard to a suave doctor, all would have ‘lauki’ in lunchbox? Well, he never asked, but I could sense the aromalessness of lunchbox. If it was anything else, there must have been some whiff, some aroma, except the blandest thing in world- Lauki. Curious and worried, I nosedive into the closet. No…Nothing….Not an iota of smell. Must be ‘Lauki’. Dejected, I get lost into my work. “Karmanye va dhikaraste; Maa faleshu kadhachanah……..” Did Draupadi cook Lauki for all pandavas? Did Lord Krishna convince Arjuna like, “Better you go fighting, there is nothing good for lunch anyway.” As Sahadeva sneakingly opened, “Its lauki!!!!!” ; they all went charging, rampaging, killing all over Kurukshetra.
But, as I search into wikipedia, ‘Lauki’ isn’t that old, and its no mention in Mahabharata supports the hypothesis. How would Ved Vyas, who almost detailed upto Duryodhana’s banana undergarments, miss ‘lauki’? I recently read about Mughal king’s culinary habits, and ‘lauki’ was conspicuously missing. Aurangzeb never had Lauki. But, I am sure vegetarian Abdul Kalam would have gobbled on plenty of Laukis. Was that the key for conversion from ‘Bad Muslim’ to ‘Good Muslim’? If Lauki is that magical formula, why doesn’t the US forces bombard ‘lauki’ on IS militants to convert them for good. One of the cheapest vegetable on planet can save millions spent on drones and missiles. Incidently, it has a gifted shape of ‘missile’- designed to kill. An american name of ‘Calabash’ has more deadly flavour in it….NYT HEADLINES- “Four IS militants bombed by Calabash have turned Sufi and dervishing Rumi. Indian premier Modi have promied to supply a million more Laukis in war against terror” .
My grandfather never liked Lauki and he once confessed he never had much of Lauki in his childhood. Those golden days were ruled by ‘savarna’ and upmarket vegetables like ‘cauliflower’ and ‘okra (bhindi)’. Potatoes, and brinjal followed and so were many. Laukis were ‘shudras’ among vegetables who would never dare step into any affordable platter. But, then the ‘rulers of kitchen’ realised if they uplift these ‘shudras’, they would be able to rule the patriarch India. First time it was served, it was thrown right away. But, soon ‘moderates’ and ‘wife-loving husbands’ gave in, and lauki’s upliftment was discussed. Demand for reservation grew, and Lauki finally got ‘reserved’ status. It would be served once a week, no matter what. Some northern state rulers of kitchen made it twice or thrice a day. Later, Lauki took shape of convenience, threatening and sometimes revenge to the husbands. “Buy me a jewellery, else have Lauki everyday!”
But, reservation wasn’t enough in a gastronomical country. Many would conveniently throw it out of the window covertly. Many laukis would have flown down ‘naala‘ beside my childhood home. It needed a societal status, an edge over upmarket vegetables. Many social activists poured in ideas from their ever useless brains. One of the famous Baba came up with a brilliant concept that ‘Lauki juice can cure diabetes’. Lauki juice- a potion of poisonous bitterness unnaturally swallowed by sweet-deprived suffering diabetics. In the name of Lord Shiva, they swallowed like ‘Neelkanth‘. Lauki got what it never deserved, and flooded the sabzi-mandis more than ever. Once the reservation and status was achieved, rifts followed within the Lauki community. Baba helped in categorising the reservation- better upliftable shudras and untouchable shudras. He proclaimed, “If oblong Laukis are nectar, round laukis are poison.” So, the oblong Laukis made their way upto elite societies, tribal round laukis were barred and left to rot in hidden corners of land. Society was divided for good.
As Lauki became cynosure of other vegetable’s eyes, conspiracies began too. Old upmarket ‘savarnas’ got into their dirty tricks to denounce Lauki. One of the quintessential ‘savarna’-favored highest medical institution in country came up with a research paper which claimed, “Lauki juice can cause inadvertent deaths”. Some three people died after having Lauki juice (I doubt numbers must be much more!). It actually never needed a research paper to prove that. Many people are dying this death every day, when they try to push it somehow down the neck diluting it with ‘achaar‘ and spices. The gurgling and throwing up follows often.
Whatever disgruntlement and facebook posts say against Lauki, reservation stays and Lauki stands vindicated. Afterall, it has a huge votebank for kitchen kings. Even if I try to shop vegetable myself, and come smiling with all those beautiful cauliflowers, I would see a kingsize Lauki already well seated in kitchen corner. It was ordered online. So convenient to scrap, cut and cook it. Add salt, oil, spices anything, wouldn’t make any difference; serve it raw or cooked, its all the same. An epitome of convenience.
All said and done, we all have right to gobble on tasty ‘seekh-kebabs‘ and culinary delights, but denying lauki of its hard-gained status and abolishing its reservation from platter isn’t the solution. Baba couldn’t be so wrong and so wouldn’t be our moms and wives who kept serving it. The kebabs could give a hard-time in morning rituals but Lauki- never! As I struggle hard in morning after the ass-burning guntur chicken I had yesterday, I wished I better had Lauki. (P.S. Hope the wish doesn’t get fulfilled atleast on a pleasant sunday)