The Rashtriya Janata Dal has welcomed the meme of Union minister Upendra Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, who has extended a culinary olive branch which could lead to an alliance next year. Addressing an audience in Patna, he had said that the milk of the pastoral Yadavs and the rice grown by Kushwaha agriculturists were the ingredients of a nutritious kheer. Despite this sweetness and light, the RLSP has clarified that it remains committed to the NDA.
Never mind, Kushwaha has tapped into a rich vein of idiom that dates back to the 8th century, when the Parsis made landfall in Gujarat, via Hormuz, fleeing repression in Iran after the fall of the Sasanian empire. The apocryphal story states that the local king, Jadi Rana, who was not a talkative sort, showed them a vessel filled with milk to the brim, indicating that his kingdom was full up and had no room for immigrants. In response, a Zoroastrian priest sprinkled sugar into the milk, which did not brim over, indicating that the immigrants would not take up room, but rather, would make life in the kingdom sweeter.
Later political references to milk have not been very sweet. Leaders at the cutting — or levelling — edge of Hindutva have visualised Hindus as milk, and Muslims as the green lime used to curdle it. And then, of course, the squeezed-out lime was thrown away as good for nothing. Amidst the moderate sections, other food images like iron chickpeas circulated. Political food porn is on to a good thing, a fine intellectual tradition that runs via Salman Rushdie’s pickles and preserves, to Gunter Grass’s The Flounder, which begins with the insatiable Ilsebill’s politically potent fish soup. What a strange and savoury journey, from Grass all the way to Kushwaha.