About 100 Indian-Americans have emerged as strong contenders in the US mid-term elections, led by the “Samosa Caucus”, a group of five Indian-Americans in the current Congress. This is wonderful news, signalling the elevation of the community from professional or instrumental roles — in retail, hospitality, medicine and information technology — to political prominence, with direct access to the levers of power. But why is this success identified with the samosa? It is admittedly a noble snack, but it is not autochthonously Indian. It is a descendant of the Persian sambosag, and was brought to India by medieval traders.
The samosa connection probably comes from dreadful vacuum-sealed savouries sold under that name in US supermarkets. By that logic, a similar group of politicians in the UK could have been named the League of Extraordinary Chicken Tikka Masalas, a shocking pink dish cooked up by the Bihari adventurer Dean Mahomet in central London. And an Indian political clique in Japan might be called the Tempura Troupe, on the basis of the mistaken belief that Indian sailors in Japan, who instinctively fried everything in sight into a pakoda, invented tempura.
But then, we ourselves identify strongly with the samosa. Even the internet’s repository of Indian slang is called Samosapedia. The samosa has diversified. Modernity has forced upon us the macaroni samosa, among other monstrosities. But what alternatives do we have for cultural identifiers? “Vedic foods” and comfort foods don’t have political resonance, though two gangsters bearing the comforting names of Bada Idli and Chhota Idli were impactful in the Emirates. So the most widespread Indian snack will have to do. Out of peevishness, at some future date when Americans are more numerous here, vengeful Indians could name their parliamentary caucus the Hot Dog Gang. In the meantime, let us celebrate the arrival of the Samosa Caucus in America.