I have been there for you for centuries now. Steaming with delight and graceful seduction, I carry within me the anxious mother’s need to provide comfort to her ailing child, or the desire for delectable endeavour when the pitter patter of raindrops strike the fresh earth. At every age, in every mood, on every occasion, you have craved for me, sometimes secretly and at other times fervently.
You might not have shown me off as your best shot at culinary grandness. On various occasions, you might have set me aside, perhaps for something more indulgent, more ostentatious. But would you deny your eternal love for me? Patient as a loving parent, I have stood by resolutely for you, to provide you with swift contentment in moments of distress and of joy.
I have secretly heard those praises you bestowed upon me, holding me up as the finest manifestation of nutrition and delight combined in a single pot. It is said that ancient Vedic texts applauded me for my earnest efforts at nourishing both the needy and the endowed. People say that when foreign travellers stepped onto our soil with all eagerness to encounter the distant and unknown, they were struck by my presence in the everyday affairs of both the royal and the common.
Today I might appear as a mere convenient respite to you, lacking as I am of the grandeur you often associate with the Biriyani and the Pulao. But once upon a time, I was also the pride of royal courts. Delighted by my diverse attributes, the Mughal court had once documented seven variants of my recipe. My repute was such that I was declared the favourite dish of Emperor Jehangir.
Why just the Mughals? My aura was hardly missed by those who ventured into Indian waters from the West. Even as the British looked down upon the humble cultural origins of ‘poor Indians’, they held me up as a dish that thoroughly inspired them. So strong was the English love for me that today I am known in their isles as the ‘Kedgeree’. Sure, they threw out the lentils from the rice, to suit their palate and their egos, but legend has it, it was me alone that parented their now popular Kedgeree.
From the high peaks of Himalayas to the serene backwaters of Kerala I withstood your constant demands for moulding me as per your needs. As you battled each other in the name of caste and religion, I stood there sternly uniting you as the one-pot meal suited for all.
For years and years, I have been loved and ignored at the same time. As you zestfully toured across the globe and carried along with you your roots and identity, you remembered me only on long, lonely nights, but never once gloated me to the strangers around as your own. Today as I am declared as representative of everything Indian in the world of gastronomy, I shall proudly declare myself to be yours and yours alone. I am the khichdi, and this is my moment of glory.