17/12/2015 4:04 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Prem Ratan Dhan 'Khayo': Of Love, Family And Culinary Treasures


Variety is the spice of life and when it comes to food, we want the best, the tastiest and the healthiest to satiate our taste-buds. You know, dealing with human emotions is not easy but food sometimes gives us a short-cut straight to the heart. Food is also often at the centre of tussles in the family, but there are ways around it too. My father, for example, has an abiding distrust of pizza (although he does like his double-cheese garlic bread). So, whenever the rest of us have a pizza party there is always some masala khichdi, chhachh (buttermilk) and aam ka achaar (mango pickle) especially made for him. Similarly, my father-in-law freaks out over any food item that is non-Indian and finds clever ways to steer clear of items that don't match his culinary checklist.

The other day I was thinking about what makes beef so deserving of a ban - yes, I know all about the religious-sentimental-political agenda that everyone is discussing these days, but I like to look at the whole matter from a more historical and cultural angle. Lots of proscriptions seem to have bubbled up over time. Like chastity. Married women could not even think about romancing other men, not even in their subconscious mind. Women were turned into stones. Chastity was never a fair deal; in fact it paved the way for unthinkable crimes. Similarly, Brahmins who consumed liquor, men who killed Kshatriyas and animals or committed any sin were chastised for years. In the current scenario, we have two options -- beef or exile. There's no winning. Those food fantasies have to be retired. Maybe for the time being?

"[W]hat do you see while making love to your partner? I bet it's Goan fish curry or lamb biryani or tiramisu or sizzling brownies!"

We are exquisitely and infinitely surrounded by food of all types, flavours, textures, and colours, and to these we ascribe particular traits: marizon wala bland food, shaadi-vyah wala rich khana, exotic vacation wala, master chef ke experiment wala. Then there is everybody's favourite nowadays -- hashtag wala khana: #foodporn #foodgasm #foodaholic #foodaffair #foodstroke and what not. Words like delicious, mouth-watering and scrumptious have taken a backseat. All the couples out there I want to ask you, what do you see while making love to your partner? I bet it's Goan fish curry or lamb biryani or tiramisu or sizzling brownies!

Prepare a meal with less oil and spices and you will get bombarded with comments such as, "ache-bhale insaan ko bimar bana diya hai (you've made an invalid out of me)." This is quickly followed up with a demand: "Achha, mere liye upar se tadka marke le aao. (add some sizzling oil and spices over the top)". That's it you know! Tadka is the main culprit. Philosophically, tadka is that never-ending greed which blocks our sanity. It is also a secret way to please loved ones. All we need is a dash of wisdom to mix thoroughly with the tadka. My husband's childhood friends are the idli dosa and chutney of Chalukya and the hot chocolate fudge with vanilla ice cream of Corner House in Bangalore. He often tells me that he has a soft spot for these things, and I tease him that maybe he should develop a guilt spot for them too.

Food is the central nervous system of every family. And every other member of the family is a hardcore food critic. This year's much-anticipated cinematic highlight for many mommies is that they expect their "Prem" to indulge in his all-time favourite gajar ka halwa in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. Prem is back to remind us of the sanskars and values that hold a family together forever. And food is going to play the most important role. At last, the family that eats together, burps together and farts together... stays together!