Rail passengers in Kerala are thrilled as the state's traditional food items, appam, egg curry, puttu and kadala curry have made a come back to the revised menu of the Railways, after massive protests over reports of being replaced by north Indian delicacies.
The popular Kerala dishes were brought back in the menu following a social media backlash over the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation's move to replace Malayalis favourite cuisine with north Indian dishes such as Chole Bhature and Kachori.
The Logical Indian reached out to a few people from Kerala to understand what they feel about the IRCTC's decision and what it means for them to not eat what they have grown up eating and relish.
"Every time I go back to my home in Kerala, I prefer travelling by train. I cannot have a satisfying journey unless I get a bite of pazham pori or unniyappam. It is not just food for us, but a part of our culture. We associate our identity with these dishes. When IRCTC decided to scrap these dishes from the menu and decided to replace them with north Indian dishes, we were sad. We never said no to the north Indian dishes. But this comes as a big insult to our culture," said Rohit Saju Varghese, a resident of Kerala.
Cultural Fascism, yes. But who benefits? Companies in Western Europe & US made money off the Holocaust. Have IRCTC contracts been given to someone more familiar with cooking these dishes? https://t.co/h4cpEawiqT— Deepu (@deepusebastian) January 21, 2020
"I don't see this as a good move. Many of us from Kerala do not relish north Indian dishes. How can the railway authorities decide what people will eat? Not all North Indians are comfortable with south Indian dishes either. A lot of my family members were unhappy about this move," said Smriti Unnikrishnan.
Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden, who wrote a letter to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, highlighting alleged discrimination against Keralites, received an assurance from the IRCTC officials that popular dishes/snacks such as unniyappam and sukhiyan will be served by its outlets in the state.
Eden said that the IRCTC officials who visited his residence on Wednesday morning presented a list of delicacies served by its local vendors in Kerala.
"Some dishes which are very important to Malayalees for breakfast, such as appam, egg curry, porotta, dosa, chapatti, steam cake (Puttu) were excluded along with snacks such as banana fry (pazham pori), Baji ilayada, kozhukkatta, unniyappam, neyyappam, modakkam/sukhiyan. Soft drinks such as lime water also excluded," Eden wrote in his letter.
The minister, in his response, cited a hike of price in food items.
According to Eden, the price of meals has been increased from ₹35 to ₹70 and that of snacks such as vada from ₹8 to ₹15.
While the price of vada has risen, the price of snack meal like parotta, chappathi, idiyappam, appam and puttu with kadala curry or egg curry will be served at ₹50.
According to IRCTC, a passenger will have to spend ₹20 for unniyappam/sukhiyan/neyyappam each.
Eden claimed that Malayalis are discriminated in trains and railway refreshment rooms even when food is the right of every passenger. He had also sought the intervention of the Minister and demanded a speedy action in the matter.
After receiving feedback from the ministers and the users, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, which manages restaurants at railway stations, brought back the previous menu as per the "regional preferences" and also added fish curry to the revised menu.
"In view of the demand from passengers and representations received, IRCTC has fully authorised its local offices in zones and regions to bring more items as per the local taste and regional preferences within one week as snack meals," tweeted the IRCTC on Tuesday.
"It is further informed all the food items served earlier will be restored," it added.
I welcome @IRCTCofficial decision to withdraw earlier decision to exclude Kerala delicacies from railway menu. It was the sentiments of Kerala I echoed to Chairman Mr. MP Mall. IRCTC officials visited me today & handed over the reinstated menu. We got fish curry meals as a bonus! pic.twitter.com/3KRgmqtw2G— Hibi Eden (@HibiEden) January 22, 2020
"More than anything this news is just a moment of pride. We're very proud of our food. Personally, this news was so important to me because this just reminded me of how Malayalis take their food culture everywhere they go and they always stick to it," Jeisa Jacob told The Logical Indian.
Appreciating the move, Eden wrote on Twitter, "I welcome @IRCTCofficial decision to withdraw earlier decision to exclude Kerala delicacies from railway menu. It was the sentiments of Kerala I echoed to Chairman Mr MP Mall. The IRCTC officials visited me today and handed over the reinstated menu. We got fish curry meals as a bonus!"