A century is a landmark in almost every sport. Be it a footballer scoring the 100th goal of his professional career or a cricketer hitting the cherry for a six into the stands and reaching his century. But the magic figure of 100 does not have a receptive audience when it is a matter of prices.
In this case, it is that of onions. Gourmets and gourmands are shedding tears over it. It is well past 100 and climbing the price charts. It has placed both the mistress of a household and a restaurant owner on the same boat. And they dare not rock it.
Omelettes no longer taste the same while mutton curry has lost its flavour not to speak of the katlar jhol to which it now appears the onions added a distinct dimension.
Things have come to such a pass that a family thought of onions as a wedding gift which was eagerly accepted by the newly weds. Price of piyajis, an essential part of the fritter kingdom, which can’t be rustled up sans onions have gone up.
And politics too has made its presence felt what should have been an anomaly between demand and supply. While the Union finance minister has said that she does not eat much onion, the chief minister of this state has spied a sinister hand in the dearth of tasty tear jerker.
As the bard said “And most dear actors, eat no onions nor garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath.”
One is certain that the prime minster of a neighbouring nation did not have the words of the bard in mind while thinking aloud sometime ago in the National Capital about the absence of onion in her kitchen ever since the nation she was visiting stopped the export of the vegetable which “true friends chop and cry together”.
But in doing so she touched a familiar chord in the hearts of the citizens of this nation with whom the relations of her country despite the ban on onion exports are on an even keel till date.
As soon as the onion is banished from the kitchen, culinary pleasures fly out with it. Its presence lends colour and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the most delicious of dishes to insipidity, and dinner to despair.
There are many on both sides of the border who will breathe sighs of despair at its disappearance as only “onions can make heirs and widows weep”. Indeed, life is an onion, you peel it year by year and sometimes cry.
Though no longer the second city of an empire on which the sun never set, Kolkata, nonetheless retains the culinary taste of the Brits which is alive and kicking long after they have for their own shores.
One can hazard a guess if the chefs of the city have across this gem from author and editor, Maggie Waldron who said “ It’s probably illegal to make, soups, stews and casserole without plenty of onions”.
And onions are required in no small measure be it a curry or a cutlet in a city which still swears by Raj cuisine as well as its own, which demands onions in plenty. It is not a coincidence that the onion prices are the highest in this state.
But that does not improve the situation even as the powers that be should keep in mind that it was shooting up of onion prices was one of the reasons of returning to power of a Prime Minister who was voted out of office after committing the worst excesses in the garb of Emergency. An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable which can make people laugh.