Inside JGU 2019 - Issue 4 (April)

Centre for Afghanistan Studies and Office of Student Life and Cultural Engagement celebrate Afghan food heritage, women’s livelihood and self-reliance

On the eve of Women’s Day on 7 March 2019, the Centre for Afghanistan Studies (CAS) in association with the Office of Student Life and Cultural Engagement at JGU organised food stalls to celebrate Afghanistan’s food heritage, women’s livelihood and self-reliance.

CAS interns Chandani Kishen Sehgal, Mhaita Valluri and Vedant Saigal write about the event:

Entirely enclosed by land, a sovereign country, Afghanistan, serves as a home to many people holding a blend of culture of Middle East and other parts of Central Asia. Geography might not act as the destiny, but surely has set up a course of history for millennia as the gateway for wanderers and invaders out of Iran and Central Asia. Any student of Afghan politics and even International Relations, might be familiar about the tribal and ethnic groups taking primacy over the individuals. The most important of the populations belonging to this state include Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen and Aimaqs.

Though, Afghanistan, might seem to be a vague backdrop to the states who have a say, specifically in the international front, undoubtedly, it is also seen as the country that is the heart to the whole of Central Asia. It plays a significant role in acting as a country of diversified cultures and tribal societies. The people belonging to the state of Afghanistan, follow the Islamic traditions, dress the same and most importantly are multi-lingual to a certain extent. When it comes to delicious food, generally people start mouth-watering and develop a sense of taste or imagination. Not very far-distant from India and China, its cuisine serves the elements of both but still is distinctively of its own. As India is primarily known for its food and spices, it has contributed a lot to Afghanistan in the trade of pepper, chillis, saffron and cardamom.

Fatty dishes are an essential fuel during the winters in the nation, mutton fat makes it more traditional, and appetizing. When the food culture sets in, it is important to know about the ‘dastarkhan’, a spread of dishes spectacularly arranged on a table cloth, which gives an impression of royalty and reverence.

We’ve had an opportunity to experience the taste and grandeur of Afghanistan, here in JGU, a couple of weeks back, on the eve of women’s day. This event was sponsored by the Office of Student Life and Cultural Engagement at JGU. The event celebrated Afghanistan’s food heritage, women’s livelihood and self-reliance and it managed to do so despite the fact that there was an apparent language barrier between the volunteers, customers and the women entrepreneurs who were preparing the food.

It was remarkable how a tiny makeshift stall serving an offbeat but very celebrated cuisine in the Indian culture influenced the choice of many students and faculty to choose it instead of the ever saving food offered in the food court.

The fact that the crowd was patient enough to stand in line, and try their best to communicate politely despite the chaotic environment.

Three women, along with an eleven-year boy, arrived at the campus with all their supplies in a travel bus. Their style of packing was intriguing and extremely efficient for all the volunteers who helped in unloading.

Their efforts were commendable because they travelled all the way from Delhi, and immediately got to work, which involved them to strain their ears amidst the hububs of repeated orders, and several mishaps during the process of cooking.

It is interesting to note that the young boy was a great deal of help to the student volunteers as he was quick with translation, handling money and taking orders all at the same time.

Fresh dough twirled into perfect circles, the sound of the oil heating and steadfast dicing of the vegetables looked aesthetically perfect with the sunset in the picture.

With mouth-watering dishes like Bolani, and Kabuli Pulao, the textual menu was enough to create a visual pleasure and attract people.

It was an evening of celebration. A perfectly chilly sunset, where authentic Afghani food was savoured and appreciated. Moreover, it was an event that honoured the refugee women of Afghanistan who have been practicing the fine art of cooking to stand on their own feet.