Partition, as we recall it from our history textbooks, was a time of massive changes. An entire nation was turned upside down in this division of lands. Independence day is approaching and so are the memories of the Partition that followed. While all our ancestors were witnesses to this implementation of the two-nation theory, there was more to the separation than just borders. Hailing from a Sikh family whose ancestors migrated from present-day Pakistan, there are several untold stories hidden deep within the hearts of my grandparents. My dadi (grandmother) was one of the survivors of this mass transition but the visuals of those days are clearly etched in her memory even after 74 years of independence. 

Sanjha Chulhas To Tandoors

 

Recalling her experiences back in Rawalpindi, she gleefully exclaims about the time when ladies used to cook rotis together in the community tandoor and have a great time chit-chatting. These were the social gatherings and ways in which food kept the people connected to each other. Did you know that this culture of tandoor was brought about through the Partition to this side of the border? 

The Delhi Sultanate was under the rule of the Mughals for the longest time. These royal Mughals were hard-core food lovers who had their own special way of cooking. Delicacies like Shabdegh (meat with turnips) and gola kebabs that were once a common sight are now a rarity in the capital city of India. With the advent of immigrants, tandoors were introduced to Western Punjab and the rest is history. 

This tandoor culture gave rise to the invention of our beloved Butter Chicken by Kundan Lal Gujral of Moti Mahal fame. The trend of roasted chicken along with naan was novel to those who inhabited the lanes of Delhi even before the Partition phase. 

Gravies paving the way 

What we see today as normal wasn’t the case always. Yoghurt-based curries were staple in the Mughal era. It was the Partition that brought with it the know-how and the idea of a tomato gravy. Little did they know that these gravies would change the face of North Indian food. Today, this gravy has laid the foundation of a range of lip-smacking delicacies across the northern region which we casually refer to as Punjabi food. 

Not just butter chicken but even the creamy and drool-worthy dal makhni that is served at most North Indian cuisine restaurants these days is a gift of the Peshawari cuisine. 

Snacking was here to stay 

Imagine the way we hog on street food in the tiny lanes of Lajpat Nagar or Chandni Chowk. Or the way Mumbaikars can’t stop obsessing over their pani puris and vada pavs. There was a time when we didn’t even know how to snack. Yes, you read that right. All thanks to Sindhis from Karachi, we moved beyond bhelpuri in the name of chaat and Mumbai specifically saw a rise in a variety of Sindhi food like dal pakwan, sai bhaaji and more. 

Fading Anglo-Indian food 

United Coffee House is one of the legendary spots in the country if you want to get a taste of the age-old European and Anglo food. Partition had its own set of challenges and development led to shutting down of such cafes in the face of fancy restaurants in the food hubs of the capital. Cutlets and chops faded into robust gravies and other spicy fare like kali mirch chicken. 

While the country drew apart, food connections brought people closer and in the process, several mutanajan pulaos and gosht biryanis were lost in Partition.