Soru Paathi Story Paathi series by Neelam Social’s YouTube channel trace unspoken politics behind food
Sivaranjani and Palayam discuss the everyday lives of fishing folk, climate change and its impact on fishing, and challenges during the breeding season in their video series
Flavours are about hitting the spot and this stainless steel kadai, on a low simmer, which is cooking a seemingly delicious, tangy karapodi sundavecha fish kuzhambu is giving me a sense of that. Sivaranjani gently stirs it under the watchful eyes of Palayam anna, a fisherman from Ururkuppam hamlet, Chennai.
Besides offering the easy-to-do recipe of the fishermen community’s staple, in this 10-minute video on Neelam Social’s YouTube channel, the duo discuss the everyday lives of fishing folk, climate change and its impact on fishing, and challenges during the breeding season. And, that’s precisely the focus of the Soru Paathi Story Paathi series — to trace the unspoken politics behind food, bring its stakeholders to light and take it to the masses, emphasises Sivaranjani, the creative producer and editor.
Food for your thought
A food technologist by qualification, it’s been Sivaranjani’s vision to explore the many aspects of food, especially those from the subalterns. Having completed 11 episodes in the series — one every week — the Jafferkhanpet resident shares the larger purpose behind her work. “Politics has penetrated food just like every other area of life. If some people can afford a food item while the rest cannot, then there’s politics behind that. Through this project, I want to showcase the food of the working class, the process and labour involved, the people who consume it the most, and its affordability.”
After extensive research and suggestions from viewers, Sivaranjani zeroes down on the topic for her episodes. She then commutes with her team to that particular locality, gets candid with the person from the community, and films their life revolving around food. In one of the episodes, she visits Azhagappa Nagar to witness the live preparation of the neighbourhood’s popular beef curry. Velmurugan, who’s been specialising and selling the delicacy for over a decade, explains the benefits of consuming beef meat and why it continues to be a favourite among his patrons. In another episode, she shows us how atlappam, the popular Kasimedu snack, empowers women. “Despite having an oven, this 20-year-old snack is prepared inside a vessel specially designed for this. We used to sell for `5 and today we’re selling it for `30. I’ve studied till class 10, and support my family through this. I make `200 a day,” shares the akka, whom she interviews for the episode.
A taste of truth
Sivaranjani also busts myths about consuming specific meat varieties. In one of the episodes, she talks about duck meat with Ravi from Trichy. “Besides cooking and selling them on my pushcart, I also supply duck meat to eateries. This meat is even better than the antibiotic-injected chicken the city dwellers eat. For ducks, we only give an injection for immunity and nothing else. Yet, people perceive it as stinky and the meat hardly gets sold. But it has protein and plenty of other nutrients,” he shares. People tend to get carried away by the misinformation available on the Internet and the misconception spread by other people, points out Sivaranjani.
“I’ve picked individual ingredients such as milk, ghee, and maida, and discussed the underlying politics around it. Hierarchies in India are reiterated through everyday mundane experiences like food, which even become tools to inflict humiliation and conflict. For instance, with ghee, I discuss why its accessibility used to be limited to particular strata of society. With milk, I speak about the process that goes behind packaged milk, harm of additives, and adulteration,” she adds.
With April being the Dalit History Month, Sivaranjani also hopes to educate viewers on the timeline of crucial events that happened in the Dalit movement. “I will be investing more time doing in-depth research on more such underrated food items. Food has the power to nurture and sustain lives. While we’re supposed to be celebrating the diversity in food across landscapes, we’re only bringing caste politics into it and widening the gap. I want this effort to make some difference,” sums up Sivaranjani.