Why ‘biryani challenge’ features in Kerala CM’s daily Covid briefings
Amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a ‘biryani challenge’ has taken Kerala by storm. Every evening in Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s press briefing in the state capital, though the opposition dubs it ‘record briefing’ or ‘baddai’ (self-complementary), an often-heard word is ‘biryani challenge’.
Towards the end of his daily briefing, the CM reads out contributions to Covid relief fund and here pops up ‘biryani challenge’ prominently. In simple words, an organization or a collective of youngsters collect money by conducting a biryani mela and contribute the same to the CM’s fund.
It is a different story though that yummy biryani has topped the order list of an online food delivery platform (Swiggy) in the country knocking down the favorite masala dosa during the lockdown.
The CM’s office said at least ₹25 lakh came to the fund through ‘biriyani challenge’ in the last two months. “Youngsters really deserve a salute for this. We must appreciate their dedication and humane activities during trying times,” said the Chief Minister lauding the youngsters for their work.
Now let us ask some youngsters how this challenge works? “Since it is for a noble cause, it sells like hot buns. Some buy it and distribute to others. At times, some contribute provisions and meat for this free,” said T Sooraj, a worker of a left youth movement who conducted four challenges and contributed ₹2 lakh to the relief fund.
“Usually a chicken biryani costs between ₹100-150. Once you make it in bulk the actual cost will be below ₹50.Since it is voluntary work, no wage is involved at any stage. So at least 80 percent of the sale proceeds go to the fund,” another volunteer said.
In some areas, there is a healthy competition among left youth outfits to bring in maximum proceeds. Before the challenge, they collect orders so nothing goes to waste. Since lockdown is in force, biryani reaches the doorsteps and no delivery charge is deducted.
In Malabar (north Kerala), left youth outfits popularised beef biryani making use of inclement weather. Right-wing groups like Seva Bharati and upper caste outfits resorted to curd rice and traditional sadya (feast) to check this. “You can’t have politics everywhere,” said P Suresh, a Seva Bharati leader from Kannur.
Politics apart, some smart ones put a prefix ‘Thalassery’ before biryani for a quick movement. A coastal town in Kannur district sells Thalassery dum biryani - a mix of Persian, Arabian and Indian cuisine - sought after in south India for its flavour and minimum oil use.
A battle for ‘original biryani’ stamp surfaced again after a restaurant in Pune put up a board in July first week saying that all “biryani other than Hyderabadi is pulao,” making many people angry.
Earlier also biryani tiffs were there. The most popular one was after Telangana minister K T Rama Rao’s tweet in February: “Best biryani in the world belongs to Hyderabad. Rest are only poor imitations,” he tweeted.
Niti Ayog CEO Amitab Kant, who started his long innings from Thalassery as its sub collector, and veteran journalist Vir Sanghvi batted well for Thalassery biryani then.
Tiffs apart, the challenge is getting stronger in Kerala.