Madurakaran Jigaruthandam!

Rosogolla has, literally literally, become very difficult on the mouth.

We mean it is no longer rosogolla but officially ‘Banglar Rasogolla’. It’s all because of the GI tag that has been conferred on it.

Some of you may wonder why this new name for rosogolla, what is this GI tag, why is there a government department to handle such stuff and, most importantly, did they submit rosogollas in triplicate to get the GI-tag.

If you are looking for answers to these questions, we are happy to see that we have company.

Just kidding. We have just read a bunch of stuff on this business of GI-tagging. To be entirely honest, before we got down to reading about it, we felt the whole idea of GI-tagging food stuff to be a complete farce. But after we went through all the relevant material, we must confess that we feel worse. It is totally stupid.

Anyway, here is our Q & A on it. Not because you asked, but because we have a column to fill:

First up, what is GI?

GI is a term describing a member of the US armed forces or an item of their equipment.

Oops! Sorry. The usual problem of modern journalism: Wrong cut and paste.

The GI in question here is Geographical Indication, a tag that, as the name clearly suggests, provides indication.

Darjeeling Tea was the first item in India to get this GI tag. Many people were under the belief  — we are sure you are one of them —  Darjeeling Tea was produced in Dehradun. But thanks to GI-tagging, now every one realises Darjeeling Tea is from — surprise surprise — Darjeeling.

Also, again thanks to GI-tagging, any other town aside from Darjeeling is forbidden to grow Darjeeling Tea.

(On a slightly serious note, GI-tagging is understandable for artisan products and similar indigenously unique goods created by local communities and families. Their interests cannot be ridden rough-shod over by commercial behemoths).

Tell us about the GI tagging for rosogulla

West Bengal and Odisha have both traditionally claimed rosogolla is theirs. Many times when the two States met at the Cosmopolitan Club for Indian States, drinks sessions have ended in messy fisticuffs. (You can still see plenty of nail marks on the face of West Bengal sustained during those fights).

Not ready for any more fracas, West Bengal approached the office of the controller general of patents, designs and trademarks which initially rejected the plea because there was no signature of the Notary Public on the rosogollas submitted. In India, even Presidential declarations need to have Notary Public’s sign to become legally valid.

Eventually, West Bengal has got a verdict in its favour which entails the following 1) Rosogolla will henceforth be called ‘Banglar Rasogolla’. 2) All Banglar Rasogollas are legally mandated to be ‘manufactured’ in West Bengal only. 3) And every one has to pronounce Banglar has Bonglor, exactly as though speaking through a mouth filled with rosogollas.

What happens to Odisha’s claim?

It turns out there is a small twist in the tale: Odisha has apparently made no formal claim.

Seriously, only after the case was reported by West Bengal, Odisha probably realised that there is a department for GI tagging. It has now said that it will also apply for the tag, and we are told that Odisha will also get all the bragging rights over rosogollas. It is just that they have to be made in Odisha, and will be called: Odishara Rasogolla.

As we told you, the whole thing is a big farce.

So neither side has won or lost?

Indeed that’s the case. But you cannot tell that by the way the Bengalis are celebrating, who are over the moon as if Mohun Bagan has just won the soccer World Cup. But you can’t blame the Bengalis. They have had very little to celebrate as much of their life time have been spent under Communist regimes.

But tell us what is wrong in locals celebrating their very own cuisine?

Nothing. But the fact is many of these food stuff deemed to be popular are not exactly that much a hit locally. We speak from experience. We lived in Madurai for several decades, and had never once tasted this Jigarthanda. It was for a good reason: Jigarthanda was not at all known much.

But suddenly during last decade, somewhere someone started the fanciful story that Madurai is famous for Jigarthanda. And it kind of picked up very fast. Whichever town you went to, you saw ‘Authentic Madurai Jigarthanda’ shops in most street corners, whereas in Madurai there weren’t many.

Eventually, Maduraites had no other option but to set up a few Jigarthanda outlets just to live up to its new billing. But we managed the situation smartly. We set up spanking new shops selling ‘Jigarthanda for the last 50 years’.

Soon enough, Madurai may also get the GI tag for Jigarthanda. But we hope to God that we don’t end up having to call it, we don’t know, Madurakaran Jigaruthandam.