Sunday, August 19, 2007


A few days back, I had watched Vir Sanghvi's program 'A matter of taste' about tandoori chicken, on Discovey Travel And Living Channel.

Sanghvi obviously did not bother to even google, much less research seriously, to misinform the world that tandoori chicken was invented in Delhi and had nothing to do with pathans. He also got his geography wrong, referring to Baluchistan and the Frontier as being in central Asia!

Sanghvi seems to have completely forgotten that these two provinces have been part of the Indian subcontinent forever, and were part of undivided India till 1947. The Radcliffe Line has far-reaching implications, if Sanghvi's amnesia is to be believed. Similarly, he does not remember that Kandahar is not only very close to the border with the undivided India pre-47, but has long been a part of India, with the last Hindu king ruling it till 1026 AD, after which it was taken over by varius Muslim kings. As per the Mahabharat too, Shakuni was the ruler of Kandahar during the times of Lord Krishna

Sanghvi does not even bother to find out that Kundan Lal Gujral, the 'inventor' of tandoori chicken as per Sanghvi, was a Punjabi Pathan, yes, Pathan, who Vir thinks are Central Asians!The first Moti Mahal restaurant was opened not in Delhi but in Peshawar (Central Asia, Sanghvi?), in the 1920s by a Pathan Sikh, offering tandoori chicken, kebabs and naan. Gujral, a young boy then, was the owner's assistant. Tandoori chicken was, obviously not invented by them. In the absence of any clear cut 'inventor' who woke up one day and put chicken in a tandoor, used for cooking various types of meat and 'rotis'(breads) for thousands of years, it is only logical that chicken too has been baked/grilled in tandoors for a very long time.

Gujral only introduced tandoori chicken to the elite of Delhi after 1947, through the restaurant he named Moti Mahal, after its Peshawri parent. Its flight to various parts of the globe was perhaps accelerated by him, but it is apparent that many others, Indians, Pakistanis, Pathans too, helped in no small measure.

Coming to the name, 'Bukhara', of the best tandoori restaurant in the world(Maurya Sheraton, Delhi), Sanghvi could find no logic for naming it after a place in Uzbekistan. He could have easily found out that Bukharians use the tandoor for cooking and that many of their dishes are similar to Indian ones. Similarly, it was not difficult for Sanghvi to discover that tandoors have been in use since Harrappan times in the plains of India and that the name itself is derived from Punjabi(Farsi too?) words 'tatta'(hot) 'andar'(inside).

Unfortunately, Sanghvi has limited his totally superficial excursions, both physical and mental, to the convenience of Delhi and produced a below average programme, not worthy of the high standards one associates with Discovery channel. Worse, he has distorted history in a very superficial and casual manner, something which marks most of his writings in The Hindustan Times too, as careful readers will know.