Daal Mein Kuchh Kaala Hai

The title is a Hindi colloquialism. It means, literally, There's something black in the lentils; and figuratively, There's something fishy going on. There's a small piece on this expression at Dick & Garlick.

So last night at dinner, our dal was black urad, which is round and black, like smooth peppercorns, only slightly smaller. I didn't eat it, because I'm not an urad fan, but Ramesh loves it. And he bit down on something, and was in terrible pain, and we're waiting till morning to see if he has cracked a tooth. We went through the cooked dal and found 7 of them: small black spherical stones, all exactly uniform, and exactly blending in with the dal. We had fallen victim to one of the banes of this country: food adulteration.

Rice contains white stones; pepper and, we have now discovered, black urad contains black stones. Everything has to be cleaned carefully before using, but these stones were so perfectly shaped that they had escaped Mary's eyes. There are said to be machines for milling stones to the correct size for mixing with dal or rice. Powdered spices may contain anything. Until the recent past we never bought anything powdered; we bought the whole spices and ground our own.

It's not just food. A number of years ago, someone told Ramesh that he wanted to purchase a machine for shredding the clear plastic bags that milk comes in, so that he could mix them with paraffin to make the cheap candles that used to be the only ones available. When the candles burn they sputter, because of the adulteration.

The cheaper grades of dal and rice and sugar and spices are more adulterated - what is sold at the ration shops for the poor, for example. So they suffer more, as usual.

I don't usually write about the downsides of life here -- it seems condescending, too easy. As if I don't know that human beings are flawed everywhere, not just here. But I'm pretty upset at the moment. Daal mein kuchh kaala hai indeed.

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