South and north Indian food menu

No Sari, No Idli : South Indians Go to Hell!

Sharada T.P.K.

TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2007 (ID. 2007-07-01); Updated in January 2016
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1. Indian Airlines Eliminates Saris from its Dress Code

2. Indian Railways Eliminates Idli-Dosai from its Menu

3. Additional Information (added in October 2012)

4. Related Information(added in January 2016)


1. Indian Airlines Eliminates Saris from its Dress Code

In September 2006 Indian Government owned Indian Airlines Chairman Vishvapathi Tripati announced that all airline hostesses would be asked to wear suridar-salwar instead of sarees. (Although women all over India wear sarees and surida-salwar nowadays, suridar-salwar are traditionally worn in northern India while sarees are south Indian tradition). Then, after some disgruntlement from southern politicians, Indian Airlines quietly backed off in May 2007 saying that it is just going to change the colour of the saris from green to orange and blue. Had south Indians not been alert and raised their voice against it, saris would have gone out from Indian Airlines. [Note: Recently Indian Airlines and Air India merged together and is called Air India. Saris will continue to be used.]

2. Indian Railways Eliminates Idli-Dosai from its Menu

In early 2007 Indian Government owned Indian Railways eliminated almost all south Indian dishes from the food served to passengers (even to passengers traveling within southern states). Even the popular idli and dosai were gone. This resulted in much grunting and complaints from the south. Indian Railways and its caterer Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) issued a statement in April 2007 that it was only trying out the new menu on a trial basis for a few months and south Indian food would be back soon. Why was it eliminating popular southern foods from the menu on a trial basis while north Indian poori, paratha and other foods are still there? Why was it trying out removing south Indian dishes?

Actually the initial notice to regional managers did not say the removal was temporary. It said that the menu is overhauled to make it passenger friendly. Removing south Indian food may be "passenger friendly" to north Indian passengers, but definitely not to southern passengers. May be "passengers" mean "north Indian passengers" to Indian Railways and its caterer Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC)? [See Reference 1 and 2]

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Idli and dosai are two popular dishes in south India. Idli is a steamed rice and lentil cake; often served with spicy sides like chutney, sambar or chili powder-oil. Dosai is a rice and lentil dough crepe; often served with spicy sides like chutney or sambar. Sometimes it is stuffed with spiced potato or onion. Non-Tamils often spell and pronounce dosai as dosa. The correct Tamil pronunciation and spelling are thosai.]

3. Additional Information (added in October 2012)

Huffington Post is a popular news website in America. It published the Top-Ten Dishes from around the world ("ten foods to try before you die") in 2012. Included in that list is South India's masala dosai. This is the only dish from the Indian Subcontinent in that list. It is this world-acclaimed masala dosai that the Indian Railways removed from its catering in 2007 (brought back after protest). It is not the taste or popularity of dish but whether it is from north India seem to be the criteria for the north-centered Indian government. South seems to get the short end of the stick in everything from language to cultural programs and movies on TV, to dishes served on trains. 

4. Related Information (added in January 2016)

Indian railways, operated by the Indian government, created a website where people can file complaints; you can file complaints in English or Hindi only (visited the website in March 2015). So if my uncle, who does not know English or Hindi, will not be able to file a complaint if necessary.


1. "Indian Youth" means "Hindi Youth" to the Indian Government (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, August 2005 (9 KB)

2. Pharmaceutical Labels in Hindi: "Indian Customers" mean "Hindi Customers" to the Indian Government (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2006 (8 KB)

FEEDBACK (added on September 1, 2007)

I read the article with much interest. The events Ms. Sharada cites clearly show Indian Government attempts to remove south Indian cultural identities from everything it controls. It is a concerted, steady process, which in a couple of  hundred years would totally eliminate non-Hindi cultural identities from India, and Hindianize-Aryanize entire India.

I also want to make another point here. Some Indian apologists may say, "Once south Indians protested, sari and idli-dosai have been brought back. So what is the problem?" The problem is this. Why are south Indians at the receiving end all the time when it comes to the Indian government? We thought Indian government represents all the peoples of this "Indian Union". South Indian food, dress, language and other cultural identities are systematically sidelined. Watched Indian government owned Doordharshan Television recently? How many programs are in Hindi and how many in other Indian languages? Why are south Indian festivals and other cultural events virtually blacked out in Doordharsan?

Why should south Indians have to be ever vigilant to make sure that southern icons like sari, idli and dosai are not eliminated? Why is Indian government keen on eliminating southern cultural symbols from everything it operates? Are South Indians Indian citizens or not?

Thanjai Nalankilli
July 13, 2007

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