Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Le Petit Dejeuner

A few days ago, I had one of my usual breakfasts in the morning. But, I got very hungry in a couple of hours. So, around ten-thirty, I  decided to grab some more food. And, while I was wolfing away at some nice idlis and chutney, a colleague saw me and exclaimed, "Early lunch, eh?!" I didn't know what to say, and so, I said, "No, it really is more like a second-breakfast, like the hobbits like to have." I don't think he follows the hobbit-culture like I do. And so, that was pretty much the end of the conversation.

In case you don't know, the hobbits have seven meals a day, if we are to believe what J.R.R. Tolkien had to say. And, there are many cultures around the world, most notably, the Bavarians, that have adopted a second breakfast as a part of their gastronomic routine. But breakfast, for many cultures, is really the primary meal of the day, since you break your fast after a long night without food. And every language, has a descriptive word for this first meal of the day, that includes terms like primary, first, or fast.

But, one would immediately know that the French are different, aren't they? A long time ago, while I was taking French lessons, I was surprised to know that the word breakfast in French is described a little differently. To them, it is not a first meal, but an early lunch. Or, a small one if one likes it that way. So, since lunch is Dejeuner, breakfast has to be Le Petit Dejeuner, where Petit means,..., well, you know. So, to the French, breakfast is really a small distraction from the primary meal of the day, Lunch. With the baguette and the grilled duck breast on the menu. And a touch of honey.

Yesterday, the second high profile arrest was made by the Indian law-enforcement agencies, which have now decided to go after graft. The first one was that of Mr. A. Raja, an ex-cabinet minister, who made a fire-sale out of India's telecom licenses. The second one, was that of Mr. Suresh Kalmadi, who supposedly, cleaned the exchequer out during the commonwealth games. Given the amount of corruption that exists in public life in India, I really think that these two arrests, however high profile they might be, are like the first and the second breakfast. Where the word breakfast, is taken with a full French connotation. With a stress on the word petit. So, I am eagerly looking forward to the lunch and the dinner.

Speaking of food, I noticed that Mr. Pramod Joshi, who writes a very informative blog in Hindi, which I follow on a regular basis, has written a post, that can be translated roughly as "The jailing of the great ones". And, in that post, he quotes Chanakya, or Kautilya, the legendary Indian statesman from the times of the first empire.

....."कौटिल्य ने अपने अर्थशास्त्र में चालीस किस्म के आर्थिक घोटालों का जिक्र किया है। उन्होंने लिखा है कि यह सम्भव नहीं कि सरकारी कर्मचारी ज़ुबान पर रखी शहद की बूँद का स्वाद नहीं जान पाएगा। यह नज़र रखना मुश्किल है कि मछली कितना पानी पीती है।"
( Kautilya, in his Arthashastra, has described forty types of financial scams. He writes, that it is quite impossible that a government employee will not taste the honey kept on his tongue. It is difficult to keep an eye on the fish to track how much water it drinks! )......

It is amazing that more than two thousand years ago, Kautilya, the greatest political strategist that the subcontinent has ever known, was thinking about food analogies for corruption. While reading all this, I wondered, if Kaultilya, the great one, ever felt the cravings for a second breakfast. Around ten in the morning.

And, did he ever believe that breakfast, was not the first meal of the day, but a small  and insignificant lunch. With much more to look forward to, as the day went by.


  1. Well written Desi Babu!
    I just hope you are served the third "Le Petit Dejeuner" as well when the Indian airlines scam(where the profitable routes were "given away" to private airlines and foreign carriers) breaks out(and it will also be a huge one!)

  2. Thanks Anony. I personally believe that the government should get out of the aviation business, and focus on basic necessities...