This article is written by Facebook Community Page Indian Adda. This is a research based article.
The vada pav, as a street food, started in 1966, outside Mumbai’s Dadar railway station.
The first person who ever started selling the snack was Ashok Vaidya who started serving this simple dish to the hungry train commuters.
The dish was simple, as the vada is essentially a spicy potato ball, covered in a coating of spiced-up chickpea batter and fried in hot oil. Now, it is stuffed between a soft bread called pav and served with green chillies and red chutney.
The recipe worked- as the queues kept on growing and coming again and again to Vaidya’s stall. This was when, Shiv Sena, Maharashtra’s right-wing political party worker’s observed the success achieved by a Marathi person with a non-politicized dish.
During this time, Shiv Sena was already protesting against two south Indian dishes that had become Bombay’s favourite- dosa and idli.
Shiv Sena, was protesting during that time because “according to Bal Thackeray, south Indians migrating to the city and taking jobs that were supposed to be allotted to Marathi Manoos.”Harris Solomon, a professor of cultural anthropology in Duke University, wrote in a Research paper.
Now, as Shiv Sena found something that they can call it their food, they started helping members to start stalls around the party’s offices across the city.
Solomon’s study—”The Taste No Chef Can Give: Processing Street Food in Mumbai”—is an 18 months of field research in India’s financial capital, and is an attempt to understand how the Shiv Sena branded the vada pav as its own.
Now, where the party got the space to make Vada Pav its final brand was the time when Mumbai’s textile mills began to shut down, the Shiv Sena decided to make an effective move. The encouraged the Unemployed Mill workers who lost jobs to be self-employed by setting the vada pav stalls around the factories that were still in operations.
“The Shiv Sena stepped in and offered unlicensed hawkers protection from city officials and police, for a price. It began as a few rupees each day, but over time would indebt street vendors to the Shiv Sena in amounts of hundreds or even thousands of rupees a week,” explained Solomon. “It was this milieu that gave birth to the Shiv Sena’s own origin story of the vada pav: the authentic snack that sustained workers in times of labour trouble.”
The party tried to create employment around the dish, but the vendors with time shifted to Chinese food. But, the party kept on sticking with the dish to mobilize people.
The party teamed up with McDonald’s and Coca-Cola to lend “slick consumer appeal to their logo and food-cart design,” wrote Solomon.
Once, Thackeray’s son, Uddhav, invited 27 vendors at Shivaji Park to prepare thousands of free vada pav. “The winning recipe would become the official one of the Shiv vada pav,” Solomon reported.
Next, the Shiv Sena forced its vada pav plans through Mumbai’s municipal administration—where some non-Sena members claimed that those carts would violate street hawking regulations—and got 125 carts out on the streets to sell “Shiv vada pav.”
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