Assam’s khar has always been the flag bearer of its ethnic cuisine but in this busy fast food generation, the ethnic dishes have got lost somewhere amid the burgers and pizzas, although their nutritional value and taste have always remained the same.
Binu Das of Palangbi Khati of Barpeta has been preparing khar from her childhood days and can now prepare more than thirty variants of the local Assamese delicacy. Additionally, she is also helping the women in and around her neighborhood to be financially independent.
The taste though is not the only benefit that you derive from khar. According to Binu Das, it has many health benefits; ‘Khar helps in our digestion process, it also helps children who are suffering from severe vomiting. It is also helpful to people who are not able to pass urine properly’.
‘Slowly, the people living nearby came to know that I was making varieties of khar, and, thankfully, like my family, they also liked my cooking’.
‘I never thought of this as a moneymaking venture, yet people came to me asking for my khar. Now, I deliver packaged khar to offices and homes mainly in Barpeta town itself. In 2005, the Gramin Vikas Bank called me for a workshop in Khanapara on khar making and it was a very good experience because the people there appreciated my culinary skills’.
The Helping Hand
‘Later, an NGO in Guwahati helped me start my own business, and I begun conducting workshops in Barpeta town where I taught almost 600 women to cook khar from different items like papaya, skin of potato and various other vegetables. I also made non-vegetarian khar using fish. When the women thank me for making them financially independent as after learning the art of making khar many have opened eateries and provide deliveries too, a feeling of genuine satisfaction envelops me’.
In Binu Das, we can see a woman who has brought about positive change in society using a skill unique to her.
By Jadeed Hussain