While rice or roti may be favoured according to regional preferences, we all eat the onion. And let's not forget that in 1998 the BJP government fell thanks to spiralling onion prices, which sparked a torrent of anti-government sentiment. So it is safe to say the bulb has a special place in Indian stomachs.
But this week has been all about how the price of onions has kept us all essentially dry-eyed. The Agricultural department had been pre-warned by meteorologists about the monsoon (India has one of the best weather gauge systems in the world thanks to ISRO satellites) and it had plenty of examples from the past. However, it still expected anyone to be taken by surprise when onion stocks all but vanished from the markets.
Even after being informed that major onion producing states like Maharashtra suffered a 25 to 30 percent reduction in produce, Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar still issued licenses for the export of onions.
Is it because we have so much of the stuff it is only fair to share? The result? The vegetable is currently selling at astronomical prices while hoarders and unscrupulous wholesalers are having a field day.
After importing thousands of tonnes from Pakistan, raiding hoarders and selling the bulb at discounted rates in government shops, the price is beginning to cool off as the week comes to close. But we are not out of the woods yet. Latest news is that the price of tomatoes and garlic was beginning to edge up.
Image: A supporter of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) holds an onion at a rally in New Delhi, December 22, 2010.
Text: Vinayak Hegde