Friday, February 18, 2011

'Jhootha? What is that?'

In traditional Hindu homes, there are certain rules regarding food. This includes (and is not restricted to) preparation and storage of food, serving, consumption, cleaning, etc. The main idea behind these guidelines is that food is sacred, and it needs to treated with sanctity. Makes sense, doesn't it? The food we eat nourishes our body, our minds, and our souls. It becomes us. Obviously, it is important that we pay attention to what we feed our body and mind. Ayurveda has specific guidelines about food and its consumption. Here is a science that looks at the body as part of the Universe it resides in, and I cannot imagine a better perspective to understand health and well-being. Anyway, I am no authority on Ayurveda, so I'll move on to writing about what I originally intended... the concept of 'Jhootha.'

'Jhootha' is a Hindi word that literally means 'liar.' It's also used in the sense of 'cross-contaminated.' Simply put, if I were to use a ladle to taste the soup bubbling away on the stove, then put the ladle back into the pot, it essentially means that the soup is 'Jhootha.' Seinfeld's famous 'double dip' episode talks about the same point. In case of a meal that comprises of meat and vegetarian preparations, using the same serving spoon for both kinds of food amounts to cross-contamination as well. Maybe not so much for the folks eating meat but I'd imagine a very different response from the vegetarians at the table.

Essentially, it is about maintaining the purity of things, in a larger sense. Keeping the milk from curdling because you used a spoon that was resting in the yogurt container, maintaining the cleanliness of your actions, keeping the space around and within sacred and special... I am not sure if that makes much sense. But I'll leave it at that for now. And hopefully come back to it later when I am able to articulate better.

Anonymous (in the comments below) tells me that the actual pronunciation of the word is 'Jootha' and it means cross-contaminated. The Hindi word for 'liar' is 'Jhootha,' with a heavier emphasis on the first syllable. Thanks, Anonymous!


  1. Hi...I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, and enjoy doing so. Just one Hindi, 'jootha' and 'jhoota' have entirely different meanings. 'Jootha' means contaminated, while 'jhoota' means liar. Hope this helps :)

  2. Hi Anonymous! English is not a good language to write any Indian words, anyway. Actually, I always thought the same word was used for both 'liar' and 'cross-contaminated.' Maybe I am wrong... I'll check.

    I hope that the next time you visit, I'll know your name and won't have to call you 'Anonymous'... :)


  3. I do know this for a fact :)

    झूठा means 'liar'

    जूठा means 'contaminated'

    Just trying to help Lakshmi..hope you don't take offence at my doggedness! :)

  4. That's good to know. Now that you've written it in Hindi, it makes sense. Thanks!

  5. Was wondering, where did the word come from? As in, why was it coined? Jootha (contaminated) not Jhootha (Liar).

  6. The concept has been explained well. But there is always a scientific reason behind everything. The most important reason is hygiene.
    The second reason is if you have garlic in your hand which many other than the Vaishnav community consider it as just another spice/veg and touch milk, it would also be considered as jootha.
    If you look deeply it makes sense. Because garlic has a pungent smell and if the glass or container which has milk in it smells of garlic, I am sure not many would like it.

    When it comes to non-veg, the issue is surely not only of the smell but also the rotting which is happening minute by minute, thus the chances of contamination is more.

    Washing of hands or not mixing the spoon/ladle/utensil for other purpose makes sense.

    The other thing is of keeping veg and non-veg not close to each other, well its a simple act of trying to reduce the "aroma" from spreading which is obviously possible via steam and the microscopic level.