Heady scent of rice

November 11, 2014 0 Comments

Nov 7, 2014 By Venkat Iyer

Villages once redolent with the aroma of freshly cooked Kasbai have shifted to hybrids

At the mere mention of ‘Kasbai’, 70-year-old Devu Handa’s eyes turn dreamy. In a voice shaking with excitement, this farmer in Dhanivari village, Palghar district (Maharashtra), tells us that at one time everyone in his village grew only Kasbai. “People passing by our village during lunchtime would be forced to stop and ask for a meal. Such was its alluring aroma,” he reminisces. The heady scent of the rice hung over the area as everyone cooked it.

A traditional long-grained variety, Kasbai has a distinct aroma like Basmati, though much milder. Over the years, with the entry of newer hybrid varieties, Kasbai has almost vanished from the district. Handa also blames irrigation for Kasbai’s changing fortunes. In days gone by, the village had no canal system and depended entirely on the monsoon. With irrigation, farmers were tempted to grow a second crop and the long-duration Kasbai crop was replaced by shorter-duration hybrids.