Cake love in the land of gulub jamun

In his monthly column exploring food and economics, co-founder and co-director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Abhijit Banerjeee, shares a heartwarming tale of a unique Christmas tradition in urban India, celebrating with cakes and biscuits.


It was the day before Christmas. Waiting for a bus in Metiaburuj, the decrepit remains of what was once a very prosperous Muslim neighbourhood, I noticed an elderly man in a skull cap sitting on the crumbling sidewalk selling cakes out of a basket. He had handwritten in Bangla, Plaam Cake 9 rupees, Chrishmash cake 8. My bus arrived and I never got to ask him what made the Plaam cake more special.I have always treasured that memory as an example of the unique place of Christmas in urban (and perhaps even rural) Indian culture. Those cakes were clearly not for some cosmopolitan elite from the city’s more prosperous areas. They were meant for the local, mostly poor, Muslim population who, with the rest of the city’s Hindus, Muslims and the small minority of Christians, were going to celebrate Christmas by eating cake.

The Times of India