Chocolates over traditional Indian sweets
Over the last decade or so chocolate has quickly overtaken traditional Indian sweets as the preferred Diwali sweet
Of the many things synonymous with the celebration of Diwali, something that can be considered to be right at the top is the ubiquitous 'Mithai'. Growing up in a small city in western UP, I remember the days, even weeks before Diwali, the entire household will get busy in preparing for Diwali, cleaning, cooking and most importantly arranging the sweets thalis that would go to the neighbours and relatives. Now, anybody who is from the North of the country knows that Diwali sweets have a hierarchy of its own, and it starts normally at a 'badaam burfi' and ends at the "batasha" and sugar toys, those overly sweet confections that everybody thinks they will never eat but will, a week after Diwali.
In those days, Chocolates were confined for extremely special occasions, and mostly for children. Generally, chocolates were considered too 'untraditional' and somewhat 'petty' to be gifted or consumed at traditional festivals such as Diwali. Over the last decade or so, chocolate has quickly overtaken traditional Indian sweets as the preferred Diwali sweet, especially for gifting.
Let us analyse in some points what makes Chocolate the preferred 'meetha' for Diwali and also other Indian festivals:
Rapid Urbanisation: First, the country's middle class is expanding rapidly and is being exposed to the various international confections. In the quest to be different and to do newer things, many people are ditching sweets for Chocolate. The extremely rapid urbanisation has meant that branded packaged products are now available to an ever increasing number of people, both online as well as offline.
Standardisation: It is a common complain that just around Diwali, the sweets quality of many sweet makers, especially the ones that are not very reputed, take a noticeable dip, mostly because the demand increases many fold and many sweets makers take a route of compromising quality to maximise profits. In the packaged chocolates, that variable is capped since chocolates are always made in standardised processes and one knows exactly what to expect, be it any time of the year.
Shelf Life: The short shelf life of the traditional Indian mithai is also a big deterrent when it comes to buying sweets since it is not possible to consume a large number of sweets in a short time. Mostly after Diwali, people either have to give away the extra sweets, eat those forcibly or worst of all, throw those away, not so for chocolates. An average chocolate bar has a shelf life of 6 months and can be stored well for consuming later or even re-gifting.
Healthier: There has been a lot of reports lately about chocolate, especially the unsweetened variety being a health food and people generally perceive it as a healthier alternative to sugar-laden Indian sweets. It is also true that nutritionally, good quality chocolates have multiple health benefits and are rich in various micro and macronutrients.
Great Gift: All the chocolate manufacturers have laid special emphasis on creating customized gifting options for the festive season. In fact, the sale and consumption of chocolates are highest during the Diwali festive season for most chocolate brands and is as high as 25% of the total business of the year. Chocolates make for a great customizable and attractive gift as against traditional sweets that have its own shortcomings.
Price points: Whereas good quality Chocolate is definitely more expensive than Indian sweets weight for weight, it is also true that the modern day packaged chocolate is available at various price points and with the attractive packaging make for a more 'premium' looking gift.
Liked by All: There is a common saying about chocolate: 'Nine out of ten people like chocolate, and the tenth always lies'. Basically, chocolate is a please all confection, enjoyed by people of all ages, unlike sweets, certain varieties of which are not liked by everyone, especially if the sweets are from another state. A North Indian, for example, will not really appreciate the ghee-laden sweetness of a Mysore pak whereas a south Indian might not really understand the fuss about the 'anjeer ki burfi', but both at all times will fall flat for a bar of good quality chocolates.
Therefore, in conclusion, I think whereas the Indian sweets have an importance of their own and a strong tradition, the Chocolate is slowly creeping up the charts in being the mithai of choice during festivals, especially for the younger generation, and for good reason perhaps. I wish all my readers a very happy Diwali, Chocolates or not, do enjoy your sweets and play with crackers but do have a concern for the environment and