In India, the Onion Is No Laughing Matter

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In India, an onion shortage means more than just a few lackluster dinners. It’s a cipher for a whole dictionary of political and cultural meanings, as Karolle Rabarison found out while living there:

It’s no new trick for political parties to sell onions at deep discounts in stalls across major cities, especially in the capital, New Delhi….Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980 by attacking the incumbent in this way, wielding garlands of onions at political rallies…

Gargantuan stacks of onions, eating onion slices like potato chips—Rabarison’s essay has it all.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →