A fantastical claim about the origins of pani puri on the website Quora in 2013 was reproduced on several websites and an internet food show before finally being called out last week – by the man who pulled the prank.
Viewed by over 2.8 lakh Quora users, Jaganathan Abhinav’s tongue-in-cheek message stated that Indian girls are crazy about the snack. “...Every Indian girl eating pani puri secretly wishes for a good husband and wants to show to the 5 men ogling her at a pani puri wala that she is more than capable of being a good wife,” he wrote.
According to his claim, Draupadi in the Mahabharata impressed her mother-in-law Kunti by being able to turn dough for just one puri and some potatoes into pani puri to feed her five husbands. “This also goes on to explain why every standard plate has five pieces,” Abhinav said.
Since Abhinav’s answer went viral, several websites picked up the story. One website confidently puts it thus, “It has been mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata, due to its significance.”
In September, in an internet food show called India On A Plate, the host recounts this tale. However, a disclaimer at the bottom does remind viewers that the potato was introduced by the Portuguese in India only in the early 17th century and could not have existed in the subcontinent in the age of the Mahabharata.
On January 2, Abhinav took to Twitter to express his astonishment at how far his joke had travelled.
Knowing the way the internet works, though, his admission isn’t likely to stop the story for being repeated.