Saturday, January 26, 2008

Roadside eats

This picture appeared in the newspaper the other day. It did stir some childhood memories once again. This was one of those forbidden sweets ( Bombay mithai) for us. The vendor generally made his presence known by plucking on an instrument ( some folksy stuff like the ektara I guess), that could be heard for some distance. This would continue till some of the kids surrounded him and off he would get down to work pulling at the sugar mound and carving different shapes like the flower seen alongside. Some children would want a watch which he would make and put round their wrist. Another of those prohibited food for us ( which is seen even these days) is the ice crush. The ice block would be grated and then gathered together and put on a stick with a liberal dash of colour and essence. It did seem so attractive. But my mother was wary of the colours used in these sweets and the quality of water. In fact she was so particular about the water that even on some of the infrequent times that we went out for a meal at the small restaurants, we were not allowed to sip the water that was served at the table. Of course those days we did not have bottled water and nor ever imagine that water would ever be sold!! Incidentally, she passed on this finicky behaviour to me.

We had to walk about a kilometer to the bus stop from school. And we did at times stop at the fruit sellers for either a guava or the favourite tothapari mango This delicious mango is eaten when raw ( it has a sweet and sour taste) and the fruit seller would allow us to choose our fruit and then with the knife deftly cut it and liberally apply salt and chili powder. The thought still makes my mouth water. It made the journey to the bus stop very enjoyable.

We had the churan seller ( finely ground spices or whatever, but very tasty) that was packed in paper rolled almost pencil thin. We would tap it on to our palm and lick (yes we did) it gingerly. On days we could afford to ( 10 paise) we would buy a huge turkey egg ( hard sugar candy maybe half the size of a tennis ball) which we would pop into our mouth and suck for about 20 minutes.

As much as I do miss the eats, I definitely did not allow my children to stop by for such snacks. I would insist that the fruits be bought and washed and prepared under more hygenic conditions ( realising of course that the taste would never be comparable).

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