All's well that ends well

Last Updated 28 January 2017, 18:38 IST

Jackfruit happala is one of the favourites of Priya, a friend very dear to me. It’s a special delicacy from my part of the world. Hence, to make our meetings memorable, I make it a point to offer her the memento of a pack of happalas every time. Procuring it off-season is a task, but that does not deter me from my mission.

Recently, I was to visit her in Mumbai, hence all set to scout for the sun-baked delectable item. I zeroed in on a happala-pickle shop manned by two elderly ladies. No sooner I showed interest in the wares than the actual shopkeeper, who was busy chatting elsewhere, came running. “Do you have jackfruit happalas?”

“Of course,” pat a packet was shown. I had not even started bargaining, this 60-something gentleman was telling me, “I sell it at 90 rupees a packet, but I will give it to you for 80 rupees.” Did I find my long-lost friend? I wondered. As I’m familiar with this kind of happala, I could not ‘buy’ his offer at once.

“They don’t look like jackfruit happalas,” I differed. “Is this jackfruit or fakefruit?”

“This is the soft-kind of jackfruit, madam; the fruits turn into a smooth paste when ground. Hence, no small visible pieces,” he lectured me. “You will come looking for me once you taste this,” he added. So convincing was his argument that I bought a packet for myself too. Apart from the main item on my list, I ended up buying many wares of his shop.

“Are you taking this to Mumbai?” the shopkeeper, a complete stranger, asked when I was leaving. When I replied in affirmation, he said with pride that many items from his shop had found their way to Mumbai.

Why not taste it before offering it to my friend? So I fried it. Not bad. But alas! It tasted entirely different. It wasn’t of jackfruit at all. It was made of sweet potato. He had sold me the donkey saying it was a horse! His words still ring in my ears: “Last week, many foreign tourists had arrived here on sightseeing. All of them have taken this happala.” I still wonder what all he might have sold to those gullible customers, saying one thing for the other. Still, it was unbecoming of me to meet my friend without the must-find item. Anyway, I had the happala, what if it was not made of jackfruit?

I offered it to Priya. I apologised to her for my inability to get her what she really looked forward to. The twist was, my pal was all the more happy to have the item. “Oh, it’s sweet potato, hard to find in Mumbai. I get  other varieties, but not this at any time,” said an elated Priya! Yeah, the shopkeeper’s horse was indeed a horse. I found that out of late.

(Published 28 January 2017, 17:05 IST)

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