Comestibles of childhood

Comestibles of childhood

At the Cool Corner eatery, as I was curiously watching a cherubic child, slobbering over his cotton candy; my mental train started chugging towards those childhood days, where we wallowed in copious delight, cloying ourselves with countless comestibles, sold on streets.

It was a pleasurable experience then to find plenitude of palate-whetting eats, peddled by street hucksters, near school precincts. If we had ridged gooseberries and jujubes (elachi hannu) on one side of the street, on the other, we had succulent guavas, along with vertically cut pieces of ‘tart and tangy’ lime-green mangoes, sprinkled with salt and red chilli flakes. Sometimes, we found salt-chilli melange, getting blended in kibbled raw-mango kernel, too.

And then, there were roundels of pineapple, sold along with oblong-shaped cucumber slices, the top layer of which were slathered in palate-scalding mint chutney. Then there were those sloppy ice-candies, ensconced in blocks of solid ice inside a compact-looking trolley handcart, with a handlebar and four lower wheels, to facilitate easy trundling.  

Not to discount, those go-golas, where the grated ice would be scrunched and stuck around a short stick, which later would get extravagantly doused with bright-hued sugar syrups, before offering to drooling little patrons! On Sunday noon, we looked forward to the soan papdi-like sweet, heaped on a humongous flat circular plate, covered by a bell-jar shaped glass. The seller announced his arrival by pulling the string in his pushcart, fixed to the clapper of the bell which would strike the gong to create a loud clanging sound.

Then there was this candy seller, who carried strips of chewy pink and white candies, wound around a long wooden staff, which had a garishly-dressed doll, mounted on one end. On pulling the string beneath this marionette’s dress, the doll’s hands, holding two miniature cymbals, would strike against each other, in a bid to beckon young clients. The candy strips would later get transmogrified into models of wrist watches and finger-rings, much to our merriment.

There was also this seller of sweet dish, paakan pappu, a concoction of roasted groundnuts and gram dal, amalgamated with solidified jaggery syrup, the pieces of which were cut and given, depending upon the currency we produced. Yes, we hurled hygiene and heath to high winds, hogging on hundreds of eatables, high on microbes!

Today, rafts of ritzy restaurants and roadside bistros, churning up ranges of cuisines notwithstanding, can never contend with yesteryear’s roadside vendors, who made us revel in rollicking fun, as we relished their rarest of rare culinary fare!

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