Today, just after releasing the pages, I had this irrepressible desire to have mithais. I took out my wallet and walked to the nearest shop where I used to go for my share of rasmalais. But it was not my day today as the shop-keeper told me, “We have now only pastries and ice-creams. No Indian sweets.” Seeing disappointment writ large on my face, he probably felt bad and tried to sell me all kinds of pastries ranging from black-forest to orange-cream. But when you are longing for fresh rasmalai and chum chum, pastry looks like a second cousin with whom you are yet to connect. I walked back to office in utter disappointment. This blog is the result of that disappointment.
I come from a land of ‘mithai’ (i.e Orissa, I’m taking a break from the new name Odisha). Whenever we visit our relatives’ houses, we take ‘mithai’. Your brand value can diminish immediately by the quality of your mithai packet and the shop you bought it from. So, if you want your ‘prestige’ intact, then please buy from reputed shop not some ‘chalu’ shops. Very few houses will have refrigerators not loaded with ‘mithais.’ Any time is dessert time for me.
Now I am living in Ahmedabad and Gujarat is famous for its ‘M’ quotient. From dal to sabzi (few days back I even had karela ki sabzi from a friend’s dabba and I screeched why did you put sugar in it? She said but then it would have been so bitter (aren’t karelas supposed to be bitter). But I have never craved so much for sweets as I do it in Ahmedabad. Well, all Amdavadis will tell me why don’t I just go to Kandoi Bhogilal Mulchand shop and have my fill of sweets. They rattle off names like mohan thal (too heavy for somebody who has grown up on chhena (fresh cheese) sweets, penda (every time somebody offers me this sweet, I just cook up an excuse not to have it), gulab jamun (ohhh so very common), magaj (best prepared by grannys), jalebi (the best ones are prepared in UP), kansar and shiro (I don’t find anything exotic about these). Of course, there’s Gwalia sweets (where you get Bengali sweets like chamcham, kacha gola, rasmalai). But if have grown up in Orissa, then you know mithai means melt-in-mouth rosogollas, chena gaja, rasabali and of course chenna podapitha (a carmelised cheese cake baked in an earthen oven) which can be easily described as the emperor of all mithais.
When I miss my mithai, I miss Orissa. I miss that heavenly feeling of putting a rosogolla in your mouth and slowly getting transported to that place called heaven. And I still remember when a Marwari student of my father got us tin rosogollas on a hot summer afternoon after he graduated in third division. When I showed the tins to my dad, my dad cast a ‘is this for real’ look at them and said, “First of all, he’s celebrating even though he got a third division and as if that was not enough, he has brought tin rosogollah. Have all the mithai shops selling fresh rosogollas closed down?” Well, you know what’s in my genes now.