Sunday, July 22, 2018

Prehistoric Halwa

You won't find me singing praises of the "simple" days of childhood anytime soon. I remember, in far too much detail, that phase of my life when the world was a very limited place, buffeted between expectations of those who thought that they had life figured out a.k.a adults and the confused dreams of the one who hadn't seen enough of it to counter them effectively a.k.a me. All the same, it has to be admitted that friend circles were definitely smaller and so was the list of things that you liked - 'simple' if you choose to call it so.

Dinosaurs were on that small list for me. These were days before Jurassic Park brought them to jelly quaking, kitchen stalking cinematic life. Across the street from our little house with a little garden lived Gupta Aunty and her two sons, Pratik and Akshat - the centre and the boundaries of my social sphere then. Dinosaurs roamed their house through the stacks of hard bound, half as tall and twice as heavy as me Encyclopedia of Something or the Other whose colourful photographs and fast facts informed me of fabulous beasts like the palm tree shaming brachiosaurus or the rhino gone wrong stegosaurus. Quite unlike Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes, I found the leaf munching oddities much more fascinating than the toothy T-Rexes and Velociraptors who also stalked those pages. It may also have been something to do with the diet I was on when in the Gupta Brothers' company.

Growing up in a Bengali household, I already had enough deep fried, unhealthy, tasty food items to look forward to but crossing the street meant some vegetarian specials unlikely to be found at home. The fantastic ghee soaked lighter than air rotis with a dry subji were top drawer stuff but as far optimal use of ghee was concerned, the pinnacle was Gupta Aunty's Gajar ka Halwa. Ghee as pure as the driven snow, carrots stolen from the garden of heaven and sugar from unfulfilled childhood fantasies combined to produce this sweet dish par excellence. I did share a lot of common ground with the brothers including blind fandom of Amitabh's superhero movie "Ajooba" and a tendency to challenge each other to "Punjab", a childish mispronunciation of the noble sport of panja a.k.a arm wrestling but I must honestly admit that the Gajar ka Halwa did not hurt the cause of our lifelong friendship.

Childhood, simple or not, did present some interesting possibilities. Beyond a gate and up a flight of stairs past another roared magnificent monsters and confections of my dreams.