Nidhi Srivastava Asthana’s story is a sweet treat for the eyes, heart, and mind with its heart-warming narrative and characters.
G. Sunder Jamun sat on a tray placed right in the front row of the glass display case, albeit refrigerated, at the sweet shop. A bright ray of sun fell on him. ‘I hate it,’ he squealed. It had not been long since he had emerged from a harrowing ordeal in the kitchen. Chhagan Halwai had kneaded dough of fresh khoya, with rough hands, for a long time. Before he added suji. Then he kneaded the dough for another ten minutes. He then created a whole batch of Gulab Jamuns: each ball pinched off from the mound of kneaded khoya, rolled till it felt sick, and then thrown into a huge karhai of boiling oil. As if this did not torture enough, a prolonged plunge in a tepid sticky chashni was in store. ‘And now when I could really do with some rest, to recuperate, I am made to feel hot and sticky in the sun. Just because I am “fresh” and would entice customers,’ he ranted.
R. Spongy Gulla heard all the grumbling because she was next to G. Sunder Jamun, but on the adjacent platter. ‘No torture could be greater than what I have gone through,’ she said. Chhagan Halwai’s assistant, Chhotu, had curdled a huge cauldron of fresh creamy milk. He discarded the whey and placed a huge stone on the chena captured in a cloth to squeeze out the remaining whey. ‘Yes, he placed a huge weight on the poor blob of chena till it shed tears and was dry’. Then the young man worked the chena hard (‘Yes brother, I can imagine your agony’). Chhotu then pinched bits off the chena, and made each ball feel dizzy by rolling it between his palms. ‘Brother, God saved me the torture in oil. But I had to boil in sticky chashni instead. So if you think that you are the only one suffering, you are sadly mistaken. If you don’t like lying in the sun, I hate it even more. I have so much to recover from, and this bloody sunlight is not helping. In fact, being in the sun in a cool case might give me a headache!’