During my stay at my grandparents’ place, my seven-year-old self would climb up onto the kitchen slab in the evening, while my grandmother prepared snacks for me— some plain old Tiger biscuits sandwiched together with cream and a simple toast drenched in lots of butter. The air would smell of tea and sweets, perhaps from the four o’clock tea my grandparents never missed. As I sat on the kitchen slab, fascinated with the buttons on the kitchen chimney, my grandfather would say, “It’s too hot in there, come watch some TV”, which I politely ignored, in fear of getting too less, or too many, of those delicious sandwiched biscuits. Along with these snacks, my grandma often offered gudparas, a festive Punjabi snack made of jaggery, lathered in huge amounts of powdered sugar (never complained about that). All those snacks, accompanied by a new episode of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, was my recipe for a perfect summer evening at Chandigarh.

In the mornings, I would wake up to the smell of parathas being fried. I was often mesmerized by the thought of transforming potatoes, radishes and cauliflowers into stiff and flat circles of flour. Some sour lassi with it would be nothing less than icing on the cake. Still not satisfied, I would beg grandma to take me to ‘the place where they kept fryums in gunny bags’ and buy about a kilo of bhujias and other street foods. There was no match to afternoons I spent eating those fryums, not worrying about my skin breaking out.

I particularly remember the distinctive flavour of her food— it wasn’t like what I ate at home, even if it was exactly the same recipe. The chapatis, although evidently smaller than those I ate at home, would be softer; the cucumbers, fresher; the lassi, sourer.

Although I was never the kid who ate a lot, those few days that I spent at my grandmother’s house would completely transform me. No wonder I always got a bad stomach ache at the end of my stay. But when it was time to leave, and my parents had come to pick me up, she would always give me five or six crystals of mishri, probably as good luck for my ride back home. Out of all things that I ate, those foggy grains are what I remember exclusively, perhaps because they reflected the simplicity and sweetness of the days that had gone by.


– Mira Sehgal, Amity International School, Noida


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