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Monsoon of Memories: Divine Sweets!

By Purva Grover Email By Purva Grover
September 2023
Monsoon of Memories: Divine Sweets!

 When Gods and Goddesses themselves have sanctified these rich, sugar-and- ghee-laden indulgent bites, who are we to reject them? And that’s my belief behind my lifelong infatuation with Indian mithai!

I remember Tuesdays from my childhood mostly for the fistfuls of boondi—the Indian mithai made with gram flour, saffron, almonds, cardamom, ghee, and sugar—that I would get to gobble up. The tradition of boondi on Tuesdays has to do with Lord Hanuman—it is his prasaad. But, at the time, I was too young to care about that. For me, the aroma of the blend of ghee and sugar was enough to declare Tuesday as the best day of the week. I bought a few grams of it, with a promise to myself to not eat it while walking home. Of course, I struggled to keep that promise, and my family learned not to complain!

This, in short, is a tale of how I fell in love with the Indian mithais and how I continue to romance it to date. And while I don’t have a sweet tooth, what I can’t resist is a combination of dollops of ghee and spoonsful of sugar. So, when I say mithai, I mean the real deal—not the packaged, sugar-free ones, or those that that have been dialed down for the health-conscious folks. I love to eat healthy, but I make an exception when it’s time for the Indian festive season, which is just around the corner.

How can anyone resist modaks at Ganesh Chaturthi? When Lord Ganesha burped after eating Anusuya’s modak followed by Lord Shiva who, after eating them, burped 21 times, Goddess Parvati found out that it was from the satiety of the modaks and she expressed a wish that devotees of Ganpati always offer 21 modaks to him. The devotee that I am, I can have all 21 of them in a single sitting!

As a child, adults fasting for Navratri meant a feast for us. We’d be spoilt for choices—badam halwa, makhana and sabudana kheer, basundi, and more. The finale was, of course, the special meal of halwa-puri-chana, which we consumed not only at home but gracefully and greedily gorged on the portions that were sent in by the neighbors!

Then there were the visits to gurudwara which, festivals aside, always translated to an indulgence of lovingly-prepared halwa, the kada prashaad. Once again, the ghee would be the core ingredient, enhanced with the dedication, passion, and commitment of the hands that volunteered in the langar, the community kitchen, to prepare it for the community. If you’ve ever had halwa at a gurudwara, then you’d know that no preparation from a shop or home can come close to the kada prashaad made with wheat flour drenched in ghee and sugar. It is smooth, soft, velvety, and rich!

Dussehra was dedicated to jalebi, Onam always meant a bowl of payasam, and we ended the year with plum cake for Christmas, only to get excited about celebrating Lohri in January with gur-rewari and sesame seeds-loaded chikki.

When I look back at my growing-up years, I recall loved ones all gathering over sweets and ensuring that no one has just one serving. As I look ahead, I can’t wait to share a table of gulab jamuns on Diwali and gingerbread cookies for Christmas—and yes, no cheeni kum (less sugar) for me or my loved ones.

Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at grover.purva@gmail.com. To comment on this article, please write to letters@khabar.com.

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