It wasn’t love at first sight but there was something about it that attracted me. It was peeping from a plate in my mom’s hand. I tugged at her saree and she placed one of the round wonderful attractive crispy structures full of tangy water into my mouth. That day and today the love affair continues. Call it by any name, Golgappa, pani puri, phuchka……
When I was eight, my father met with an accident and had to spend around six months in the hospital. I spent those six months at my grandmother’s place amongst innumerable cousins and every evening, without fail, we, my cousins and me, used to go on a golgappa hogging(as everyone ate out of his or her limits) spree. One night I had this acute pain in my abdomen and I puked as well. The blood test results (which came a few days later) said I was suffering from jaundice. The reason cited WAS golgappas. Immediately, golgappas were replaced by bland colorless khichdi. I had to take precautions as my liver was weak. This had to be done for around two months. Two months later….. Golgappa resumed its princely status and till date khichdi stays away from my menu. Something which made me sick was welcomed with open arms and something which was a boon for my liver was banned forever. Now, this is love. It makes you sick but you just don’t give up on it and whoever said love is blind, trust me, love has the best taste buds.
School life, usually, is the biggest shareholder of our memories. Since I am not unique, I too have the best memories from school. When I was preparing for my engineering tests, like several others, I had joined tuitions for various subjects. No, I did not need them. My parents needed them, to ensure they left no stone unturned in their efforts to make me an engineer. So, every evening my friend and I would religiously ride our scooter to the class and then wait for it to end. You know why? To stop at the golgappa wala in the colony (we took a special longer route back home) and have golgappas. 12 for 5 rupees. We had even struck a deal. Whoever rode pillion, would have 7 out of the 12 golgappas.
As already informed I completed graduation in the southern part of the country and golgappa aka pani puri was not as popular as it’s in the northern half of the country. In fact it was completely different. The stuffing instead of the regular potato mixture, included boiled peas mixed with chopped onion and tomatoes and the pani of the pani puri did not have the regular spices. But this did not dampen my enthusiasm. It’s been years and the bond between me and the golgappas seemed to have strengthened with age. Like a true lover I have always followed my heart and gone out of my way to find out the best spots in the town to have my favourite golgappas.
Have you ever noticed, whenever we place a golgappa in our mouth , our eyes close automatically, just like the first kiss. Innocent and ecstatic. A mouthful of heaven(obviously the golgappa HERE 😉 ). When we open our eyes there is a warm glow and there is smile on our lips. Kiss or Golgappa, have you ever seen someone sad after the experience. I haven’t. They always end in a smile even if the eyes are brimming with tears. The spicier the better. We never want to stop at one, do we? The spicy one is followed by a meetha wala and then a spicy one again. It’s addictive. We feel full but the heart yearns for more. There is no better place than having it in public. People turn if you shriek out of excitement, how can something as small as a golgappa make us so happy. The unnumbered Golgappa competitions. The people waiting for their turn stare at you scornfully( “how long will they keep eating”) . The vendor gives you a stare, when at the end you say “ bhaiya ek sookha dena”, as if you just proposed to his daughter. It’s not shameful asking for that one extra papdi. Though lips on fire, we would not have something to cool them down. We do not want that lingering taste to fade out soon.
Evenings revolve around golgappas. “Aj golgappe khane chalein?”. The news spreads among friends. The more the merrier. We sweat in the warm light emitted from the bulb at the stall but that does not discourage us. We all, at some point of time in life, have had a favourite stall. We laugh when the water spurts out each time we try to tame the mini monster. We can’t get enough of it. The heartburn during the deed and the sigh of relief at the end of having it all. The satisfaction when we finish our quota of golgappas. The cool pudina pani on a hot Delhi evening or the tangy imli version on a sweaty Kolkata afternoon. We love it all.
Luckily everyone around me loves golgappas. Even my super health conscious mom. She even tried to recreate the flavor and taste at home and I am glad she failed on each and every occasion. The result was always a pseudo-golgappa. Obviously the home made version is the winner, hands down, when it comes to health. But it was nowhere close in terms of taste. Obviously the stuffing was not mashed with sweaty hands. The water was not from the nearest municipal corporation tap. However, how many times do we get to say – The dirtier the better. 😉 . Our dear golgappa steers clear of all the controversies. Do hell with water borne diseases. Who cares? It’s all in the moment, when no one can come between you and the golgappa. I have never tried making them at home and wouldn’t …EVER!!! Till we meet for the next golgappa outing…………. CHEERS!!!!!