prolegomenon

Let's see. Where was I? Sweets? Oh yes. I read the word sugarplum, and that made me remember home. Sweets the most I think. Well, of course there are bazaars, friends, family, recorded adhan throughout the day from the Tar Wali Masjid, cow herds on main roads. But oh those sweets.

Banwarilal Halwai was such a magician really. His Lassi, Gulab Jamuns, Ras Malai ... sigh! how tough life is without them, the mouth waters. And there were Jalebis, with cow milk. Breakfast of champions, the taste is still on my tongue. We used to go walking early in the morning, at five sometimes, to his shop, having spent the night studying for the exam next day, taking forced breaks every hour so Vikku could go out to the roof and smoke. And talked about the future and girls and bikes and counted the money in pockets of all four of us to see if we have enough to go get some Jalebi in the mornings. And evenings were for Samosas. Ali, whose house we usually joint studied at, would beg his sister to make some chai to have with them. She made such awesome chai.

Some days we didn't have enough money between us and Ali would go and borrow from his mom. She was so sweet to us. It was like she had not one but four sons. And we are such a thankless shameless lot, we haven't really gone to meet her since the studies got done with.

But wait. Sweets! yes sweets. Mithai. Things you miss without consciously realizing you do. Even the chai here is not same as at home though. I don't know what it is, I even got the Indian tea brand from an Indian grocery store here, yes yes same, 'Taj Mahal Chai', the one Zakir drinks, but still. It's milk probably? But milk is same all through the world right? so no. Maybe it's sugar, but again, sugar doesn't add much flavor to chai does it? It's a very important ingredient though, and it should be granulated sugar, not powdered. Granules only sir. Maybe it's the air ...

Ali's room had a small window in one corner. With iron bars and wooden panes. It looked over 'Tar Wali Masjid' and the big old Banyan, and rows and rows of matchbox houses. That's where the snake incident happened (long story). Railway quarters. They were really like matchboxes. They were squarish and had naked brick walls. And there were naked kids and stray dogs all around. There towards right hand corner, that yellow painted house was Jasma's home. She ran away with the boy she loved. He was a Hindu, Jasma a Muslim and so of course no one would in their right mind would accept the relationship, so they both ran away. They were barely 16 both of them. Who knows what became of them. Stupid kids. Her parents left the town in shame.

Anyway, sweets! They are not like those at home. I don't know what's wrong with Indians in America, they forget how to make sweets or what? It's just not the same. It's the oil probably, or maybe sugar? But no no no, such things are same throughout the world. It's not like we are living in 18th century. Maybe it's water, it's all filtered and stuff. Maybe it's the air...


On with the story ...

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