If there’s something that can completely unhinge me, it is a tin of rasgullas. I might crave for khichda, or saat-handli-pav, or patveliya-kheema, foods of my childhood, which are almost completely unavailable to me now, but sit me down in front of a plate full of the said foods, and I’ll tuck in only as much, or just a little bit more than I would my maid’s gavari-aloo-chapati. There may be times where I turn into Ms. Congeniality on beer, but for the better part of the year, I can look at an array of liquor bottles with complete indifference. I could have chocolates in the fridge for months, and never go beyond eating a piece at a time. I love hot jalebis like anyone else, but a couple can sate me.
And then, there are rasgullas. It must be the tins my father brought back from his business trips to Calcutta with stories of trams. My parents had travelled in trams in Bombay, but they had been discontinued a year before I was born, just another one of those things I thought I had missed by not being born earlier, like the chocolates Mummy ate when she was a child and which melted as soon as you put them on your tongue, or the handful of sweets you could buy for 1 paisa, or the bicycle rides my parents took when they were engaged from Khadki to Khadakvasla and the picnics they went for.
Tins were anyway, novelties. The only other tin we got at home contained baked beans with a sweet tomato sauce. And the rasgullas were unlike any sweet I had eaten. No ghee congealing in one’s mouth, not extremely sweet, not vilely colored, they were pristine white, round, chewy.
My father must have made one or two trips to Calcutta, and I think I did not taste any rasgullas for a few more years after that. Not from the tin, that is. We would be able to order a plate of rasgullas at a restaurant, but where was the pleasure of several, ‘uncountable’ rasgullas bobbing around in their sugary syrup in a staid plate of 2?
One day, a maid came to our house with a familiar looking tin. Another employer had given her the tin as a gift. She was confused about how to open it, and about what was in it. My mother opened the tin for her, while my sister and I looked on excitedly, for the beloved sight of those white, sweet balls. ‘What are these?’, she asked suspiciously. ‘Rasgullas’, we piped up. She did not seem enamored of them, and asked us to keep them if we liked. My mother politely refused, while I writhed in silent protest. The maid insisted, so my mother kept a few rasgullas for us, and returned the tin to the maid. A couple of days later the maid told us that she had thrown the sweets away, no one in her house had liked them. I was aghast. To this day, when I eat rasgullas, I think of the ones that were thrown away. And I feel compelled to finish all the ones before me.
As far as rasgullas are concerned, I’ll start decorously with 2. Then another 2 because I love them. Then another 2, because heck, why not, I love them so much. And then, someone who loves me, will say, go on have another. And I shyly, will.
On my one and only, very short visit to Calcutta, I found the time to eat rasgullas in the evening at a small corner shop. The hot rasgullas disconcerted me, and unfortunately I did not stay long enough, to get used to them.
Recently a friend has started making frequent trips to Calcutta. He says, the tins are bakwaas, you must get the rasgullas fresh from a shop, in a bottle. So he brought me a bottle last week. Should I call him a friend? He has undone a month’s diet.
I thought I’d have one a day, then reasoned it would mean cheating on my diet for a month, which would be extremely bad for my morale. Anyway, if the contents of the bottle were going into my stomach by the end of one month, why not by the end of the week? Might as well get the evil over with sooner, and get back to my diet.
The bottle is empty now.
There is one rasgulla waiting for Teja, however, who was away for 2 weeks.
He doesn’t even like rasgullas much, though he loves watching me eat them. But I thought it only fair to leave one for him. This could only be love.