Tuesday, September 1, 2009

OUTSIDE THE SCHOOL GATES

Nowadays our children have their school tiffins from healthy, sanitized lunch boxes, or from dietician-supervised school canteens. But in our unhygienic and un-health-conscious childhood, we would be allowed a once-a-week (or more, if we spent judiciously) indulgence of scandalously-unhealthy treats which tempted us just outside the school gates.

There was the phuckha-churmur-wallah and the alu-kabli-wallah (both selling sour-and-spicy snacks of chick-pea, potato, onion, tamarind, chilli powder and god-only-knows-what-else) with their fiery wares which drew us in droves as we slurped, gobbled, licked our fingers, wiped our eyes, hung out our burning tongues, and rubbed our runny noses. My older cousins often teased us and said that the dirtier the phuchka-wallah, the tastier would be his wares. The dirt of his hands (and elsewhere?) was the secret ingredient behind his mouth-watering (and eyes-and-nose-watering) recipes. But being gastronomic bravehearts, we were not deterred by such trifling rumours, and gulped down the gruesome grub to our heart's content.

There was the hajmi-churanwallah selling numerous dark and dangerous looking hajmis (supposedly-digestive-aids) and aachars (pickles) of ancient pedigree. He was such a great favourite of mine that for a long time I fantasised about marrying his son (he himself was nearing seventy), and living amidst a treasure trove of unending supplies of amshi (dried mango pickle) and kuler achar (berry pickle).

And then, there was the cake-wallah who would take down the black tin trunk which he carried atop his dirty turban, squat on the ground and open it in front of our eager eyes. Inside that plain black trunk (on which his initials would be painted in white block caps), would be a magical bonanza of colourful pastries (which we called 'cakes' in those pre-Monjinis days). The colours would be dubiously lurid, and the cakes themselves were suspiciously stale, but who cared? The crayon-pink and neon-green, and the rather more expensive brittle-brown (which cost more because it was claimed to be chocolate) coated confectionary was regarded as a coveted special treat by us, reserved for celebrations like birthdays or sports-days or result-and-promotion-days or you-are-my-best-friend-from-now-on-days.

After school, we would burst out of the confining school gates, a chattering-clattering-clamouring flock, with disheveled uniforms and inky faces, gathering in noisy, demanding groups around these treat-sellers, who dispensed dirt and deliciousness in equal degree.

WHO TEMPTED YOU WITH IRRESISTABLE TEMPTATIONS OUTSIDE YOUR SCHOOL GATE?

17 comments:

lopamudra said...

I loved 'kwyet bel' and phuchka,alu tiki,green mango popscicle ,churan and never ending mouth watering treats after school.I distinctly remember the man selling cakes in a black trunk(was it universal?).I was actually forbidden by my Mom to eat those cakes but in a very rare occasion I did muster up my courage and disobeyed my Mom and tasted the 'colourfest' cakes.I guess it was a universal concept" dirtier the vendor the yummier are the treats".

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Imli/salt for 5 paisa
- The favourite.

Kavi said...

There used to be a chap who used to what was called as 'pepsi' for some reason. Many years before the the drink arrived here.

In a polythene cover, a yellow or tangy red flavoured crushed ice !

The best part was...the colour wouldnt stay on the tongue for long. You could still go back home...and be discovered only when you asked for more money !

Which in any case, we didnt get ! ;)

Mustaf said...

I am loving each of your post than the previous ones, you write so amazingly. I don't know how old you are (and i am not asking too :P),but you remind me of my grandmother the way they narrate us stories, take us along with them in those days and make us feel nostalgic enough that I sometime take time to realize which era I am in.

Anyway, I love the alu kabli most and tetuler chatni(imli ka achar), hazmi golis and those colorful ice creams. I still remember in those time(20 yrs back or so), i used to get an orange one in 20 paisa and an green one(it was called mango ice cream, he was bit aristocrat than his other siblings :P) in 50 paisa.

A small story to share with you all, hope you will love it. Incidentally the school i am from and the college my wife is from are neighbors except a football field in between (but unfortunately our time did not overlap otherwise we would have met longgggggg back...alas :-().So, all those vendor names and their specialties are common to us and often becomes our chit chat topic. A few months back we were passing by our schools and we decided to stop and taste those old delicacies. So we had alu cabli (not once but twice), our respective favorite achars, hazmis and took lots of hazmis as "home delivery" for our cousins back home. Luckily, it was not the tiffin/school closure time,no kids nor their parents present there (otherwise GOD knows what they might have thought abt us!!). And my sister also went to a nearby girl's school so she was feeling terribly zealous when we narrated this to her..

@Kavi,

I don't know whether you are from Kolkata. But there, even today, you will find those tiny little Pepsis, specially in villages and suburbs and I am not embarrassed to admit i loved them,even now :)

Ugich Konitari said...

Almost a generation away from you, we had fellows outside our school selling what was then called "ice fruit" which was a misnomer for some blotting-paper origin icecream on a stick. Our bus fare was 10p each way, and out of 4 annas (25 p) we would save the change, and indulge in this. There was also a chikkiwalla who was benevolently tolerated by the school, and best of all, an ancient lady, no teeth, white hair, and piercing eyes, who presided in the school compound over tamarinds, raiamla, kairi pieces, peanuts in their shells, and some vague bright orange candy. Wonderful stuff.:-)

shulagna said...

Do you remember the old alu kabliwala outside Modern School and how we used to sometimes chew even the thonga which had the lingering taste of the alu kabli we had just gobbled??I really miss him and that particular flavour n fragrance of alu kabli ...infact my mouth is watering right now!!Never got that taste ever again....must be nearly 20 years now !!

ZB said...

very familiar...i also remember the ice candy man....peep-peep air horn and the wooden ice box attached to his cycle. 25 pcs- 1 Re each, depending on the flavour and toppings. Some with Grapes, pineapple, oranges...and how we used to cry for them....when in high school it was sodas that were the craze, esp after a tiring cricket match. Lovely way of remembering the past. :)

Rajesh said...

Very nice memories. I used to save 20 paisa to eat ice candy from the street vendors. In the lunch break time we used to surround him like ants are around sweet.

Rajesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Weekend Blogger said...

I went to a boarding school in Darjeeling so even though we missed on the phuchkas and hojmis and achaars...we had our moms, alu paranthas, bun-eggs (a fried egg inside a bun which tasted heavenly) and a fiery wicked alu dam which came with either chips or bhujia on top. Delight. Have not been commenting much but each post of yours is a gem...keep them coming.

Nazish Rahman said...

Oh i loved the phuchka's outside my school that the man used to sell. I remember later we were not allowed to eat anything from these vendors.
But somehow our school canteen was the best and we used to get good and amazing stuff there!!

♥ Braja said...

I love that, "dirt and deliciousness in equal degree." :)) And that you wanted to marry the son of the hajmi-churanwallah :) I'm now thinking of the pani puri wallah just outside and i know it's something else in Bengali and I'm jetlagged and damn I can't remember but it starts with b and has "ch" in it :))) WANT SOME!!!

♥ Braja said...

I love that, "dirt and deliciousness in equal degree." :)) And that you wanted to marry the son of the hajmi-churanwallah :) I'm now thinking of the pani puri wallah just outside and i know it's something else in Bengali and I'm jetlagged and damn I can't remember but ... wait....puchkas....that's it. I WANT!!!

Gayathri said...

WOW!!!!!!!!
I already feel that yumm,hum inside my mind..not that i've had a lot of such foods,my grandpa being a stickler for hygiene,but i've had them in a clandestine waY :D..grandpa used to say,the secret ingredient towards a good chapathi is drops of sweat :D..and hence forbade me from having food outside :D

radha said...

The 'kairi wallah' who had these lovely totapari mangoes which he would cut into slices and dip the knife into a salt and chilli powder mix and spread it generously over the cut area. And we would then bite into this as we made our way from school to the bus stop! Even guavas served similarly were delicious. I was forbidden from trying out the 'ice fruit'. We also got some small 'ber' which would be put in a paper cone. And the churan walla too.

Aleta said...

Oddly enough, we didn't have many places to tempt us outside of school with goodies. That said, my brother and I would take our bikes and go for long rides to this little snowball stand. If it was summer, we'd get a snowball - oh so yummy! Otherwise, winter months, there was a little 5 and dime store that had treats we could buy. But this didn't happen often, because I'm not a fan of the bike. Lol.

The PaUnCh said...

Interesting Blog. Enjoyed reading this post.