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The halwai conundrum

In a land far far away, in fact so far away that it was very near the point you started out on in the first place, only this time the opposite direction was a halwai house, an Indian Halwai House to be precise. The portly owner was justified in calling it an Indian halwai house as it did justice to both words, it was Indian in the true sense as cooks from far corners of India were employed to bring the taste of India to the fore and at the same time only a true blue halwai could claim ownership to a belly which was no less in circumference than the kadhai in which the sweetmeats were prepared in.

The fame of the halwai shop was spread far and wide and people from all over the place came over to the shop to eat to there heart’s content. Its food was equivalent to heaven and it was said that people’s normally wished for the last thing to eat on the planet before departing from the heavenly abode come from the halwai house. So much so that the halwai started contemplating opening a branch bang opposite the various hospitals and prison on the area. The halwai ran the house as a true entrepreneur would. He had the best cooks from all over the place working at his place. They all worked relentlessly in the kitchen making dishes which most of the times were eaten up before they could make it to the plates.

The fame of the halwai spread far and wide and kings and plebeians alike sat at the doorsteps trying to get a order in, children of all hue and colours made the street outside the shop a permanent hangout spot so much so that the local school was shifted to the street and the classes conducted according to the timings of the jalebies, ladoos, samosaes, rabri’s and assorted dishes making it out of the ladle and onto the display panes.

The village economy grew and all grew hale and hearty and obscenely obese. Then one day a stranger came to the shop. He looked long worn for the travel and halwai taking pity on the stranger offered him shade and water and food. The stranger from the looks of it seemed to have gone without food and devoured the food laid out in front on him like there was no tomorrow. After he was done he wished to thank the people who cooked such divine food and asked for permission from the halwai to walk into his kitchen and thank the souls who had saved his life. How was it to be known that the stranger was no stranger at all, but a servant of a neighboring village halwai who had borne the brunt of the fame of the Indian halwai house. The envious neighboring village halwai and his scheming servant had thought up a devious plan to put water to the flames of the Indian halwai house’s stove. The halwai none the wiser to his rivals plan gave permission and the wily stranger let loose his plan. In the kitchen he met all the cooks individually and congratulated them on cooking the best dish and also how the Indian halwai house was so good just because of his dish and none of the other dishes warranted so much praise as their creation.

All the cooks went to sleep with the thought in their mind that it is their creation which was making the halwai shop famous and well known. Next day early morning each one of them walked up to the halwai and told him that they were quitting and starting a halwai shop on their own as it was their creation which was the real reason for the shop to be famous and so they did not think it was really a good idea for them to work here any longer while they could shake off the baggage of the other dishes which were not so good and make even more profits as a standalone shop. The jalebi wala cook set up his shop below the banyan tree in the shade, the rabri wala cook cornered the bus stop shade while the samosa wala cook thought it made better sense to roam the streets selling his ware while the ladoo cook set up his shop outside the village temple. So in a day the Indian halwai house went from offering an assortment of finger licking dishes to a empty shell of a sweetmeat shop.

All the cooks dreamed of making it big and having their own rabri halwai shop, ladoo halwai shop, samosa halwai shop, jalebi halwai shop but it was not to be. They did sell intermittently but business was not as good as before. All the cooks cooked good but the craze was not just the same. They managed to sell food to the devotees making an offering to the temple, urchins playing marbles in the street, the traveler who had missed his bus or the loitering ruffians who sat in the banyan shade during the afternoon.

It was not the same as before, none of them offered anything better than what someone else offered, as a whole the combination of the food was unbeatable and no one could touch it but all spread out there was no complimenting each other. The kids from the school who used to drool looking at the spread of the dishes now gave the scattered sweetmeats no more than a cursory look, they all carried on playing or took to break to go home and scamper off with granny’s handmade ladoos or kheer made by their mum for dad.

It was not to be… Indian Halwai House which was the best dishes from all parts of the country no longer existed…. Only a shell was left behind by the stupid cooks who never could understand that it is never a single dish alone which gives flavor to a plate but it is the whole experience on the palette which makes people want more….. If only they knew… if only Indians knew…....


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