It’s Sunday morning, the morning after one too many glasses of wine at a friend’s house-warming party. My head’s a little heavy, throat a bit parched, and my eyes seemed to be sealed shut. But that’s okay because it’s Sunday and I can lie in a bit longer.
But apparently not! The doorbell rings, and Teddy lying next to me simply turns over and mumbles back to sleep. I drag myself out of bed, with eyes still half shut and hands stretched out before me so I don’t bump into stuff. I trudge to the door and peep out with my open left eye. What I see in front of me is the single most wonderful sight that anyone could encounter at any time of day or night, punch drunk or stone cold sober.
It’s a bowl piled high with small, soft, glistening, reddish brown, balls floating in a white syrup, hot from the stove, letting off aromas of ghee, rose water and cardamom. It is a bowl of Gulabjamuns.
Now, for those who know me, know that I have a long and illustrious history with Gulabjamuns. Office lunches would often end in Gulabjamun eating competitions at the food street called Dacres Lane, a small back alley in the crowded, steeped-in-history area of Dalhousie in Kolkata. Yes, I would win often, in the face of stiff competition from heavyweight male colleagues and friends who were notorious for polishing off kilos of meat and pounds of sweets at family weddings That was probably my biggest achievement at my first job, working as a wet-between-the-ears advertising executive at Economic Times 😉
A few years and jobs later, a more confident me, working with the country’s most buzzing music retail brand Planet M, came face to face with a serious challenge. And it was of course, food related! The massive office canteen, housed in the top floor of the beautiful heritage building that is the prestigious Times of India, was THE place to catch up on office gossip, play pranks, crib about the bosses and make after-office drinking plans during the hour long lunch. It was also the place that dished out hot Gulabjamuns on Mondays! But… every person was entitled to only TWO of these delectable little things, and no more, at the end of the meal. Undeterred by such unfair restrictions, I devised an ingenious plan… I went from table to table – there were a few dozen to cover! – and spoke to friends from the creative team, buddies from the tech room, and some complete strangers from other departments to get into a ‘Gulabjamun Pact’… every Monday they would take turns to simply pass on their Gulabjamuns to me! So in exchange for an occasional Mawa Cake or a measly Boondi Laddoo, I would be sitting with a collection of 10-12 Gulabjamuns, and, egged boisterously on by my very caring and considerate Planet M colleagues, I would devour them all in minutes!
But of course, my next door Aunty has no way of knowing my chequered past! She stands in front of me, holding the fragrant bowl of fresh Gulabjamuns under my nose, smiling apologetically for having disturbed us this early (read 11.30 am!) on a Sunday. My gushing bear hug to her has a little bit of everything…. love, affection, devotion, pride and immense gratitude. She is slightly confused by the depth of my appreciation, but dismisses the sparkle in my eyes as a quirk of this generation, with an internal shake of the head… or perhaps relegates it to an ‘early-morning’ aberration???
So… my past has caught up with me! 😉 I can no longer run or hide from my love for Gulabjamuns, not with a sweet, gracious lady just a doorbell away, happy and willing to ply me with my fill. Thus begins a new chapter in my life… a chapter that rekindles my relationship with the king of all desserts – the soft, rich, dark, deep-fried, little balls of fragrant goodness, nestling gently in a bath of rose-scented syrup – the Gulabjamun!