Biscuit wala kanastar emanating aroma of homely Bakeries near Sabzi Mandi….growing up in Simla of the Sixties
It has been years but memories raise their head evoked by a name, an aroma or a crunching sound….memories of growing up in Simla of the Sixties….and savouring the bakery biscuits with all my senses!!!
Life back then was simple and basic… We never had heard the name of a confectionary store…rather the word was not a part of our vocabulary during childhood. There were, for sure, confectionary stores in the Lower Bazaar but we called them “biscuit wali dukaan” or “Toffee wali dukaan”!!
For us…the morning round of the Double roti wallah in all the mohallas of Lower Bazaar was a walking confectionary store, a store at our doorsteps…. fresh and colorful!
Despite the daily ritual of listening to loud voice proclaiming the arrival of “Double Roti wallah” at our doorstep and peeping greedily at his Tin wallah Baksa, I would excitedly wait for a visit to the bakeries near the Sabzi Mandi ground…. bakeries wherefrom the soft and fresh double roti would reach every nook and corner of Simla. What a name it was…Double Roti….double or rather 10 times more bloated in size than my Amma’s humble fulka!! I would wonder how they made it and the place where they made it was always an enigma for me. So I would eagerly wait for a visit to a bakery at the end of Sabzi Mandi along with my Amma.
Every month or second month Amma would take Atta, a little sujee, desi ghee, sugar and a little milk in a lota to a Bakery where someone known to her was working. We would leave the material with them if they would be busy and return after some hours to take the freshly baked biscuits….our only confectionary delicacy!!!
But I would rather wait and see the magic of all those soot covered earthen ovens, with red light of Amber’s, had in the labyrinth of their maze. How the fluffy, bloated, steaming hot bread, buns would come out of the magic maze and fill my nose with an aroma which even Amma’s chapatis lacked!! The upper crust would be golden brown in colour!!
But then I would wait for the biscuits, with a star like design on the top, would be fresh, crispy and would melt in my mouth with an initial crunching sound. I would wish the bakery- wallah to hand me over a few while I sat there but he would not. He would put, very deftly, tin trays inside the hot oven and bring them out after a while….changed in colour, texture and size! It was a miracle to watch. I wish my grandkids watch how biscuits are made….at least once!vhow incredibly lucky we have been as kids!
Once the job was done and Amma paid the amount for baking…we would carry them back in a cannister. Looking back I wonder why we never felt ashamed of carrying a jhoka, a cannister or even a lota full of milk in our hands and walking whole of the Lower Bazaar to its eastern end! Was it the greed of getting a few biscuits… No it was not greed but it was that there was no such consciousness of presenting a delicate and sophisticated self in the busy market of the Lower Bazaar. But gradually as I grew up, I remember bring conscious of carrying a jhola full of groceries in the Bazaar or a cannister of biscuits. I would prefer taking two trips carrying biscuits in smaller containers… inconspicuous, in our hands! Or would cross over to the first stairs from the Lower Bazaar to the Middle Bazaar and take the meandering stairs that happily connected both the ends of Lower Bazaar. But such was the charm of freshly baked biscuits that we would carry it home despite many distractions.
Once back home….the Tin Kanastar would be put at its dedicated place ..close to the kitchen where big trunks were kept. It would be under the scrutinizing eyes of Amma and no one would be able to steal a piece from it.
We learnt self-restraint as there was no other choice but when Amma would sit in the Sun gossiping with neighbouring “Bobbos”….we would try our hand at stealing a few…removing the paraphernalia kept on the Tin Kanastar. In small houses every available flat surface was to be put to use be it the small square top of a Tin Kanastar. And then we would wipe clean our face for any remnant of a speck of sooji or atta left at the corner of our mouth. My sister would be there with me to keep watch on sudden appearance of Amma but luckily Amma would be busy basking in the Sun.
The Biscuit wala tin Kanastar taught us to acquire restraint and also to steal when we could!! And the biscuits inside were heavenly. Getting two in our hands was a bliss. I am surprised at the great choice which the present day generation Z kids have but they crave for more and more choices. We had none but we’re more satiated and content.
I still crave for the aroma, the crunching sound and the feel of freshly baked biscuits of the bakeries at the far end of Lower Bazaar….the bakeries that vanished with the passage of time leaving only the memories in young hearts of oldies raised in Simla of the Sixties!!!
( The picture credit as well the memory credit goes to Sanjay Austa)