Esplanade in Central Kolkata, was a place which I would visit everyday. Ma would bring me home from school via that route.
My whole fascination about Esplanade, was not it’s grandeur, but the “jhaalmuri wala”, who used to stand near the Esplanade bus stop and sell mouth ravishing, tantalizing and mind boggling jhaalmuri.
Jhaalmuri is a mouth watering Bengali delicacy snack, made of puffed rice,coconut pieces, mustard oil, mixed sweet and spicy chanachur (a type of sweet,salty and sour,crunchy fried snack) ,peanuts, onions and green chilies, chat masala and black salt.
The “jhaalmuri wala” was nearly aged eighty years.Still he used to stand at the same place without fail everyday and would sell jhaalmuri there whether it be summer or rains or the biting winter.
After spending four and half hours in school, when I used to go and stand there in front of the jhaalmuri wala, I would feel that, I have reached the most peaceful place on earth.
Ma and me, we used to call him-“dadu”.
In bengali, Ma would say to him -“Dadu,du khana, du takar jhaalmuri deben.”
It means-“Dadu,give us two jhaalmuris, worth rupees two each.”
Smilingly, he would start preparing the jhaalmuri. He would take a newspaper thonga and then add puffed rice, chanachur,coconut pieces,mustard oil,peanuts,onions and green chilies,chat masala and black salt, respectively and start mixing and churning them nicely in an big utensil and then fill the thongas (newspapar packets) with jhaalmuri
He was more than a master, more than a master chef at preparing jhaalmuri. All the utensil units were extremely clean and he was a man of big heart.
He would give us jhaalmuri worth rupees four and would charge us two rupees instead and if Ma, asked him for bit more, then he would add a bit more jhaalmuri.
“Thonga” in bengali means a packet, made from newspaper or brown paper.
One “thonga” of jhaalmuri was sufficient for both of us, but we used to take two thongas of jhaalmuri, and have one thonga right then and there shared between Ma and me and the another one, Ma would put the other one inside my bag, so that we could have it afterwards.
One fine day, we had purchased two thongas of jhaalmuri from him and we found out that he had added very few peanuts in it and Ma pointed it out to him and like a chef in troubled waters, he very nicely garnished the jhaalmuri with bright and fried brown peanuts.
Simply, a packet of it and a glug of water from my water bottle was enough to super fill my stomach and the instant we would sit in the bus for going home, I would doze off.
After many years, we went to that place and found out that he was not there.
Some other jhaalmuri wala had taken his place and that jhaalmuri wala didn’t know anything about him.
While,I was writing this blog,I felt like crying because those wonderful days have gone by and nothing can replace them.