Surrounded by a humble mob of his many fans, he skillfully went about doing what he did best – preparing incredibly delicious ‘Jhal Muri’!
Around the corner, on the busy Ezra Street, Sharad mans a stall that sells one of Kolkata’s favourite snack. Made with puffed rice, assortment of spices, vegetables, bhujia and his special ingredient called attentiveness; the Muri that he made was hard to replicate. 🙂
The smile on his face that reflected a hint of pride caught my eye. So it was true, what mum said; Sharad’s father was himself a favourite amongst the residents of the locality and people flocked to him on evenings to satiate their mid-day cravings.
The familiarity of a large number of people with Sharad and his father, spoke volumes about the legacy that he had inherited.
I waited patiently for my Muri as mummy and Sharad continued with their enthusiastic chat, recalling fond memories of mummy visiting Sharad’s father as a child for Muri treats.
Enticed by the display of the flavourful ingredients, I couldn’t wait to have a fill of some freshly-made Muri. As I spoke, aroma of the spices made the task of paying attention to the conversation all the more challenging. I admit to having a soft corner for this light yet tasty snack!
Watching him effortlessly prepare ‘Muri’ was fascinating. I felt compelled to capture the moments. Seeking permission, I asked – ‘Can I click some pictures?’ to which he gladly obliged and said with a coy smile- ‘Bhabhi ka bhi le lo’ (Click a picture of my wife too!)
Sharad’s wife assisted him and took care of the stall in his absence. A relentless support, she was the backbone behind the success of his venture.
Within minutes of our conversations, my Muri was now ready-to-eat. I finally relished the taste after a significantly long time! It was perfect! Sweetness exactly how much I liked, with a generous amount of roasted peanuts, perfected with a drizzle of mustard oil! This was more than just ‘Muri’, it was a journey, back to my childhood.
How could he simply know what each one of his regular visitors want? To think of it there are so many permutations and combinations of blending the variety of ingredients to prepare one snack. Less sweet-more tangy; more spicy-less sweet; tangy but not spicy at all and more. The perfection that he had attained in preparing variations of the snack, made him nothing less than a fine connoisseur of flavours! He had over the years mastered the Science of flavours. How the taste being predominant for people, it was essentially in fact, influenced by the aromas of the ingredients. Not only limited to jhal muri, he had an opinion about flavours for all types of food. I could almost think of him to be a professional food taster! 🙂
Noticing the smile on my face, he handed a few roasted peanuts as a note of acknowledgement, just how is father used to! 🙂 No wonder, more than gathering anecdotes about his him from him, it was the people around who couldn’t stop gushing about how fond they are of him and his dad. Even after years, they still remember his father who was fondly called ‘Mamu’ (maternal uncle).
His stall has been an ageless spot for friends to share a light-hearted evening chat, for students of the nearby school to discuss their post-exam analysis and a stop to take some rest for the weary labourers. Witnessing many stories and seasons, Sharad’s stall sells more than just ‘Muri’ 🙂
I’ve had ‘Muri’ countless times before, but today’s experience left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling of bonding with the ones who bring us life’s small happiness!