A Million Flavors

Jamshedpur GolgappasI was introduced to golgappas by a neighbor in Jamshedpur. I was very young then, about 6 years old. I had just moved in to my parents’ house from my grandparents’ where I had stayed till that time. It is so long ago, but somehow I still remember that evening distinctly. My neighbor rang the bell and asked me if I would like to eat golgappas. I wasn’t so sure as my grandparents did not allow me to eat any street food. But I was at my parents’ place now, and I thought, let me ask Mom and see what she says. We asked Mom for her permission to go out and eat and to my surprise she readily agreed.  We ran out excitedly.

There was a ‘golgappawallah’, right outside our building, which for some queer reason is called ‘block’ in Jamshedpur. I still remember the tangy taste of the first golgappa, which was too big for my little mouth. From that day on, I became a golgappa fanatic. My growing up years in Jamshedpur has a very close link with this delicious snack. My friends and I used to frequent the various golgappa stalls in Telco Colony. This is how we used to celebrate our small successes and treat each others.

As I grew up a little, I was introduced to the wonders of ‘Hari’s Golgappas’.  This vendor’s golgappas were out of this world. There used to be long queues at his stall and he used to serve upto 30 people together. As is the wont of any small town, soon rumours abound that he mixed opium in the tamarind water that he served, which kept his customers addicted to his golgappas. Needless to say, all this was mere gossip. People kept flocking to his stall and he kept doing roaring business. He was believed to make the best golgappas in Telco Colony and probably even in the whole of Jamshedpur. It was only when I moved out of Jamshedpur, that I realized he makes the best golgappas in the whole of India.

I’ve eaten golgappas in a lot of cities after that but none of those come close to the ones served by the street vendors of Jamshedpur. The worst was Delhi. “Aate waale ya sooji waale?” If this question irritated me, the one that followed used to piss me off completely. “Pudine ka paani ya khatta meetha?” And then, “Dahi daaloon ya meethi chutney?” That was it. I abstained from my favorite snack while I stayed in Delhi. It was only at CR Park that I tried them occasionally, largely because they were made in the east Indian tradition.

Here in Bangalore, I have discovered a stall not very far from my place. The fellow claims to be from Benares and makes east Indian style golgappas. They are good, but again not at all comparable to the ones that you get on the streets of Jamshedpur.

I am waiting for my next trip to Jamshedpur, when I can go to Hari’s stall and gorge on my favorite golgappas…feel the explosion of a million flavors in my mouth…Mmm…I can already feel my taste buds tingling.


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