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What's life without balushahis?

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A GEM AMONG SWEETS Hira Sweets offers age-old balushahis to its faithful customers PHOTO: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA
A GEM AMONG SWEETS Hira Sweets offers age-old balushahis to its faithful customers PHOTO: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Dreams are sweet, but this sweet is nothing short of a dream come true, says RAHUL VERMA, a die-hard balushahi fan

Some things disappear from our lives and we don't even get to know that they are gone till it is too late. Take balushahi for instance. There was a time when it was a sweet we couldn't do without. It was one of the first sweets I encountered. And since then, I have nurtured a soft spot for it. When I was a young boy, I used to look forward to taking a train to my hometown in western Uttar Pradesh. There was a metre-gauge train that took me from Shahdara to Saharanpur. And the chief attraction of taking the train was that I could stop at Hira Lal's sweet shop in Shahdara. And Hira Lal was arguably the best balushahi shop in the country. I used to stuff my face with balushahis before making my way to the railway station. Balushahis were an intrinsic part of my childhood. At every wedding, we used to be given a small basket of sweets - with the balushahi placed prominently in it. The sweets were served in pairs. The first lot to be eaten was a pair of laddoos. And the most privileged guests at the weddings were not close friends or relatives, but people who had endless pits in place of stomachs. The most sought after were those who could eat 40 pairs of laddoos or balushahi at one go. But I moved to Delhi, and the balushahis turned into a sepia-tinted memory. The heart of the city didn't have any famous balushahi shop, and going to Shahdara was a nightmare. The roads were crowded and the traffic was something I wanted to avoid with an eight-foot barge-pole. So I lived life without my balushahis. There were all kinds of sweets to be had - from thick rabri and gur ka sondesh to hot gulab jamuns and the ephemeral daulat ki chaat. But good balushahis were hard to come by. And then, just a week ago, while driving from the ITO Bridge to Laxmi Nagar, I was amazed to see a shop on my left that described itself as Hira Sweets. And there was a marker that proclaimed the shop as the famous halwais of Shahdara, known for their balushahis.

Truly good

The next thing I knew was that I was standing there, salivating at the balushahis in the shop. I bought a kilo for Rs.100 and carried it back home. The sweets were truly good - flaky, but not hard, and smelling of desi ghee. To me, it wasn't just a sweet but brought back memories of every wedding that I attended. It's nice to know that I haven't left my youth behind in a little U.P. village. Every time I feel nostalgic, all I have to do is trudge across to Hira Sweets in Laxmi Nagar. For it's here that I can get a slice of my childhood.

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