You don’t value things until they go away from you. In retrospect, even a small thing can take a big space in your heart. Having lived in Surat (Gujarat) for more than 20 years, it becomes really difficult, at times, to settle in an another city. And the street food, especially, is one of those things that will always stay in my heart.
Back in 2009, when I went to study in Bengaluru, I liked the city’s cool vibe. From the weather to the relaxed attitude of people, there was almost nothing that I didn’t like about the city. But after a few months, I started craving my Surti farsan (snack items) like crazy. And I promised myself to learn each farsan item when I go back home. After all, who likes to eat burgers and donuts as street food? Not me.
For us, back home, enjoying Surti farsan every Sunday morning is a way of life (read Khaman, mini chana Samosa, Idada, Khandvi and Fafda). In school days, I and my class group had a plate of khaman with salted onions on the side, every day. That paper-wrapped khaman would cost us 20 bucks and it meant a lot. And I’m not talking about the juicy, sugar syrup-laden khaman-dhokla with tri-colours that the world buys from air-conditioned eatery joints. I loathe them from the bottom of my heart.
I’m talking about the dry khaman that usually the young boys carry with them on their heads in a huge utensil, with a knife to cut the onions and newspaper cut-outs for serving, kept on the lid. You can easily spot these boys around 4PM in the lanes of Bhagal or Nanpura. And I’m also talking about the fresh khaman that old women sell to kids for 5 bucks per plate, near the school gates in Surat. When we were in school, while going back home, we would usually drop at Neelkanth apartments for this. I would like to call this the original version of khaman that had lots of powdered chunks as well. The food hawker was a jolly fellow. He always smiled at us schoolchildren. And when he saw us smiling back, he would give us a bit of extra khaman. In the picture (below), he’s folding his shirt’s cuffs before serving his famous khaman to the people standing in the line. I’m sure all of them are cheering in their heads: Yes, kaka has arrived!
Now, when I visit my family in Surat, I make sure to visit this building at 1 o’clock sharp in the afternoon. That’s when kaka arrives here. In the picture, the vessel is filled with khaman. Mind you, I was the first customer that day, and I can’t express my happiness in words. All those school memories (and our endless chat sessions) flashed back in my mind. Those were golden days of our lives. I bought a batch of khaman worth 50 bucks; went home and ate like a pig, and didn’t let anybody in the house touch it. No, I think I did allow each a small bite. I was generous that day.