RASHMI OBEROI | 25 SEPTEMBER, 2017
My Memories of Karachi Halwa
There are days when you miss your childhood the most. Mostly the times I shared with my Grandparents and their valuable teachings and lessons of life. Every person has someone special in life and for me this special person and role model was my Grandfather - my Dada.
I still remember him sitting in his favourite chair on the farm and having long chats with me. He was a visionary – with modern ideas and progressive thoughts for his day and time. My holidays were mostly spent on the farm and I looked forward to spend time with him, to sit with him and to talk to him. The past memories echo in my mind ever so often. His health complications increased later due to age and my grandfather passed away leaving behind a huge void. I lost my special person and it was a painful experience and with the passage of time, I chose to cling on to his memories.
My whole family probably has a number of stories about my Grandfather that we could share. There is no one story or anecdote about Dada that begins to do him justice. But I know that all of the small moments that I got to share with him…that all of us got to share with him add up to a great, wonderful man.
I’m probably not the only one who thinks this, but I always felt like I had an extra special bond with my grandfather. That was what was so great about him. All of his grandchildren and all of his children felt like they had a special connection with him. My favourite memories of my Grandfather are from our secret bingeing moments. We had this great love for chewy Halwa…rubbery Halwa…stretchy, elastic Karachi Halwa or Bombay Karachi Halwa as it is goes by many names.
We could have probably polished off a box together and more but I had to keep a check on his intake as he was diabetic. But I allowed him the indulgence once in a while and it was our secret to share. I can remember him sitting at the dining table with a twinkle in his eyes and recall how happy and excited he would be whenever he would come home with a box of the chewy goodies or his favourite savoury. Small things like that still stick in my mind.
We laughed a lot; especially when my Grandmother would admonish him for over-indulging in those ‘not allowed’ escapades. Sometimes it just feels like a big blur of smiles, and laughs, and love. And that’s maybe the best thing I can say about him, that there were too many good moments to choose from to pick out the best moments. The most important takeaway for me about the time I got to spend with my Grandfather isn’t the games or the activities that we did. It’s not about how we spent our time together. It’s about the love he conveyed through that time. I know my Grandfather did that. Because of all the stories, of all the memories I have of my grandfather, the best testament I can give of him is that he loved. He so loved.
In India, Bombay Karachi Halwa is actually a chewy and well recognised subcontinent delicacy made from corn flour sweetened with sugar, ghee, distinctively flavoured with cardamom and garnished with nuts. It is a favourite and simple sweet recipe well prepared particularly throughout Indian festivals. The specialty of this unique and elegant sweet is its flexibility. It’s usually orange or yellow in appearance and even green. Karachi Halwa has a very chewy texture. In fact it’s so chewy that sometimes you have to literally struggle to eat it, making it a great dental exercise I must say.
Halwa is certainly a conventional aromatic Indian delicacy that is ready for most auspicious religious functions, celebrations and exclusive parties. Indian households are skilled in making a lot of varieties of Halwa that you can make from flour, semolina, nuts, veggies, lentils, fruits, almonds and raisins. Additionally, they consist of milk or condensed milk and quite often made out of ghee which imparts a nice fragrance and pleasant flavour that tempts the majority of us to enjoy.
Halwa's tentacles extend both East and West from the epicentre of its origin, spurring the creation of dessert traditions that should smack you in the face with their similarities - only if you weren't so busy eating them up! History of Indian cuisine dates back to nearly 5,000 years ago when various groups and cultures interacted with India that led to a diversity of flavours and regional cuisines. Our cuisine comprises of a number of regional cuisines. The diversity in soil type, climate, culture, ethnic group and occupations, these cuisines differ from each other mainly due to the use of locally available spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits. Our food is also influenced by religious and cultural choices and traditions.
Every festive season I wait, petulant and impatient, for the Karachi Halwa to be available and for that box to make a magical appearance through my Father now and for that moment when I can relish that perfect chewy consistency that both my Grandfather and I loved and have been a huge fan of since childhood.