When you enter the Old Hostel (nothing of the old structure remains at present) of yore at St Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, past the room below the staircase which houses Mary thaathi (the warden’s unofficial ears and eyes, dressed in chatta and mundu in the typical Kerala Xtian style), you find yourself in a sort of dark ill-ventilated lounge which gives access to the corridor running perpendicular to it, leading to the rooms of the senior girls. The little minions had dorms on the floors above. On the right most corner (I have a good mind to whack MS Word one on the head right now. It says I should use the word ‘corners’ and not ‘corner’ leaving me baffled by its strange logic!) of this lounge, innocuous in appearance, stood a wooden cupboard with glass panels. Sister Beatrice the junior warden held the keys to it. Right after dinner along she (and now MS Word says I should use ‘her instead of ‘she’! This is perplexing to say the least!) would come and open it. And that’s exactly when there used to be a mini-stampede.
No, there was nothing magical about the wooden cupboard. It was not the secret way to the wintry lands of Narnia. Nor did it have brooms a la Harry Potter’s world to whisk you off on adventures at short notice. All it had were paraphernalia needed by the student community in residence at the hostel. Then pray, why the mad rush?? Well might you ask, for though every parent would wish that their children had so much enthusiasm for their studies that they would make a mad dash for the pens, pencils, papers, notebooks, ink pots, rulers and other study materials displayed, it was not any longing for those things that had us girls in its feverish grip. Along with the items of necessity to the student community, which also sold at a brisk pace, the cupboard held something else of interest to all of us, the starved of home cooked food and forever hungry students of the hostel. I am of course not talking about the figure-conscious ones, perpetually on a diet.
The free time between dinner and study time (Yeah we had study time and a study bell to let us know exactly when it began, even the seniors in their final year degree. I have never heard any Men’s hostel having such rules which again reveals a glaring inequality. Rules it seems are only for girls! Grrr…) was the time for a lot of jabbering, yelling and merry-making. At the same time, one could also see girls passing to and fro through the lounge, now well lighted up with the tube-light on, and glancing with interest at the content of the cupboard. Some of them restlessly looking at their watches. When Sister Beatrice was sighted on the horizon, the excited babble would rise a notch higher and the exodus in the general direction of the cupboard would begin in earnest. If the nun had a cardboard box in her hand the excited chatter would be several decibels higher.
Sister Beatrice confining the grin that threatened to break out on seeing the excited girls to a more appropriate sober smile would demand that the girls stop pushing and shoving and give her space to open the cupboard and transfer the items brought in the cardboard box to the cupboard. She would make futile attempts to arrange the items, but only after first arranging her head gear. But soon, the soft hearted woman that she was, she would succumb to the pleas of the impatient students and start the distribution right away from the box itself, simultaneously collecting the money and giving out the balance. The unlucky ones late in reaching the venue hence left standing impatiently on the outskirts of the circle would meanwhile be yelling for their friends up front to buy a couple of packets for them.
Ahhh, now we come to the packets. Packets of what?? Obviously not books. Definitely, not pens, pencils or paper. Sheeesh! Can girls snack on those?? What the girls wanted were those small packets of chikkis (peanut candy) made from crushed peanuts and jaggery. (The secret revealed at last!) Small little squares, packed in butter paper with a colored label on the outside with some Tamil words written on it. None of us knew Tamil or what was written on it. But we were unanimously agreed on one thing, that those chikkis were simply too yum!
My sister, yep the one who bit me decades back, my cousin and me raved about the chikki whenever we went home on holidays. In fact we tried stocking on them before holiday time so as we could give those back at home a taste of those special chikki. But sadly we never could. Errr… of course we did not polish them off on our train journey home! The very idea! We tried looking for it in the local shops, but no amount of searching got any results. So those at home only got the pleasure of listening to paeans sung to the chikki.
When a couple of years later my sis, cousin and I moved out of the hostel on completion of our course, we carried with us the taste of those chikkis along with the memories of the college, the hostel, teachers and friends.
Years and years later, marriage and two grown up monkeys, errr… I mean sons later, I was out shopping along with the Lord and Master, one fine day, at the Margin Free Store at Sasthamanaglam when what should I espy nestling in a cardboard box between one full of achappam packets and another of potato chips than the famous chikki of yore!? I was seeing it after almost two decades. I thank my lucky stars that I did not let out my usual shriek of delight which ruptured or so they say. the eardrums of the residents of our colony and led to formal complaints being registered on the occasion when I received a gift that I had for long desired from the elder of the monkeys, err.. sorry sons I mean. A muffled cry of joy was all I let out, though the L & M’s raised brows conveyed conclusively that it wasn’t muffled enough. Anyway that is a minor matter over which I differ with the rest of the world. If I am happy I am not coy about letting the world know about it. I pooh-pooh the world’s opinion on such matters as what is the suitable way of expressing joy for some one of my age. Age?? You mean I have to give that same constipated smile I see on older faces in the place of a whoop of joy just because I am getting on in years too?? You got to be kidding!! Catch me doing that!!
Ooops! The digressing bug has bit me yet again. No worries. I am not too far gone and can find my way back.
So there I was at the Margin Free Store at Sasthamangalam, kneeling in front of the box full of chikkis, the same ones from college days, giving out that muffled ( by my standards) cry of joy.. These were in bigger packets. I hurriedly picked up one, then two, three, four… looked at L & M’s indulgent smile and picked up a couple more. I could have danced for joy, but respecting the L & M’s sentiments refrained from doing a jig. As I moved on to the counter I looked back and sighed wistfully, hoping the shop would stock them regularly from now on. Back home I stored them in my Tupperware containers. Just take a look! Yaaay!!!!
I raved about it to my monkeys, err… I mean sons. The story about Sister Beatrice and her cupboard were introduced to them. They listened to Mom’s enthusiastic tales, tasted the chikki and thought it tasted good, but did not go overboard about it like moi. Same with the L & M. Was moi disappointed?? Ahhh that’s where moi differs. Moi quite unlike the true Indian mothers (of which moi is one after all) was secretly (shhhhhhh…..!!!) thrilled that they weren’t too enthusiastic (as much as moi anyway) about it as moi would then have no competition. Moi could sit back and finish the whole thing leisurely. Hey, what do you mean I should check my weight?? I am NOT going to check my weight. Period.
Pssst. L & M says that the store stocks the chikki especially with me in mind and that I am their main if not sole customer for the chikki. Of course when this store runs out of them I go looking for it elsewhere or else have L & M get it for me from Kochi. Howzzat?? 🙂
Nice one, Shail! Resonated with me…but unfortunately my kiddos share my love of jujubes (y’know, those spongy sugar coated sweets) so these days (however sneaky that might sound) I need to smuggle a packet or two past my ‘monkeys’ if i want a nibble in peace 🙂
Ganga, so its jujubes! 🙂 Sneak them past once in a while and nibble away luxuriously with my blessings!! 😉 😛
LOL 🙂 Me not too crazy about Chikki either, but that doesn’t mean we do not have our own poisons .. like ras malai or kaju katli, thank fully the kids dislike Indian sweets 🙂 My kids love anything with chocolate in it. I can’t stand chocolate. A very convenient situation!
IHM, am not crazy about all types of chikki, but only this one! 😉 You and children do seem to have a clear-cut division in tastes. Convenient indeed! 😉
Study time in Hostel,eh ?…what a scary thought…My aunt once asked me why i didnt get ‘time’ to study well in my college in Munnar…There where only 2 theaters (one became a boys hostel later on and the other was broken down recently…so sad…i pity the current batch)…So even if i see both movies, there must be loads of time left…the town is just 1 km long and the rest is just miles of tea estates…so nothing new to see every day in 4 years of college life…i had no answers except that i completed my degree and got a job 🙂
Even now when i think about it and ask my old buddies we cant put our fingers on exactly how the 4 years that went by so fast…a small digital camera that i got in the last year of college and 7 cd full of pics do shed some light on how thew time went by…
And to get back to the current topic, the most wanted food items were the home made stuff bought by friends returning after holidays…we used to be in the town itself during the end of holidays to catch the guys coming in the buses…bottles of fine home made wines and cakes where polished (to put it mildly) by 10/15 guys on the bus stand itself…Gosh, people would have thought we hadn’t eaten for days…
Monu, so I was right. You guys didn’t have study time either!!! Interesting to read how time was ‘utilized’ in lonely Munnar. I can understand perfectly how the homemade food disappears in hostels. But you guys were one step ahead, it got over in the bus stop itself!! 😉
That’s a whole lot of chikki. I love them too – and thank heavens my monekys have tastes that are refined and crave pastries and chocolates. I get to eat all the chikki and gajak that I want.
Ohhh, so with those refined tastes the chikkis are all yours, eh Ritu!? 😀
Oh my …this inspired me to write a post on my own boarding school days !! We used to have such fun !!
Chiiki.. I love chikki.. I am crazy !! seriously..!!
Hello Armyguy. So you love chikkis too, crazily and seriously! 😀 Shall wait to read abouit your own boarding school days!
You are the only person who could write about chikkis at great length so engagingly 😀
You know what I have a similar yearning for – Parle rosemints. I don’t think they make them anymore 😦
Oooooh Parle rosemints!! I love them too. Hey you do find them even now. I’ll let you know any time I lay my eyes on them again! 🙂 Thanks for those lovely words Roopa!! 🙂
*Dreaming Peanut balls and also Those Squares* 😀 Wow…brought back memories of school days… 25paisa each 😀 I mean the peanut balls… Wow I used to buy almost everyday after lunch. The teacher used to give it to one of the girls in the class and ask her to sell… hehe al though i never did that… or precisely i would abscond at that point 😛 Then re appear once i finish my lunch to grab err buy a couple of em 😀 Slurp slurp… I am juz waitin to hit India to run to those petty shops to grab quite many things 😉 Ummah mumma… love you! We both have al most everything in common 😀
Yo Bubbly! We seems to share quite a lot of common traits. When you come, I will buy you the chikki, just for once though you are not supposed to have them. Love you too.
Aha!! another chikki lover.. I dont like the variety thats on the picture here, I like the halved peanuts/groundnuts one.. oh yum!! I used to buy for 5 paise one small cube and nibble on it lest it gets over too fast.:P. Occasionally my dad used to buy the 1 Rs slab and we(my brother and I) used to have the “War over the chikki”. It remained my favorite through college too at 25-50 ps. School days were THE days.. now nothing is available for 5 ps.
Rashmi, I prefer these over the ones you like! 😉 Yep, now nothing is available for 5 paise. BTW is there a 5 paise now?? :O
ah, the chikkis… there’s one variety (again of peanuts) that has ground peanuts… not chunks… those really melt in your mouth (after the initial struggle)…
Oreen, welcome to my page. Apt description, ‘melting in your mouth after the initial struggle’!! 🙂
Shail, as you can see, I was finally able to log on here!
Only you could write such an entertaining post on such an ordinary subject!:) Enjoyed it very much.
IE users were having a problem Manju, its solved now. Thanks, making something out of nothing is what I am good at I guess! 😉
We go nuts
Period! No ifs and buts!
Well put as usual Gulshan. How do you do it?? *awestruck*
Shail, Chikkis are my favourite too. I remember I used to get 6 for 25 paise and now each costs Re.1.Inflation!!!! Even now when I go shopping, I pick up afew packets,but no tupperware for me,I put all of the packets into the vegetable tray of the refrigerater and gobble maybe 3or 4 crispy cool ckikkis everyday after dinner.
Coming to Word,you should whack yourself for confusing MS word,rightmost is a single word,when you break it,Word starts recognising it as ‘most corners’ which then will be the correct usage. For the second one, Word doesn’t know that you are a poet (not yet at least)so will allow you to use she if you rephrase it as ‘she would come along’
BTW,what do you call the ‘monkeys’?
Lots of chikki fans around me-thinks. Well, that’s one whack on the head for me, PRG. But guess what, when I just wrote, ‘On the right most corner of this room, is a cupboard.’ MS Word very meekly accepted it. Me-thinks it is playing games with me and for that it deserves one more! As for the second one I knew changing the order of words would do the trick, but then like you say I am a poet and I wanted the words in that order!! 😉 😛
My monkeys are called Vivek and Vishakh.
Bob Hoff said:
I am just glad that chikki is legsl and thst its’ purchase must not be sought in dim-lit slleys from dim-lit salesmen. Must be very delicious to cause such shoutings of vocal joy, and in some cases, the dancing of a jig. Your writing is very vivid and gets the point across excellently, but can you provide a “show and tell video” with the “whoop of joy” and the festive occasion of your dancing a jig?
I think I already know the answer, but I wanted to ask anyway. 🙂
Don’t ever let anyone talk you out expressing your joy on upper volume. Too many other people, in moi opinion, express it the other direction or not at all.
Joy and the jig–I like the sound of those two together, yes I do.
Lol Bob, you know the answer??!! 😛 Then tell me what it is!! Well my friend, don’t worry, I am not going to let anyone talk me out of expressing joy!! 😀 I lament the fact that there are far too many who veer towards the other direction and to borrow from my fav author the one and only PGW, it baffles me!! *baffled Shail*
You got an answer for ‘What women wants?’ !!! 😛 [Taking the fact the whole St.Terasas girls love it as much as you do]
Welcome to my page Vivek and you are Vivek number___ ?? (The name Vivek and I seem to be connected in some mysterious way. I have way too many friends, not to mention a son too, by the name of Vivek!!) BTW, I was talking of the home-food starved hostelers. Don’t go by it and think that’s ‘what women want’! Read Monu’s comment above. Hostelers will eat just anything!! 😉 Kidding of course!! 🙂
Shail, a delightful post! Sorry to be late… was busy, still am, but am playing hookey with corrections, lol! You can take only so much and no more..:D!!
For me, it brought back memories of the lunch breaks at school, where the “tuck shop” would open, and we could buy all kinds of sweets. What I miss most is the chewy, icky, yummy tuck, a long slender dark brown toffe like thing, called tuck, wrapped in cellophane paper. Have never found it again, elsewhere.. 😦
And yes, as Roopa says, only you could have made chikki so fascinating.. 🙂 Great work!
Usha, glad to have you (and your lovely comments) back! But then I was MIA for a few days. Now I am back too 🙂 Aww… I hope you find the cellophane wrapped ‘tuck’ But at our age we better be careful the chewy icky thing doesn’t go away with a tooth or two!! :O Kidding of course!! 😉 BTW, thanks for the compliment!! *beaming Shail*
G Vishwanath said:
Chikkis from Kerala makes you go into raptures?
Strange. What I fancy (from Kerala) are banana chips and Jack fruit chips fried in Coconut oil.
For chikkis you must try the ones from Lonavala. They come with fancy packing. Made from peanuts, cashew nuts, Til/gingili and also almonds. They are the yummiest in the land and I find them irressistible. When relatives from Mumbai visit me, they always get me a packet. As soon as it is unpacked, it is promptly hidden by my L&M at home (Yes, I too have a Lady and Mistress at home to deal with). She knows the chikkis will disappear if I have easy access to them.
Thanks for some sweet writing.
Actually these are from Tamil Nadu. 🙂 I am not too big a fan of banana chips, but am certainly one for jackfruit chips!!
I have tasted the Lonavala chikkis. Ooops so you have a L & M at home and she hides the chikkis?? Hmm… thankfully, the larder being in my charge, no one can hide any food item from me. If anything disappears, just bad luck for the rest of them 😉 😆