Growing up in Calcutta, one of the primary loci of my life was the neighbourhood sweet shop, Mahaprabhu Mistanna Bhandar (Mahaprabhu’s Cornucopia of Sweets). Lunch or dinner was always terminated by one of its products and whenever a guest came, that was the place I had to go to buy the chomchom and the chanar jilipi. My favourite Mahaprabhu sweet used to be the extremely saccharine gujiya (25 paise a piece) from which I graduated to what I called Mahaprabhu’s Ek takar mishti (the one rupee sweet) , the jewel in their crown whose quality was distinguished by virtue of it being priced at Re 1 whereas everything else was 50 paise or below.
As time went by, the prices went up, the size of the sweets went down and the people at the front counter became less generous in giving out extra rubber bands. But virtually everything else stayed the same: the peeling plaster on the walls, the slightly broken statue of Laxmi and Ganesh, the rickety sink on which was perched a plastic jug that contained potable water, the huge vats of rosogolla and pantooya floating about in a sea of syrup, the flies buzzing about, the bare-torsoed/baniyaned assistants with their exposed pot bellies and abundant nostril-and-cochlear hair taking your order, handing out change and packing the sweets