A variety of Holi festival sweet called Gujiya

By Tara Narayan

THE revelry of the country’s most colorful festival was here – Holi! In Goa it’s also Shigmo and although I skipped the official Shigmo parade in Ponda or Panaji, not being in celebration mood, one cannot fail to notice that it is springtime and the burst of heat seasonal or unseasonal, has sent all the flowering trees of summer on fast forward, hurrying up with life before it is over or something like that.
Suddenly beginning March the Malabar almonds were clad in their fresh large green leaves, a treat for the eyes next to the hot reds of the African tulips, stateliest of trees. Down Taleigao even laburnums are in glorious cascading yellow bloom here and there…there are the rain tree pink tapestries and the copperpods scattering their musty yellow crinkled blooms to the pavement below to create golden carpets.
Up at the Jogging Park of Altinho where I found myself after a long, long time, look at the creamy yellow frangipani or popularly champa; this is the place to catch up with trees flowering and not so flowering like a couple of silver oak trees…down the Campal promenade of Panaji last week I caught a gulmohr breaking into bloom way ahead of time. Hey, although it is still springtime March as I write this it’s like summer time is here and the temperature is steaming around the Easter weekend.
Springtime turning almost overnight into summertime really offers a carnival of blossoming trees and I often think why don’t we just use the flower petal confetti to play Holi or so to speak? Instead of all this hectic running around to anoint family and friends with all manner of red, blue, purple, yellow and more powders and drench them with coloured water; the children of course go berserk having a gala time with their pichkari full of weird colored water to “shoot” at each other!

HOT CROSS BUNS, HOT CROSS BUNS...Only for Easter weekend to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Sunday. The life abd times of Jesus date back to mid-1st century CE.

DON’T know why but this year Holi weekend I was filled with nostalgia and seeking some decent “gujiya” to savor. You know gujiya? Also “karanji” in Maharashtra, “ghughra” in Gujarat, “purukiya” in Bihar, “nevri” in Goa, down south India hear of “karachika, kajji kayi” and some more names the country – all describing these more or less fat ivory crescent-shaped deep friend pastries — stuffed with aromatic and mouth-watering mava or rava, dried fruit and whatever favorite spice be it hints of green cardamom or nutmeg.
I finally some decent flaky gujiya at Sweet Nation down town Panaji and there was also pricier deep yellow kesariya gujiya drooling sweet silky liquor within…it filled the mouth with such sweetness it made my heart at least ache! Expensive affairs of course these gujiya ordinary or extraordinary, and they were also doing “thandai” – the traditional bhang-laced (marijuana) milk enriched with a wee portion of dry fruit choora.
The milky thandai can pack quite a whack if you drink too much of it, Hindi film afficianadoes will recall Amitabh Bachchan living it up high on thandai in one “rang barsi” Holi revelry scene…anyway colorful Holi and Shigmo are over with and here’s the Easter weekend which set me off on my usual search for hot cross buns on Maundy Thursday. The Christianity story dating back to Roman empire times goes that Jesus had his last supper on Thursday, on Friday he was betrayed by one of his apostles Judas, and Saturday he was crucified on the cross, Easter Sunday he rose anew …a timeless story I have grown up with and like many one cannot but be moved by one of the most inspirational stories of the world. When the mighty Roman empire cracked the whip and persecuted the new growing religion of Christianity, in vain of course. Bullies can never win in my book!
BUT to stay with hot cross buns every year when Easter comes I take a renewed interest in hot cross buns and wonder why they’re supposed to be “hot”…because they were baked and eaten hot from the Thursday of the last supper, I presume. In Goa I have been eating a hot cross bun or so with the hubby over 23 years and get them by the dozens to distribute to whoever I wish…prices have gone up from Rs5 to today’s highest at Rs60 (a most tantalizing rich hot cross bun with cranberries and raisins in it and cinnamon of course).

You may get them at my traditional favourite places of Creamaux (this year the buns are packed two in a bubble pack and priced at Rs15, always charitably reasonable and absolutely divine in spirit); then at Truffles they were doing hot cross buns on order at Rs25 each, these too are upper crust affairs. Pastry Cottage also puts out hot cross buns and here it’s three in a pack (Rs90), I guess I will also go out and get some hot cross buns from Mr Baker’s and 18 Confeiteria at Fontainhas too.
Funny or not funny, I eat maximum baked bread of life come Easter time and lately I’ve discovered the foccaccia breads of Padaria Prazares too. Otherwise, believe me! I’m really a jowari and nachne phulka woman, but (sigh) to enjoy these I have to make them at home and only I will eat them!
Such is life. Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter-sweet and sometimes utterly embittering. This is to say make time to look at the flowering trees in Panaji currently to cheer up, especially the laburnums and never forget the peepals with their swirling “jumkha” of fresh new heart-shaped coppery green leaves turning greener and greener…peepals are my all-time favorite trees to stand nearby and take a few deep breaths! They offer no blooms, only clusters of stylized heart-shaped leaves dancing blithely in the breeze and wind like the leaves of no other tree I can think of.

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