By Shuchita Prakriti
“Gol- Ghar” …. A picture of a huge hollow cement ball with a slanting roof perched on top and a lot of doors and windows all around, appeared before my eyes as I and my mother waited for an auto-rickshaw on that traffic-filled afternoon in Patna. But when we reached Gol Ghar, I found that it was nothing like what I had imagined. It was a huge neglected-looking grey dome with a set of...
By Shuchita Prakriti
“Gol- Ghar” …. A picture of a huge hollow cement ball with a slanting roof perched on top and a lot of doors and windows all around, appeared before my eyes as I and my mother waited for an auto-rickshaw on that traffic-filled afternoon in Patna. But when we reached Gol Ghar, I found that it was nothing like what I had imagined. It was a huge neglected-looking grey dome with a set of stairs coiling all around it like a vine.
There was no ticket, so directly we started climbing the steep, tightly coiling stairs covered with paan stains and a litter of gutka pouches, cigarette butts and discarded bits of paper that had some time contained snacks. I noticed that my drab jeans and short hair were attracting attention in the crowd of girls like me dressed in elaborately embroidered colourful kurtas, chunnis and jewellery. So wriggling out of the slow-moving crowd and leaving my mother puffing her way up, I ran to the top and came face to face with the Champa Kali Man.
The top of the dome was surrounded on three sides by a small chimney-like parapet, and exactly in the centre of the enclosure stood a thick waist high pillar, on top of which the Champa Kali Man had spread his wares – long, stiff sweets shaped like bread-sticks or twisted like cheese straws. Mom, who loves traditional and disappearing stuff, immediately bought a big packet, and began chatting with him. Gallant and chatty, the Champa Kali Man immediately became a friend. When mom tried to take a picture of me, he rushed up with his candyman’s bell and asked me to pose with it. He was so sure he was doing the best thing under the circumstances, that it was as funny as it was irritating. He also called me ‘babu’ – that was the first of many times in Patna that I was mistaken for a boy.
When mom suggested that she take a picture of him, the Champa Kali Man immediately pulled me into the frame as well, still bell in hand, and struck a dashing pose with a stick of champa kali in one hand and making a victory sign with the other. Later he presented me with an extra free sweet.
On our way down, we tried to eat our Champakalis – they are basically a thick cluster of jaggery syrup strings drawn and twisted around a brittle bread-like core – and choked on their oversweetness, which made us laugh even more. However, around us grown ups and children were buying and eating the sweets with every sign of enjoyment. Out on the road, I said I simply could not stand the sweet any longer. Mom immediately threw her sweet over her shoulder, and I did the same. Then we walked on, planning about distributing the remaining sweets to all our friends and relatives as souvenirs from Patna…..
About the author:
Full Name : Shuchita Prakriti
Age : 15
School : Home-schooled (does not go to school)
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