Few days before Diwali, my daughter, while studying her Diwali essay stuck on a line,” Gujhiya, a sweet samosa is prepared on Diwali.” She asked me, “Mamma! What is this Gujhiya?” As I explained her about the delicious sweet dish made on Diwali, her record stuck at “Gujhiya, the sweet samaosa”. She kept on repeating that she wanted to eat the sweet samosa. I told her my mother made very tasty Gujhiya on Diwali and it is a very tedious process to make Gujhiya. She suddenly asked me,” then why doesn’t my Mom make them? I want to eat Gujhiya, the sweet samosa.” she kept on repeating these sentences, without realizing how difficult it was for me to control my watering mouth. I started imagining the taste of Gujhiya. Even the thought of Gujhiya took me back to the memory lanes of my childhood, where Gujhiya was an integral part of Diwali and Diwali was not just another festival. It was the biggest festival of the year, for which we used to wait for the whole year. Since my father was in Government job, it was not fixed where he would be posted on the next Diwali. But there was one thing common for each Diwali; it was invariably celebrated at our ancestral house with our cousins. At least a month before Diwali, my grandfather’s letter would arrive asking whether Papa would drop us or Dadaji should come to pick up us (Mummy and Children). There was no question of not going to Dadaji’s house for Diwali. It was an unwritten law which was never broken during Dadaji’s life time. I think this special Diwali celebration is one of the main reasons behind the special bonding we share with our cousins. We had Diwali holidays for 23 days stretching from Dussehra to Diwali. Since Papa would not get leave for so many days, he would join us a day or two before Diwali, but for Mummy and children it was compulsory to spend this entire period at Dadaji’s home. Dussehra marked the start of preparations for Diwali. It was fun cleaning and whitewashing the whole house. Since two-three days before Diwali, Mummy and chachi (Aunt) were busy in preparing different sweets and snacks while we children kept on roaming around kitchen in the hope of getting some fresh stuff from “karahi”. Gujhiya making was a whole day project.
On the day of Diwali, one or two lucky ones would get the opportunity to accompany a “bade bhaiya “ or “chachaji” to buy firecrackers while the rest kept shunting around the house waiting impatiently for them to come back. The crackers would be distributed among all the children equally. Rest of the day was spent in preparing and implementing the exchange offers where the younger ones would trade their “tiger bombs” with elders to get “fuljharis” in exchange.
In the evening, the children would join the elders in Pooja and Havan, each having one eye fixed on the firecrackers while the other kept on measuring the sweetness of Prasad filling the big Thals. After the Pooja, Prasad was distributed and we were free to burn firecrackers. After finishing the firecrackers, a sense of emptiness prevailed, before a young one was found in possession of a hidden treasure of firecrackers. The child became the most sought after with the elder children pleading with him and promising him chocolates and sweets in exchange of the few firecrackers.
Today, when I see the shops full of gift hampers, I am reminded of the plates full of Prasad, covered with white crotia knit cloth, exchanged with neighbours.
With my daughter again reminding me about Gujhiya, a thought suddenly stuck to me,” I have so many memories about the festival and all the praises for my mother’s culinary skills, but what would my daughter boast off about my cooking?” I decided that this year, in addition to the gift hampers of Kurkure and Tropicana juices which is savoured by my children, I would make them taste a dish which they would never forget in their lifetime. The lazy part of my inner self tried to make an excuse citing the news item on the adulterated “khoya”, but the determined self forced me to dismiss this excuse with the decision to make my own khoya from the milk. After spending two hours in making khoya and another two in making Gujhiya, when the delicious aroma of the fried Gujhiyas filled the room, I had a sense of satisfaction that now my daughter can also remember the taste of Gujhiya made by her mother!