India has many festivals all-round the year and therefore many occasions to shop. Whether it’s at our local markets cramped with “hole in a wall” shops, who stock the finest of fabrics, unique jewellery and sarees or at the swanky malls flashing all famous brands, wherever I shop it has to end with treating myself for all the hard work I did whilst spending money wisely. So I and my shopping partners head to our favourite spot at the pavements of the busy roads manned by the Pani Poori Wala.
They are those little known roadside vendors, occupying not more than couple of square feet, who continuously serve little delights called Pani Poori until his (Yes! its always ‘his’ I have never seen a lady selling pani poories) basket gets empty. After an exhausting wait comes your turn and then you are the Queen/ King.
At this point one forgets about all the eating etiquettes. Now all that matters is satiating your taste buds. You tell your choice to the Pani Poori wala, how spicy or sweet you want the experience to be. Well, you can also adjust the flavours to high, medium or low. However you can skip this step if you are a regular. The Pani Poori wala knows your choice.
Once the order is placed your mouth starts watering while you watch the skilful hands of the Pani Poori wala preparing your poori without any measuring spoons, any delay and one would drool, but in the nick of time the poori is served to you and pop it goes in your mouth bursting out all the flavours that your soul was longing for.
The art is to gulp the poori before the next one arrives on you plate. And then there is no stopping, at least 10 have to be consumed before asking for the sukha poori for FREE. This celestial experience, as any food lover would describe it, has been the same ever since I ate my first Pani Poori as a child. I always wonder, how could one think of rolling a little dough and frying it to create a wonderful crispy ball and then crack a hole to stuff in the sprouts/ potatoes/ chana followed by filling it with flavoursome water, all this without bursting the ball. Hats off to the one who created this wonderful street food.
All across India I ate these with different names – Pani Poori, Pani Batashey, Gupchup, Gol Gappa, Phuchka…whatever the name this Indian street food is always a winner. Sometimes, I too feel like a Pani Poori because I too have different names; from Lakshmi I become Lokhi, Lachmi, Leshmi and Laxmi depending on which part of India I am in, well, whatever the name soul is the same.
Note: I can eat Pani Poories anytime not just after shopping. Whether it’s the rain, a dull day, an exciting day, after a walk, just to cheer up or to give company …I always find a reason to indulge in them.