I loved those kaanch ki churiyaan; glass bangles you’d find right before Eid at the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore’s Old City. The vendors had every colour you could imagine- neon lemon, bubble-gum pink, dark and light violets and shimmery silver ones like mother-of-pearl. I loved going to the Anarkali Bazaar with my Nani Ami to buy my Eid outfit with matching churiyaan. Of course I had to buy the dull bangles, the plastic ones, which didn’t even make that all important ‘clink clink’ sound with every hand movement. Unlike the glass ones, you could easily stuff your hand into them. Glass bangles were supposed to be slipped on after lathering up your hands with soap and water so they would slide on effortlessly. I spent most of my childhood in envy of my cousins who wore glass bangles every Eid. But then again, I had slit my wrist at the age of three after taking a fall whilst wearing them. I even have the scar of five stitches to prove it. So as a child, I just had to lump it and wear the plastic ones.
After churiyaan shopping I would grasp my grandmother’s hand and walk towards the sandal shop, passing the fruit chaat kiosk on the way. On a counter sat the fruit vendors, their hands ‘bloodied’ by juicing garnet-red pomegranates almost the size of my 6-year old head, and the man next to him chopping creamy textured guavas and tossing them in a large bowl with jewel-like pomegranate seeds, sliced bananas, coral-hued peaches and red orb-like apples. And then, adding with his fingertips, a generous dusting of chaat masala- that wonderfully tangy, earthy, hot, and salty spice concoction. In the end he’d add squirts of fresh lime juice to bind it all together.
It was that addictive and perfect combination of sweet, spicy, salty and sour that I craved.
But did I mention that I wasn’t allowed to eat that? Apparently, that kiosk had questionable hygiene conditions and I could get food poisoning, or typhoid, or some other disease which I thought Nani Ami was just making up. After all, there were ladies sitting there on the stools with their khaki bags of Eid shopping resting at their feet, whilst they ate their fruit chaat in glass bowls to take some respite from shopping, and ‘they didn’t seem to have typhoid’, I thought to myself. I wanted that chaat almost as desperately as I wanted those kaanch ki churiyaan.
But both were verboten. And because I loved my grandmother too much, I didn’t utter a word in response. My Ami would surely have gotten some foot stomping action from me with an, ‘It’s not fair!’, followed by a lot of endless whinging. But grandmothers? They are never mean and are always fair.
I suppose once we got to the sandal store, none of that fruit chaat business mattered anymore. Lined up against the wall were sandals with rhinestones and others with hand embroidery and some with glittery beads. But I knew exactly the kainchi chappal; thong sandals, that I wanted- they had two thin straps with a silver mini-pom pom to go with the Eid outfit Nani Ami had chosen for me.
When a little girl has her Eid ka kurta shalwar, silver shoes and bangles- fruit chaat sort of becomes less important.
Though now I think I may just choose fruit chaat over shoes. Especially the one Nani Ami made for me, with her homemade chaat masala.
My grandmother used to make a great chaat masala that really packed a punch, but I am still in the midst of finding that recipe from someone in my family who remembers the proportions of spices Nani Ami used.
So in the meantime, I make a fruit chaat of my own, with just a bit of chilli, salt and lime. If the fruit you use isn’t sweet enough, add some brown sugar to taste.