Mithai: Usha Kishore

Usha Kishore

A mid-life crisis brings in cloying fulfilment. 

A connoisseur of mithai for more than half a century,

I gather my sweet senses and experiment

with coconut, almonds, cashews, raisins, green

camphor, condensed milk and melted butter. 

Mithai is most delicate; it is only perfected,

when you are a seasoned cook - my mother’s words

echo in my ears, as I sprinkle slivers of saffron

on sugar syrup, praying for the flavour

of Kashmir and the fragrance of Kerala. 

This is candied vendetta against my mother,

who never taught me to cook, but expected me

to learn; who once blessed me to be marooned

in a place, where work never ends. 

She always harboured a matriarchal penchant

for sons, but graciously let me feast my eyes

on her mithai moments.  I have stolen from her

the laughter lines around her eyes, her perennial

acne, her monthly colic and this sweet tooth. 

I pour powdered sugar into the endless

summer sky of my childhood that melts

into milky rice pudding, floating in clouds

of cardamom and ghee.  I invoke rose-scented

gulab jamun that tastes like twilight, its creamy

dough, caramelised and dusted with stars. 

I conjure up crescent moons of balushahi, glazing

their golden skin with manna, misted in nutmeg. 

My nights blossom into fragrant jalebi flowers,

their vermillion petals crisp outside, juicy inside. 

My dawns dissolve, treacle like, in a halva pan,

until sweetness burns my heart; a sinful, seductive

sweetness, soft flakes of thought that melts in the

mouth, with a lingering aroma of monsoon rains.

Ladle in hand, I am now queen of the kitchen,

mistress of sugar and spice, monopolising the first

taste of freshly made mithai, wrapt in family fable;

their zest surpassing my mother’s filial bias. 

Mithai – a generic term for Indian sweets


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