My great-grandmother blamed it on the winter sun, which poured sweetness and light into the notun gur from the first sap-tap of the date palms around Chinsurah. And if the first pot of distilled ambrosia, mustily redolent of terracotta, was reserved for Poush-heralding pithe-payesh, the second invariably found its way into the cast-iron wok reserved for her home-stamped confections. Not that all the chhena so tenderly tempered reached the palm-heart sandesh mould — much of it got snatched warm in childish fistfuls while the indulgent back was turned.
As the season of quilts wore on, the weekly treat was supplemented by great-uncles on their daily Kolkata run — with the citified avatar from Dwarik’s in the big city, perhaps Surjo Modak in en-route Chandannagar or Rishra’s Felu-moira. Dwarik dubbed his “sheeter sonjiboni’” (winter’s elixir). The matriarch would none of it — how could they compare with the goodness of homely hearths? But they were the next best thing, which heartened busy daughters, though her son-in-law remained partial to Balaram and Radharaman Mullick’s on Poddopukur Road.
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