I was in Kozhikode recently; the city that offered the best of biriyanis, halwas and banana chips,that had my heart set on it from the first time I visited it. So this time when I knew we were going to stay over in Kozhikde I was planning to write something about the exotic food in Calicut. I had it all planned – I would have lunch from Bombay hotel, tea from famous bakery(where you get all the souvenirs that are extinct in Kochi like Unnakaya, Pazham Nira, Stuffed ela ada and a lot more), have the milk surbeth from the small shop near the beach, munch on salted gooseberries and mangoes while we stroll at the Calicut beach and dinner would be from Paragon. 🙂
It was all set.
Only as usual my plans always decide to have different plans for themselves!
We started later than we planned (Alright, I overslept a bit! ) and the never ending traffic blocks in Kochi and Thrissur made us reach only Kottakkal by lunch time. Since it was impossible to make a 4 year old, that too a hungry 4 year old understand the heavenly feeling you get from a Bombay hotel Biriyani, we had to stop for lunch at a highway food court at Kottakkal. In loving memory of my missed BH biriyani, I decided to order the same there and they offered me ‘Kadai Biriyani’ which I have never had before. It came in an earthen pot and had lots of vegetables in it, all half cooked and crunchy . It was cooked in charcoal and it was tasty, with fresh spices and by the time I reached half the pot, I couldn’t even move! I also had to finish Annu’s fried ice cream which was equally heavenly and I felt like I never needed another morsel of food for the rest of my life!
On continuing our journey, with the passing trees and clouds, I saw my appetite and interest in milk sarbeth and snacks from famous bakery going out of the window. 😦
We reached Calicut a little before sunset and checked into our hotel at Mavoor road. I usually have an habit of ordering something hot to soothe the difference in temperature from being in the car air-conditioning for hours on stretch and ordered a mushroom soup. I don’t know why food tastes so awesome everywhere in Calicut, it was like God sprinkled some magic powder on the city’s horizon and blessed that anything made in Calicut should be heavenly!
After lounging around a bit, we decided to have a short stroll in the city before dinner. We needed to stretch our legs too after being crammed for nearly 4-5 hours. Someone said that there was a mall nearby so we took off after a hot shower and change of clothes. My father in law decided to come with us while my mother in law decided to stay back in her room. My fil is a sport, he is still a youngster who has grown old without his consent. He loves to roam around here and there, visit malls and go shopping and enjoy all the good things in life. He is usually our partner in crime when me and Annu wants to coax the husband to take us out somewhere. 😛
We drovearound for sometime and then the husband parked the car in front of a mall and asked if I wanted Attar, if so this was the place which sold the best ones around. I have never used Attar before. I remember my father used to bring small bottles but it never fascinated me or my mother. It used to lie unused in her clothes cupboard for years giving her clothes a distinct Arabic smell.
We entered the shopping mall and immediately I felt like I was in Arabia (Not that I have ever been to Arabia). I mean, it smelled very foreign for one thing, heavenly fragrances of perfumes drifted all around us. I saw rows and rows of shops with glass windows, all with small and large crystal jars filled with various colored liquids adorning their shelves. The corks of the bottles were designed like a cut diamond that sparkled in the bright overhead cfl lighting. There were hookahs in some shops and I even saw few Arabs sitting and smelling something in a few shops.
The husband lead us to a small shop where a colorful shirt clad boy sat reading a book. As soon as he saw the husband he smiled ear to ear and got and said ‘Aslamu-va-alikum’ to which he replied something like ‘Vu alikum aslam’. I don’t know what it meant so I am not going to find out too. He asked me if I wanted any particular fragrance, since I had no idea about what smell Attar had, I asked if he had Davidoff, which was my perfume for centuries now, and he immediately pulled out a glass bottle with blue liquid inside it and opened the cork and rubbed in on my hand. And viola, I was whiffing my favorite perfume. Yes I was buying it! Definitely yes.
He was pulling out more bottles now, urging me to experiment more; I smelled exotic fragrances I have never smelled before. Ranging from burberry, addidas,Yardley, musk, Kohinoor, Nu-Ra, Fazwa, white musk, strawberry, I even smelled what princesses and royals of Arab countries wear, something called Mukhaat Maliki (I don’t know if it is true, I have a feeling the boy made that one up). But it was too strong a smell. I was soon smelling like a perfume bottle myself. Both my hands were covered with different swipes from various Attar bottles, right from my finger tips to my elbows and some was on my dress sleeves too. In between he gave me a packet of coffee beans to smell so that I could take hold of myself.
I finally picked up 4 scents, Davidoff, strawberry for anu (which she took a whiff and said yuk later :P, but it really smelled very sweet), White Musk, which was a warm and sensual fragrance perfect for evenings ( which I discovered later when mixed with the strawberry smelled ex-ot-ic) and Nu-ra which was a very mild floral fragrance that was perfect for day use.
I watched with interest as the boy (his name was Faisi) poured the liquid to little crystal transparent bottles and secured them with golden caps.He poured the white musk in a glistering blue bottle with a silver cap and all the bottles were then put carefully in small velvet pouches and handed over. He also produced some Suruma from under a table which he said would make my eyes sparkle. I bought one of that too and placed all the goodies in my bag. I felt like I had a treasure trove in my bag. 🙂
Next, we walked to RP mall which was adjacent to this Attar Mall as I call it now. It was small and there was nothing fascinating and FIL decided to buy some toys for Annu from the first floor shops. A few people recognized him and came over to talk to him.
While waiting around for him I spotted a jewellery store and they had some really beautiful black metal jewellery on display. I am not much of a jewellery person, and I hardly ever have those love at first sights.(The ones I do have are usually unattainable or are lost immediately after I get it) 😛
Now this necklace was of the design of little jasmine buds tied together with matching earrings. I just had to have it. A bell almost rang in my head saying it was mine. :P.
So in I went and asked them to show it to me before the husband even realized what I was doing. It looked even more beautiful upfront and the price was dirt cheap compared to what we get in Kochi.
I looked around the store and felt like I was in some sort of jewellery heaven. I picked a few earrings and bangles I really liked and then beckoned the husband who was standing out(he thinks its taboo to come into a ladies store) to pay the bill 🙂
He came inside and I saw him standing literally opened mouthed at the cash counter. He was not moving or talking, so I nudged him to get the balance. He took it and the girl at the counter (must be the owner, she looked like an arab too, coral lipstick, Gucci bag, cartier watch) said in clear Malayalam, “Vannathil Valare Nandhi’.
He still looked a little dazed outside and I asked what the matter was. ‘Was that Sunny Leone who just spoke in Malayalam?’ he was asking me seriously. ‘Where?’ I asked ‘In the store, the lady with the thattam, that was sunny Leone right’. He still looked dazed. I looked back and saw the woman at the counter looking at us and smiling though the glass. She was indeed striking, like really really striking. And yes, she did look like Sunny leone somewhere too. ‘Wait till I tell this to John and Shivan, Sunny leone in Mavoor road saying Nandhi veendum varika in Malayalam’. He sounded very excited. ‘ If you want something else also you can buy, take your time, I can wait outside’. He even added generously. It was funny beyond words, the husband who always cribbed that I took forever to buy something even if it was just a few minutes now generously suggesting me to buy more stuff from ‘that’ particular shop and that too to take my own time! I started laughing. I was almost going back, not to miss the opportunity of the husband falling in love with the Desi Sunny leone (actually she looked very international) but my FIL decided it was time we went back to the hotel since mil and Annu was alone in the hotel. As I got into the car I realized I was still smelling like a perfume house as the fragrances of different attars engulfed me. I kept opening the flap of my bag to smell the fragrances that escaped from the pouch. It was delectable and I realized the fragrance of life was intoxicating me yet again. It dint matter at all that my food plan has flopped, I had a new love to look forward to on my next visit to Calicut – Attar! 🙂 *********************************************** P.S : I did get to go to Bombay hotel on our return trip and as usual the biriyani was awesome. 🙂 P.S.S : The husband on returning to work told about the desi sunny leone encounter to his colleagues (he works in a bank which is like a boys college, there are no woman in their recovery section!) and his friend Shivan took all the pain to search for the the jewellery store in the net and ‘found’ their fb page and dived in again and found the profile of the ‘Thattam gir’ all during office hours !Such dedication! Bottom line- Men are always boys even if they are bankers of past 30’s! 😛