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Friday, December 7, 2012



Eating cotton candy or candy floss is any child’s idea of a treat and as kids we too loved eating cotton candy and staining our tongues and lips bright pink. The soft pink cotton candy was called “Pangi Muttai” The ‘Pangu Muttai’ Man sold the bright pink soft Cotton Candy, in a tin box with glass sides. He carried the box with the help of a strap which he hung from his shoulder. The bright pink cotton candy was neatly arranged in small square blobs in rows in his Tin Box. He would take out the cotton candy carefully from his box and give it to us on pieces of newspaper.

This brightly coloured sweet was enough to entice any child and we were no exception. For us it was like eating sweet soft clouds made by angels and fairies. One blob of this heavenly sweet in our mouths and we could feel the sweetness filling each and every pour as it slowly made it’s way through the entire body. Every successive blob took us closer and closer to heaven. Our tongues would tingle in delight as the soft billowy cloud slowly melted and the residue stuck to our teeth. The Cotton Candy just melted in our mouths leaving us craving for more.

There were three different Bombay Muttai men selling 3 different types of Bombay ‘Muttai’. The word ‘Muttai’ means sweet in Tamil. All of them would call out ‘BOMBAI MUTTAI’ BOMBAI MUTTAI’. These sweet meats seem to have originated in Bombay and hence the name. The sound of the bell rung by the Bombay Muttai seller to denote his arrival was enough for us to grab some money from mummy and rush out of the house to buy this sweet.

One type of Bombay Muttai was ‘Old man’s Beard’ or “Boodhi – ka – Baal’ or ‘Grandma’s hair’ which was like a rough variety of cotton candy very much like human hair. This Indian version of Cotton Candy was also known as ‘Soan Papadi. It was soft, sweet, buttery, and very strongly flavored with ground cardamom. It was cream in colour and its texture was light, flaky, and quick to dissolve on the tongue. The seller carried this sweet in a glass bottle or a wooden box with a glass lid. He was careful not to expose the sweet to the air as it would get hard and lose the hairy texture. He had a collapsible table like contraption which was actually three thick bamboo sticks on which he rested the box or bottle while dispensing the sweet on small bits of newspaper.

Another variety of Bombay Muttai was a very bright pink and white striped candy that was wrapped on a long bamboo stick and covered with a sheet of plastic. The seller balanced the stick on one shoulder and supported it with one of his hands. While walking, he rang a small bell with the other hand. This candy was soft and malleable.

The Bombay Muttai man would take small blobs of this candy and transform it into different shapes such as watches, flowers etc depending on whatever shapes we wanted. He was quite creative in his designs and would complete the design in a few seconds.

The third variety of Bombay Muttai was a much harder variety of the striped candy. These hard candies were wrapped individually in cellophane paper and were usually bright pink or bright red. We’d have to suck them for a long time till they melted completely.

We just couldn’t bite them or break them as they were so hard. The last part of the sweet was sometimes sandy due most probably to the residue from the sugar or jaggery that was used to prepare it. Our tongues and lips would be stained red after eating these sweets.

The Cotton candy and sweets were prepared locally in small establishments and my mum was doubtful about the water used in their preparation and whether they were prepared hygienically. We were therefore not allowed to buy them.

However, this didn’t stop us from buying and tasting these bright pink sweets on the sly whenever we got a chance!! Thankfully we didn’t fall sick after eating it or else the secret of our eating it on the sly would’ve been out in the open and we would have got into ‘big’ trouble with mummy.

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