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Monday, December 31, 2012


Memories of  New Year’s Eve in KGF (An excerpt from KOLAR GOLD FIELDS DOWN MEMORY LANE)

The 31st of December was another occasion to celebrate in KGF. A huge New Year Eve Ball was always held in the Skating Rink to bring in the New Year. Just like the Christmas Shows local Anglo-Indian Bands or bands from Madras or Bangalore were engaged to play for it. People from Madras, Jolarpet, Bangalore and Mysore flocked to KGF for the New year dance. It was always a time of great fun and merriment and the music kept the folk dancing till their knees and back hurt!
A huge bonfire was lit outside the Skating Rink. At midnight an effigy of an old man representing the old year was thrown into the bonfire at midnight and firecrackers were lit to signal the start of the New Year and fresh beginnings!!
And then the band would play the old haunting song "Auld Lang Syne"
The Skating Rink in its present state"Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish  poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song. It is well known in many countries, especially in the English-speaking world; its traditional use being to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight. By extension, it is also sung at funerals, graduations and as a farewell or ending to other occasions. The international Boy Scout youth movement, in many countries, uses it as a close to jamborees and other functions. The song's Scots title may be translated into English literally as "old long since", or more idiomatically, "long long ago” / days gone by" or "old times". Consequently "For auld lang syne", as it appears in the first line of the chorus, might be loosely translated as "for (the sake of) old times".
So for all those who have forgotten "Auld Lang Syne” here are the words.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet
For auld lang syne!
We two have run about the hillsides
And pulled the daisies fine,
But we have wandered many a weary foot
For times gone by.
We two have paddled (waded) in the stream
From noon until dinner time,
But seas between us broad have roared
Since times gone by.
And there is a hand, my trusty friend,
And give us a hand of yours,
And we will take a goodwill drink (of ale)
For times gone by!
And surely you will pay for your pint,
And surely I will pay for mine!
And we will take a cup of kindness yet
For times gone by!

Friday, December 14, 2012


Christmas is a mixture of both religious and secular traditions in India and more especially in KGF in the olden days.  It’s a time of celebration, of family and friends, of feasting and socializing. Christmas is a fascinating mix of traditions that combines pre-Christian pagan rituals with modern traditions. Every family has its own customs and traditions while celebrating Christmas. Some of these customs and traditions are universal in nature while others may be a result of inculcating local practices and customs. Christmas is therefore the season for traditions, preserving old ones and creating new ones
 In India, Christmas food varies from state to state and communities. Christmas meals in Anglo-Indian families are quite elaborate, under whose weight a table can literally groan, starting   with appetizers and going on to 4 course or 6 course meals. Each family has their own traditional recipes for these dishes that are served on Christmas Day. A lot of traditional sweets are also prepared and exchanged with other family members and friends.

The traditional Christmas Fruit Cakes, Christmas Puddings, Marble and Chocolate Cakes, Yule Logs, kalkals, Rose Cookies, Fruit Cakes, Bole Cake, Dodol, Coconut sweets, Beveca, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge, Cashew Nut Fudge, mince pies and many other sweets and goodies and savouries such as Murkus, Adrasams, Panyarrams, etc are prepared specially for Christmas, a month or fortnight in advance, filling the house and neighbourhood with enticing smells. This is the time, when the whole house is in a festive mood, with the anticipation of Christmas, and every one in the family chips in to help prepare those heavenly delights.

All these Festive Treats are legacies of the various European invasions in India. The Portuguese influence on Indian food was felt as early as 1498, when Vasco da Gama entered India. Various Christmas and Festive Sweets such as Kalkals, Dodol, Bebinca, Fritters, Coconut cookies, Egg Custards, etc are also of Portuguese origin and are prepared every year in every Christian home all over India.

However, the traditional Christmas Fruit Cakes, Christmas Puddings, Marble and Chocolate Cakes, Yule Logs, Fruit Cakes, Bole Cake, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge, Cashew nut Fudge, Mince Pies and many other sweets and goodies are the legacy left behind by the British. Many other Indian Savouries and sweets are also prepared at Christmas time in Christian Homes. While Cakes and other baked delicacies are some times bought from the local Bakeries, no Christian family in India particularly the Anglo-Indians would let Christmas go by without preparing Kalkals and Rose Cookies at home, assisted by the whole family.

Each family had their own traditional recipe for making the Christmas cake, which was sometimes handed down from generation to generation. The dry fruits and nuts that went into the Christmas Cakes were chopped finely well in advance and soaked in Rum and were normally baked 3 or 4 weeks earlier and then iced just before Christmas.

Just as the fruit had to be soaked in rum much in advance, the grapes for the home made wine had to be soaked in October to be ready for Christmas. Ginger Wine however, was prepared just before Christmas. Ginger wine wasn’t exactly a wine. It was more a ‘Cordial”. A little Ginger wine was drunk as a digestive to wash down all the rich food that was consumed over the festive season.

My mum would start the preparation of the traditional sweets and treats that are a part and parcel of Christmas a fortnight before Christmas. Kalkals, Rose Cookies, Fruit Cakes, Coconut Sweets, Christmas Pudding, Bole Cake, Dodol, Beveca, Marzipan Sweets, Peanut Fudge and Guava cheese and a lot of other goodies were prepared in abundance by her. The whole house would smell enticingly.

One of my strongest childhood memories is the enticing aroma of the cakes baking in the oven at Christmas time in KGF - of us children sitting around the dining table making KalKals. We’d compete with each other to see who rolled the most kalkals. (Kalkals are made from sweetened dough and look like small shells which are later deep fried in oil and sometimes covered with icing sugar).

KALKALS or KULKULS are prepared all over India at Christmas time. A variant of ‘Filhoses Enroladas’ a Portuguese Christmas Sweet, Kalkals, (always referred to in the plural) are crunchy inch-long curled or shell shaped sweetened fried dough Sweets. Sugar and flour are combined with eggs, milk and butter to a soft dough and then small marble sized balls of this dough are rolled on the tines of a fork or a comb to form a shell or a scroll, then deep fried in hot oil. The dough is sometimes rolled out and cut into different shapes such as hearts, spades, diamonds etc with cutters or a knife and then deep fried in hot oil. The Kalkals / Kulkuls are later frosted or coated in hot melted sugar syrup.


Making Kalkals is a time consuming process and thus requires many hands in its preparation. Hence a few days before Christmas, a separate day is designated as ‘Kalkal Day’ when every member of the family spends a few hours rolling out his/her portion of the kalkal dough. While one doesn’t know how the name ‘Kalkals / Kulkuls’ got its nomenclature it is probably because of the “curls” of this particular Christmas Sweet.

Rose Cookies are delicious fried Anglo-Indian Christmas Treats. Though named as Cookies, they are not cookies in the strict sense as they not baked but deep fried in hot oil. Rose Cookies are also known as Rosette Cookies, Rosa Cookies, etc and are prepared with a sweetened batter consisting of Flour, Eggs, Vanilla Extract and Coconut milk. Believed to be another culinary legacy left by the Portuguese in India, they are known as Rose de Coque or Rose de Cookies in Portugual. (They are also known as Rosettes in Sweden and Norway). The crisp cookies are made by plunging a special hand-held ‘Rose Cookie Mould’ or ‘Rosette Iron’ lightly coated with a sweet batter into hot oil. The
Rose Cookie Mould or Rosette Iron is a long handled gadget with intricately designed iron moulds of different flowers such as roses and daisies. The Mould or Iron is heated to a very high temperature in oil, dipped into the batter, then immediately re-immersed in the hot oil to create a crisp shell around the hot metal. The mould or iron is shaken slightly, till the Rose Cookie gets separated from it. The delicate golden brown, light and crispy cookie thus separated from the mould /iron floats to the top and is taken out from the hot oil with a flat porous spoon. Though a time consuming and laborious process, Rose Cookies are incredibly delicious

Now a days, people prefer to buy the Rose Cookies, Kalkals and Cake from the local stores and bakeries. The old thrill of making them at home is now fading as families are getting smaller and people breaking away from tradition. These memories of Christmas of the days in KGF will remain in our memories for ever.

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.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Memories of Christmas Season in KGF

Christmas time was the most enjoyable time of the year in KGF. A number of dances and variety programs were arranged during Christmas time, starting from the 2nd week of December and going on till the New Year.

Each Mine held their own Christmas celebrations. There were a variety programs such as sports competitions for the children, Fancy Dress Competitions, etc and a High Tea for the children with Santa Claus arriving in a special sleigh to distribute their gifts. Games of skill such as Hoopla, Ringing the Bottle, Ringing the Duck, Lucky Dip, Lucky Arrow, The Chocolate Wheel, Darts, etc were some of the sideshows of the event., followed by a grand Christmas Ball later.

The grand Christmas Balls were occasions to remember. The Dance Invitations would specify ‘Lounge’ or ‘Dress Suits Essential’ and woe betide anyone who turned up in their casual clothes!! So the men and boys would dress in their suits and Tuxedoes and the ladies and girls wore their prettiest dresses and gowns made of lace, silk and satin specially tailored for the occasion.

Local Anglo-Indian Bands or bands from Madras or Bangalore were engaged to play for the dances. The MC of the show would ensure that everyone had a good time and took part in the Square Dances and other group dances. The Jive, Fox Trot, Cha Cha, and Rock and Roll etc were popular dance steps.

The ever green Waltz was all the more popular as it gave couples a chance to hold each other closely and dance cheek to cheek!!! In between the dances the men would disappear to have a small ‘sly tot’ to recharge their batteries. The dances would go on throughout the night and sometimes end only at 5 O’clock the next morning, when they would head straight to Church for Mass.