Travelling by Vikram on Kanwali road in the evening is a miserable experience. There are traffic jams, it is noisy, and even being crowded with the rest of the passengers does not lessen the impact of the cold winds that blow in from everywhere. The people sitting inside are tense and in an uncharitable mood; they try to make themselves as rigid as possible to ensure that no one crowds them even further. And then on a certain stretch of the road, they close their eyes and inhale deeply. Bodies relax, tension dissipates, eye contact is made and smiles exchanged.
For most of the year, Saharanpur Chowk is my least favourite place in town. It is crowded, noisy, littered and sends me home with a headache. From November to February, it is still crowded, noisy and littered, but also fragrant.
Candy shops line the street for maybe a hundred meters past Saharanpur Chowk as one travels up Kanwali road from the station. They are unnoticeable most of the time- as I write this, I find myself unable to recall what they sell in the warmer months. In winter though, each shop sets up a candy making unit at the back. The sweets they sell- 'gajak' - are designed to beat the chill. They are made entirely of warming foods- jaggery, sesame seeds, ground nuts- that provide a bit of warmth, sugar and protein for 60-100 Rs a kilo. Buy Mum the sweets, but subjecting her to the traffic is not necessary.
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