We are on a road trip in the state of Tamilnadu in India. We are visiting many old temples in and around Thanjavur and Kumbakonam.
It is quite hot, as our cab weaves its way through the most beautiful villages and towns, hidden in swathes of green paddy fields.
The paddy crops sway in the gentle breeze, as scarecrows watch over them silently. There are goats, cows and buffaloes dotting the landscape.
There are kingfishers on every electric cable, waiting to catch their prey from the water.
Small shops, which sell a household’s entire supplies, flit past as we drive through these towns.
Life is happening, children are cycling to school, men and women are already busy on their farms. In certain places, both paddy and sugarcane fields greet us.
We soon pass the small town of Tiruvaiyaru, famed for one of the greatest composers of Indian Carnatic music, Saint Thiagaraja. The driver points out various sites in the town.
He suddenly says, ” There is a must-stop place in this town.”
We look enquiringly. He talks about this sweet shop named ‘Andavan Kadai Halwa’, meaning God’s Halwa Shop.
For those of you who don’t know, the ‘halwa’ is an Indian sweet made of wheat, sugar, ghee, milk, cardomom powder and other ingredients.
Though halwa is not a particular favourite in our family, we agree to visit the shop.
The halwa shop is located on a busy street. It is a very small shop. The heavenly smell of ghee greets us. There is a display counter with pieces of halwa and other savouries on display.
We ask the man behind the counter about the halwa, quantities and prices.
He says, “Please taste some first.”
And as we watch, he takes a big blob of hot halwa that is floating in ghee, drops it on a banana leaf, and gives it to us.
We salivate just seeing it; the orange colour looks inviting. We cut off small portions and taste it.
My husband and I look at each other, as our eyes widen in delight. This is easily one of the best halwas we have ever tasted. The man smiles knowingly…!
We polish off the halwa. We order take away packets and walk out into the afternoom heat.
We finish our trips to all the temples, admiring centuries-old architecture. It is late evening as we head back to our hotel. It is a ninety-minute ride.
The moon flies across the sky with us, as the stars twinkle. The festival of Kaarthigai is being celebrated. Small earthen lamps have been lit and placed on the front porches of most homes.