Chaar ānyā chi Khapti~ ~
Shouted out the seller. This was music to the children's ears. This call generated a scene in every home of its reach, of the children tugging at their Aaji's or Aai's paishachi pishvi or money bag tucked at the waist demanding 4 ānā.
Those were the days when 4 ānā or 25 paise could fetch you a delicious treat. Actually they were the days of the Rupaya and paisa but the seller was stuck in the ānā age. Irrespective of the confusion in the currency you bet the treat was something we looked forward to every evening exactly at 5 pm.
Those were the days when the Thal bazaar was in the space near the Bhikari and Bundake family homes. I remember there were a few Wanis or grocers who sold them. Anita Vade used to sit against the wall of the Bhikari home and sell khapti along with other stuff. But one would buy from her only when you missed buying from the guy who would go around the village with a Taat full of khapti. Sadly I don't remember the name of the seller. Dad however tells me khapti was sold by Sitaram Jage when they were kids. So I guess the recipe is a Jage family heirloom that spread wide.
If we stopped the seller to buy some, he would place one foot on the OTi and chip off a little piece from the Taat and hand it out to us. We loved khapti for it gave us a sugar rush which had the goodness of jaggery.
Khapti was never eaten all at once. It quietened the neighborhood for a while as the kids would nibble on the chewy khapti. This was however long forgotten, until...
Fast forward, I was at the music class and mentioned that I was going to Thal over the weekend and D Kaka, My music teacher's husband requested me to look for Khapti. I was surprised he knew about it. Then I came to know that he infact studied at Alibag and hence all the memories came flooding the conversation that followed. I was so amused that on returning home from class I mentioned it to Dad and could not imagine hearing the wonderful memories associated with this little treat. Our home was purchased from a Wani by my great great grandfather and so the nickname stuck and so whether it was Dad's generation or mine, we got teased, "Wani chi khapti". Infact, I remember couple of years ago, I went to Alibag by ST bus. It was already late in the evening around 7.00 ish. A senior autowallah came up to me and agreed to take me to Thal. On that ride he shyly mentioned that he was Vijay Bhendkar and I immediately recollected and spurted out "You used to tease us Wani chi Khapti!" such fun memories, you can imagine the rest of the conversation was about how I spent some wonderful holidays in Thal. While I was googling found this mention of Khapti on A spoonfull of ideas.
Khapti is now commercially made and packed in plastic pockets. To describe the taste and texture it is nutty, chewy coconut, jaggery and cardamom flavored toffee and yet all natural. The making of khapti is tricky and not everyone's cup of tea as this is made with the sticky type of jaggery that is called chikki cha gul but it is not made into a brittle like chikki but more like a caramel toffee.
I bought it from Shivdas Patil's store in Thal but you also get it in any of the Alibag's sweet shops. Ask for Khapti, its priced at 3 Rs. a piece. I bought all the pieces that he had in the big jar almost a hundred pieces to share with friends at the music class and for my family to enjoy. The ladies at the music class started pestering me for the recipe, so now I have a task at hand. Most of all it delighted D kaka, his Mum who is in her 90s and my Dad. I am sending some for my Aruna Kaki too for she adores it.
Going by how even today's kids enjoy it, I think it deserves the return of the popularity it once enjoyed.