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Tirunelveli's Gift

Tirunelveli's Gift

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Published by hasan143a

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Categories:Types, Recipes/Menus
Published by: hasan143a on Mar 22, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Tirunelveli's Gift
...word of mouth
 A Ganesh Nadar 
irunelveli is a bustling town which stretches for just five or seven kms in alldirections. Shops and houses crowd the sides of the roads. But if you have the time togo behind the houses you will be amidst lush green fields. The fields can be foundright in the centre of the town.There is a huge bus terminus which is awake around the clock. Here you can see menhurrying-scurrying around in
dhothis, lungis
and pants. Women in colourful sariswalk at a more sedate pace. Majority of the young girls still wear a
or half-sari or perhaps the salwar-kameez. Jeans and skirts are a rarity.There are bus routes to every place in Tamil Nadu -- inter-state buses to Trivandrum,Tirupathi, Ernakulam and Bangalore too -- out of this busy little town. The railwaystation is just a three minute walk. Trains are available to the temple townTiruchendur, the touristy Kanyakumari, the state capital of Madras and one even toBombay.Around the bus station are innumerable shops selling cloth, das-paisa-type bags,stationery --tempting but useless knick knacks that you never need and of courseinnumerable STD booths. And even three computerised colour labs where you candevelop a film roll in one hour flat while you drum your heels waiting for your Kulesekarappattinam
fast connection. There are few good hotels andinnumerable smaller cheaper ones.The
 Arasan ice cream parlour 
outside the bus depot, stands out in its décor, serviceand taste in these parts. College students can be found at this 'modern' hang out.Tirunelveli has a number of colleges, a law college and even a medical collegeattached to the huge government hospital. The famous Arvind Eye Hospital of Madurai has a very big branch hospital here.The huge Thiru Nelliappar temple dwarfs everything around here. Legend says that afarmer put his paddy out to dry here, told his gods to keep an eye on it and went to bathe in the Tambiraparani. While he was bathing, it started raining heavily. Hehurried back wondering what had happened to his paddy. While it continued to pour,he saw that the paddy remained unaffected because on that spot it was not raining.The lord had protected it 'like a hedge'. In Tamil paddy is 'Nel', hedge is 'Veli' and'Tiri' is holy, therefore the name Tirunelveli.There is a road right around the temple. The road houses the wholesale grains, provision and electrical market. One stretch is filled with cloth shops.The River Tambiraparani meanders sluggishly right through the heart of the town.
Like any other bus terminus and any other town, there are plenty of sweet shops around. But now don't forget we aredescribing the town of Tirunelveli, whose sweet shops arefamous all over the South for its halwa. And unlike other  places where all sweets sell, in Tirunelveli this sweetmeatoutstrips all in sales and popularity.The Tirunelveli halwa is a continuous love affair between the
and saliva.Mention it to anybody and you will see them smacking their tongues in anticipationand appreciation.The most popular shop, in my estimate, must be selling over Rs 100,000 worth of halwa everyday and another ten must be selling at least Rs 10,000 of the commodityevery 24 hours day. But nobody mentions figures because the Tamil Nadu taxofficials are so sincere, honest, diligent and sharp eared.But though the halwa shops outside the bus terminus do brisk business, enquiriesreveal that none of these halwais are the pioneers of the original Tirunelveli halwa.The pioneer I was told was a mile away in a place called 'Town'. Just as people goingto South Bombay say "I am going to town" -- this area of Tirunelveli is simply knownas 'Town.'From the 'Junction' there is a bus to 'Town' every fiveminutes. The fare is only one rupee. This bus crosses thefamous three tier bridge across the railway line and travels past an automobile spare parts market, a few theatres, a melaand then reaches 'Town.'The market was as crowded as the Junction area. Buses proceed at a frantic paceinspite of the crowd. An elephant walked past leisurely. From the main entrance of the Nellaipper temple you must turn left to reach the town's famous halwa shop. The sixthshop on the left is known as Iruttukadai' -- literally translated it means 'dark shop'. Ithas no board identifying it. It has been known as the 'Iruttukadai' for the last fivedecades.The shop was closed. The wooden shutters were down. At 5.45 pm a small crowdgathered outside the shop. The shop opened at 6 pm sharp. The halwa was already packed in ¼, ½ and one kg packs. Only smaller amounts needed to be weighed and parcelled out.One customer wanted 3 kgs in 1/4 kg packs. He explained, "My friend is going toBangalore tomorrow and from there to the US. Please pack it specially for me!" Theshopkeeper tried to convince him that their packing was very good but the buyer was persistent. Finally twelve ¼ kg packs were repacked with additional cellophane paper at no extra cost. Some wanted to send it to Madras. Others to Bombay. Quite a few bought 50 or 100 gms and ate it on the spot, glued to the floor as they wolfed thehalwa down with relish. The owner continuously pleaded, "Please throw the leavesinto the garbage bin." But most people just threw the leaf on the road, wiped their oilyhands on a paper and threw that too on the road.

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