Strange are the ways of life. Just a month ago I was thinking how short of topics I was to write even a single snippet. And now ..... as the closet opens and memories tumble out, one more memory has fallen out on top of the pile - a sweet one, this! Sugarcane juice. No, I prefer to call it 'usacha ras'. When I was a kid of around 5, there were many vendors from the villages around who would come to sell their goods in the city. One such person would come to sell sugarcane. He had a unique way of selling. He'd come singing and dancing. The song is etched in my memory and I still remember the tune as well. It went: "Aai ni khaawa ni baba ni khaawa, sachrecha mewa Lai gwad, lai gwad" (All moms and dads should eat this sugary sweet, it is so sweet, so sweet) I'd be waiting for him every evening in the holidays and then it was my parents job to buy those sugarcanes, make pieces of them and I'd eat them. Distribution of labour! I am told by the older sib that the man was filmed by FTII (Film and Television Institute of India which was a 5 min walk from home) students doing the act! Pune is a city full of little shacks called 'ghural' serving usacha ras. There would be benches inside and if you did not mind the flies, you could have a good time drinkng that sweet nectar of existence! Slurp...slurp... Well, being the eternal food lover (I am told people born under my star are all food lovers), what did little flies matter to me? Of course, I tried to keep in mind my parents' concerns and chose the cleanest one in sight. Not infrequently we used to go with a huge can and bring home some of the stuff. The 'grown ups' preferred getting it home and drinking it out of clean glasses. I remember once after the Chemistry practical exam (6 hours standing), I was done and did not have the energy to go home. I had my bicycle with me. I crossed the road and went sat in a ghural which had a separate 'ladies' section! :-D Oh the little luxuries of those times! I had one glass. When the guy came to get the glass, I asked for a second. Then when he came back, I asked for a third!!! You had to see the look on his face to believe it. Only after that I gathered energy enough to go home. Another time, I was coming back from work on my Luna (another of my precious memories is of going on my Luna all around town). I had not been feeling too well on that day. Right from the morning, every time I bent down a wave of giddiness would sweep over me. I thought I was imagining things and ignored it. On my way back, I turned onto the main road and there it was again. The giddiness. I was right in the middle of the road and did not know what to do. I got off, parked the Luna right where I had stopped in the middle of the road (yes, those days such luxuries were possible. One can't walk on that very same road today), walked across somehow to the side with darkness enveloping my brain. I tottered up to a lamp post to hold onto. Just then a young couple came up to me and asked me whether I was alright. I told them I wasn't well and that my Luna was parked in the middle of the road. I gave the man the key and asked whether he would be so kind as to move it to the side. He asked me where I lived. He took the Luna and went home to drop it there. I decided there was nothing better for giddiness than usacha ras. I told the lady I'd like a swig before I felt confident enough to walk. She obliged. I had 2 glasses of the good stuff after which she walked me home. She must have been wondering what kind of a nut she had offered to help! When I got home, my mom, sis and neighbour were at the doorstep, aghast at some stranger bringing home my Luna with me nowhere in sight. She kept asking him where I was and he kept looking around, wondering what to say. He must have wondered too, where I had vanished!!! Anyway, within 10 mins I was home, much to the relief of mom (I wonder, considering she used to swear that I was her Nemesis - 'shaitan' was her favourite appellation for me)! One of the purposes of my glorious existence, I guess, was to contribute to the livelihood of sugarcane juice vendors of Pune! It has been ages since I visited a ghural. All one gets these days is the 'clinically clean' stuff which is refrigerated and squeezed in clean machines. No, I am not complaining. They come in different flavours - with lemon, ginger, mint ..... but nothing can come close to the sachrecha mewa of my childhood.