At first Mumbai appeared the most unlikely place to look for turmeric leaves (haladi patra in Odiya, haldi patta in Hindi). We required the leaves to prepare enduri pitha, an Odiya cuisine, at home. The delicacy made of rice and black gram flour, comes with a filling of coconut and chhena (cottage cheese). This much would have been yummy enough, but what adds that additional tang to the taste is the aroma of the turmeric leaf, in which the cake is wrapped while steamed. Not many delicacies can surpass the taste of the well cooked enduri pitha—any Odiya worth his salt will vouch for that.
Internet took me nowhere in my search for the leaves in the maximum city. “Try Dadar”, suggested someone, “what you don’t get anywhere else, you get in Dadar”. That was reassuring enough. When I saw rows upon rows of greenery laid out on the sidewalks of Dadar, I knew my search had come to an end. Coming closer, I found leaves of all shapes and sizes being sold by the vegetable sellers. Spinach, banana leaves, celery, mint, curry leaves and what not, but sadly no turmeric leaf.
Then I went to the flower section attracted by the green leaves on display. There also I came a cropper. When I asked a dealer of leaves where to get my item, he replied that it would be available during Diwali, when folks needed it for some local preparation. But I wanted the leaves for the ensuing Prathamashtami, of which enduri pitha was a crucial part.
My only hope was now the office, because people from all parts of Mumbai and outskirts congregated there, and there was a free flow of information. I tried my luck with our messenger first and eureka, he had the solution to my problem. He offered to bring a bunch of turmeric leaves for me the next Sunday from Thane, from where he commuted daily.
Next Sunday, when I collected my coveted object from my helpful colleague at the platform, I felt triumphant, having accomplished a difficult mission.
It was a different matter that we had left behind Prathamashtami by a few days.