As I grew up, I managed to move beyond Parle-G and Krackjack. In addition to these, there were the biscuits my mother made. She would prepare the flour and then shape them like cookies and bake them in a bakery nearby. She stopped when she thought it was too much of work. In 1992 during the riots, the bakery was burned down. Most of the bakeries in Mumbai are owned by Muslims. These are old fashion bakeries which have a fire burning below and big metal pans where the bread and biscuits are kept. I guess nowadays there are electric bakeries. If you walk through older Mumbai like Agripada and Byculla, you will still find these bakeries.
My mother made biscuits called as “Naankatai”. She would fill up a whole big box with these biscuits which would easily last for almost 2 months. For the next two month, the breakfast and the evening snacks would be 'Naankatai'. When the guest would come, it would be 'Naankatai'. When you had to return an empty plate to the neighbor, it is a practice that you never give it back empty. There always has to be something, so it was 'Naankatai' again. Dinner is going to take time but feeling hungry, 'Naankatai' to the rescue again. When the 'Naankatais' would get over, it was the biscuit making process again. One year she stopped. The reason I guess was all the women in our neighborhood had also stopped. It was like there was no one to go there with.
'Naankatais' have a different taste and they are real tasty. Even though Mom did not make 'naankatais', we still got to eat them once in a while. If you look at a tea stall on the roads of Mumbai, there are some things which are common to all tea stalls. One is of course the tea, the stove burning continuously, and next to the dirty glasses, would be three or four glass jars. One would be filled with 'Naankatais', one with Toast (not the bread one) and one would be slice cakes. 'Naankatais' serve as an ideal snack while having tea. Another place where you find 'Naankatais' were ofcourse the bakeries. Some bakery owner or street vendors also sell these bakery products from home to home. They come with a big Aluminum box filled with different bakery products. If you have eaten from a Mumbai bakery, then the taste is worth it.
When I started working, my job profile made me work late into the evening. Biscuits served as an ideal snack before a late dinner. Working in 24×7 supports, biscuits were good filler in the graveyard shift. Sitting in the server room most of the time, an occasional break to the canteen was always needed. The sole canteen person in the night shift would stack lots of biscuits in the canteen mostly the Britannia brand. I tried most of them my favorite being Britannia 'Bourbons', Britannia 'Nice' and Britannia 'Good day'.
Our office was a three floor building and the canteen was on the terrace. Most of the times there were two people who did the night shift and when we took the break, we would go on the terrace, take a cup of tea, buy biscuits and enjoy them watching the stars. Standing on the terrace and watching the silent polluted skies while enjoying a cup of hot tea is a feeling in itself.
I missed the Parle-g biscuits but 'Good Day' was a treat in itself. Those were the high-class biscuits, very costly and for me, exotic. I remember when relatives use to come during my childhood days; they would bring the “Good Day” pack. A big hard cover pack and inside a wavy paper to keep the fragile biscuits from breaking. The total numbers of biscuits were very less compared to the size of the packet but we did not care. For us, it was high class stuff. Years later when I had the same biscuits on my office terrace, I wondered why I liked them so much. Sure, they were good and I mean really good. But not great.
But I liked the 'Bourbon' more. The chocolate biscuits with chocolate cream in between. My mama (Mom’s brother) was the only person who brought Bourbon for us. I used to eat 'Bourbons' so much during my nigh shifts that when I ordered tea in our room, the canteen person would come with a bourbon packet.
In Amsterdam, I don’t find good quality biscuits. I have tried the very popular brands but the fun is not there. I found unbranded cookies which tasted nice but others were not as tasty as I supposed they would be. Atleast I did not like them. Recently my colleague’s mother just came from Mumbai to spend some time with him. She brought “Good Day” with her. They still taste good.
Many biscuits have been in the market and many graced the shelf for a short time. I have found people loyal to certain brands.
I still like the Parle-G though maybe more because I grew with them – "Swaad Bhare! Shakti Bhare! Barso Se! ………..Parle-G"