So, I have no problems if your shondesh is over-priced. I can pay Rs. 10 per piece in Mumbai. I don't have any major problems if you run out of inventory of norom-paak before kora-paak everytime I end up at your store. I can eat kora-paak too. I can also forgive the fact that the people behind the counter don't know a roshbhora from a kheer kodom*. I do. So I don't need extra information.
I, DO MIND however, if I land up at your place at 9:30 and am refused shondesh.
I won't believe that your shop is closed.
Firstly, you have this board outside which says "discounts after 9 pm on select sweets". Then you have the shop open with lights and all.... Okay, I agree that you can't really close the counters below the staircase and hence, can't really differentiate between open and closed.
Your misfortune is that I have this strange idiosyncracy. If I see people behind a counter in a shop and products displayed under bright lights, I assume that the shop is still open.
So, I decided to walk into Sweet Bengal, this counter-under-a-staircase in Phoenix Mills (sandwiched between Provogue and Copper Chimney), which has opened a couple of months back. My idol tells me that it has been opened by the same people who used to run Only Fish and Mainland China. A Bengali couple.
As you can see, by this other report, the prices aren't cheap. Rs. 13 for a noren gurer shondesh, for Mick Foley's sake! However, even though I was willing to bear the burden, I was refused shondesh.
"So, I want four pieces noren gurer shondesh and four dorbesh" (I was with my team)
We are met by vacuous stares emanating from the two people behind the counter. So, I repeat my request.
A third person, who was busy on the phone, decides to respond.
"Ek minute, hold kor.... Sir, we are closed for the day"
"How come? I can see sweets there"
"No sir, those are in a tray"
Yes, as opposed to, in my mouth, which is where they should be.
"I can see that. Can you put them in a plate and give it to us?
"No sir, once the sweet goes into a tray, we are closed."
"You can't be serious. I want to eat shondesh."
"Sir, tomorrow morning 10:30."
"No, today. You have the sweets, I have the money. What's the problem?"
"Sir, we have taken a stock-check. I can't now take it out of the tray."
"But, won't the sweets get spoiled if I don't eat them now?" (I'm not fibbing. Most probably, they will)
"Sir, that's okay. We have already told the manager our closing stock"
That was from one of the gentlemen behind the counter. Who Santa won't forgive this year.
"I don't care. I need to eat now. You give me the manager's number. You can't be wasting food like this. This is not closing stock. It is intermediate consumption for me. I am having it."
"Sir, why don't you have the chanar payesh? We have not yet closed that stock."
Now, no self-respecting shondesh lover could have put noren gurer shondesh and chanar payesh in the same category*. This I won't forgive. The Marathis accompanying me did not understand.
"No, it's not an 'either-or'. We want shondesh."
The three men in the shop were in for a 15-round bout. I am not leaving in a hurry. I was just about going to propose talking to their manager as a solution, when they decided that they can't win the battle.
"Okay, sir, take it."
Four shondesh, four dorbesh, one bowl of payesh (for my team-mates) and four minutes later, we left the place.
I don't know whether this is a Bong thing, but I refuse to believe that any other shop would be so callous about making money. If this could happen in Bombay, what's the scene in Kolkata looking like?
Though, the funny thing is, I won't probably complain there. At least the prices are between Rs. 3 and 10. Even for a new shop, Vien, on Shakespeare Sarani. Furthermore, they won't recommend Chanar Payesh to me, for sure.
*For those of you who don't understand, chanar payesh is normally made from old stock - probably the same closing stock that shops like Sweet Bengal hoard away in the middle of the day. Old rossogola, kheer kodom, don't know what else is either converted into chanar payesh or kheerer jilipi, to mask their age.
UPDATE: for those of you who don't know shondesh (nobody's perfect) - do read this.