From Nirupa Roy’s working-class sons in the 70’s to the richer Rima Lagoo’s studious Prem in the 90’s, Bollywood’s sons have been celebrated by their mothers with the famous gajar ka halwa. A dessert that has been the ideal protagonist’s manpasand for two decades is not one to be taken lightly. My brother always emptied pans of it with a passion and reverence that was rarely seen otherwise. And my mother celebrated him with it, just as much as the quintessential Bollywood maa.
Me? I was obsessed with being different. So, one Diwali, when my dad introduced us to this lovely thing called the ‘Ice Halwa’, I clung to it like it was my elixir. It was a different halwa and it clearly had something to do with ice – the forbidden fruit that fascinates most kids.
Growing up, I learned three things about this dish aka the Bombay Ice Halwa. Firstly, it definitely has nothing to do with ice. Secondly, it is one of the most popular Diwali mithai. Lastly, this rich translucent sheet of sweetness, which is known after the city today, has a 227 year old history and owes its existence to a ferryman from Jamnagar.
Girdhar Mavji, the above mentioned ferryman, is said to have walked from Jamnagar to Mumbai in the 18th century and settled in Mahim somewhere between 1783 and 1787. Back then, Mahim was probably still surrounded by swamps and all seven islands of Bombay weren’t united yet.
In Mahim, he learnt the art of making mithai. His penchant for experimenting led to many delicious inventions and one of them was the famous, translucent sheet of halwa, which is made from wheat extract, ghee and sugar, dusted with icing sugar and sprinkled generously with dry fruit slivers. It came to be known as Ice Halwa due to its colour. It must rest for about four hours before being served.
Mavji, along with his son Inder, used to roam around the streets of Mahim selling these wonderful sheets of halwa. Before they knew it, the confection became famous, was in demand and came to be known after the city. Along with this, he also came up with the Golden Halwa.
Very similar in texture to the Ice one, this is leaf-thin and sunny in colour due to the use of saffron in preparation. It’s dusted with cardamom powder. Fans began calling it ‘Mahim Halwa’, after the place where Mavji stayed.
Mavji became something of a favourite and his customers began calling him ‘Boodha Kaka’ (old uncle). I’m picturing him with a thick loft of hair and beard as ivory coloured as that much-loved Ice Halwa of his. Before long, he opened up shop in Mahim and now his seventh generation descendant, Ramesh Joshi, sells these delicacies there. Do pay a visit to the aptly named Joshi Budhakaka Mahim Halvawala shop, this Diwali, and gift your dear ones these exquisite sheets to sweeten their festivities. The shop is over 200 years old and the Halwa tastes as rich as ever.
How to Get There:
Joshi Budhakaka Mahim Halwawala
Where: 6 West, Kapad Bazar Road, Mahim Koliwada, Mahim West, Mumbai – 400016
Contact: 022 2444 9457