By Ila Garg and Arnab Mitra
An inescapable fragrance of sweets imbues the streets of Pahala, a place between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. Innumerable sweet shops, on either side of the road, are definitely an amazing sight to savour on.
Kelu Charan Mohanty, the man behind the fame of Pahala told NewsGram, “It was way back in 1965 when I came here and opened my first sweet shop. Initially, we sold sweets at a price of Re 1 per piece.”
When asked from where had he learnt the art of making Rasgulla, he said, “I joined the famous KC Das sweet shop in the year 1945, and worked there for 20 years. But soon the monotonous routine started to bore me; it was then that I decided to make Rasgullas on my own at my native place.”
In 60’s Pahala had no facilities, nothing at all. Illiteracy and malnutrition were widespread. The lack of electricity added to the plight. The only source of income for the people was mushroom farming.
Mohanty’s initiative inspired the natives and from the initial one shop, Pahala gradually made way for almost hundred and fifty shops. Once a village stricken in poverty, Pahala is now filled with well to do families. The natives now own good homes and their children are well educated too. But the most interesting fact is that the family members are still devoted to the Rasgulla business and even the raw materials that they use are all home-made.
About a hundred and fifty shops are spread in a stretch of 2 kms on the national highway, where the artisans work hard every day to make delicious Rasgullas. The Rasgullas are priced at a very reasonable rate that ranges between Rs. 3 to Rs. 6 per piece.
The economy of Pahala villages is thus, based on the Rasgulla business, and according to Harihar Behra, “The profit per day varies between Rs. 1000 to Rs. 2000, and during the festive seasons it reaches to Rs. 3000.” Regardless of all the expense made on the shop maintenance and other amenities, the owner is able to save around Rs. 1000 per day easily.
The sweets are made using some extraordinary techniques. At first, cheena is processed for around five hours in a wooden stove to make it thin. Then tiny cheena balls are made, which are then processed for two hours in slightly saccharine water. They ensure that the end product is ready by 4 PM to be sold in the shops. The shops remain open till 9 PM. Besides Rasgulla, they also make different kinds of sweets like cheena bada, ledikeni, swarvaja and other delicious sweets.
They also supply Rasgullas to the other shops of Orissa. In addition, they get orders for different occasions, like marriage ceremony and birthday party. The quality and taste of their Rasgullas get appreciated across the nation. They are now trying to conquer the markets of Kolkata too. Their sweets are also sent to Sussex, England and other parts of the world.
Pahala narrates the story of about hundred and fifty odd artists who work hard every day and yet these people are neglected by the government. Even the condition of roads is pathetic here and it often hampers their daily business. But, the artists never compromise with their creation. It can be seen as the infamous village came to limelight due to the struggle and dedication of the people of Pahala.