Long before Keventers, Cadby or McDonald's, there was a dessert offering from Sadashiv Peth in Pune that was not only delectable and devastatingly delicious but also completely desi in body and spirit. To call it a thick milkshake is to miss the point – which quite simply is this: the dessert is an ode to Pune's never-ending fascination with the fabled 16th-century beauty – Mastani – the woman who had captured the heart of mighty warrior Bajirao Peshwa.
If Mastani's magic had several facets to it, so does the drink named after the princess. Sweet, tangy, colourful and utterly mesmerising. To someone who was introduced to the drink only in the final days of college life, the experience was nothing short of overwhelming. I became even more curious when my friend insisted that I would not be the same person after having it and I believed her.
As far as new experiences go, I am a great one for starting with the classics so it was the Mango Mastani for me. Think thick scoops of vanilla and mango ice cream floating in a tall glass of freshly prepared Hapus mango milkshake (Please note, we are in Maharashtra and we take our ingredients seriously). If that were not enough, all of it is garnished with chopped dry fruits, glazed cherries and fresh seasonal fruits – all of them jostling for space amidst the sea of milk and melted ice-cream.
Needless to say, I was satisfied by the time I reached the bottom of the glass but couldn't move for an hour after that. All this decadent immobility at a fraction of what a pre-mixed angrezi milkshake would cost. While Sujata Mastani – the pioneering brand will cost anywhere between Rs 70 to Rs 115 depending on the size of the serving and dry fruits involved, other brands are similarly priced or less.
Plus it's healthier. Err, it definitely is so despite the overload of sugar, cream and fat. I mean what's all that fresh fruit and milk for if not our collective health in the summer months? Besides, the good denizens of Sadashiv Peth – whose fertile brains and discerning appetites are known to demand value for money – will accept nothing less than brilliance in colour, taste and texture. If Sadashiv Peth is the heart of the city, the very seat of Pune's original attitude and lifestyle, Mastani is the quintessential Puneri elixir.
Also available in a myriad of flavours like sitaphal, khus, pineapple, vanilla and rose – what sets Mastani apart is the option to customise the experience according to one's taste.
Artist Rohini Apte says that for several city kids, the shake was an indispensable part of their childhoods. "It could be a standalone feast or part of a family outing – after we had licked clean our plates of pani puri or misal or discussing a play we had all just watched (another Puneri treat)," recalled Apte who grew up in Pune.
Arti Singh, a North Indian who in her own words is more of a Puneite than anything else points out, "Mastani is an important part of Pune's street food culture. My kids adore it and frankly, I would rather give them a glass of Mastani than a shake that comes out of a packet. What's more, the Mastani is made on demand and consumed immediately after it is prepared. So, no preservatives and no fuss. Isn't that nice?"
But, the kids aren't too worried about these details. Mastani is a way of life and ways of life are well, lived.
Image Conceptualised by Sohail Joshi
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