I’m on a mission. My assignment is to discover two boxes of a German cocoa powder, brand name unknown. I’m looking for a shop that sells spices – not any shop, mind you. This store is the stuff of legend. One of the elderly parishioners at church speaks of its aromas with enthusiasm and (could it be?) reverence. “You can’t miss it,” he told me, “just on the other side of the station.” In the three years since, I’ve discovered that I’m rather good at missing things – spice-laden stores included. Today, thanks to my Colombian friend, I have a name – Kakulas Brothers.
My destination is Northbridge’s Williams Street, between the station and the intersection with James Street. I’ve never been here by day before, and I make another discovery – the State Theatre. Could this be the beginning of nights at the opera? Afternoons of drama? But we’re looking for spices today, as all good Indians should – no, I forget, German cocoa powder!
My first glimpse of Kakulas’ treasures is through an open window, which serves as a coffee counter. Inside, Saturday shoppers are filling baskets to the brim. There’s coffee from Colombia, basmati rice, lentils, beans, all kinds of olives, dried fruits, nuts in shells, nuts out of their shells, and sacks and sacks of spices. Scrolls of cinnamon bark, the bright yellow of turmeric, rounds of jaggery (gur or cane sugar) – they have it all. They also have the unnamed German drinking chocolate.
Hugging my precious find, I do the rounds of the wooden boxes with dried fruit dipped in chocolate. There’s raspberry in white chocolate. Blueberry infused cranberries – or is the other way round? Dates in chocolates. But I’m drawn to the chocolate ginger. It’s expensive, so I take the smallest scoop possible. Seven round balls. My lucky number – perfect!
I emerge from the shop clutching my purchases, my heading reeling slightly with Dutch brand names – or perhaps I’m a bit intoxicated with all the wonderful sights and smells. The shop, I realize, is nothing much to look at. It’s a typical shop around a corner – there are many like it on Mumbai’s Colaba Causeway. But if heaven is a place that smells like spices, that combines the shabbiness of Mumbai’s Sahakari Bhandar with the aroma of my mother’s kitchen, then this is heaven. I pop a chocolate-ginger ball into my mouth. What bliss. I know I’m going to go to hell for this. I reach into my bag for another chocolate.