MANGALURU: It’s that time of the year when the aroma of kalkals, rose cookies, kidio and other goodies wafts from a few houses in the coastal region. With Christmas just five days away, families are busy making Kuswar – a traditional platter of goodies.
Kuswar-making is no longer a family tradition among the Christians in the region. However, though many families have stopped for various reasons, there are a few who are trying to keep the tradition alive. Christmas is incomplete without homemade Kuswar or a set of special delicacies apart from crib making, the tree and the stars. ‘Kidio’(sweet dough curls), ‘cookisa’(rose cookies), ‘guliyo’(rice marbles), ‘nevriyo’(sweet puffs), ‘chakkuli’, rice laddus, rice plum cake are some of the delicacies prepared during Christmas by the Catholic community in the coast.
The preparations begin about a week before the festival. Though making these goodies is time-consuming, families treat the treat-preparations as an act of joy.
All the members of the families in a celebratory mood, sit down to make these sweets and distribute among friends, relatives and neighbours sharing the excitement of Christmas which is all about love, peace and sharing.
Sunitha Pinto and her mother-in-law Pauline from the city have been making Kuswar for the last seven years. Pauline was a cook for 30 years at Fr Muller’s Hospital. After her retirement, instead of sitting idle at home, she would make Kuswar every year, encouraged by Sunitha.
“The demand for nevriyo and cookisa is high. Among all the items, nevriyo takes more time. We are not making the goodies for any profit but do it to keep the tradition alive,” Sunitha says. Her husband Arun Pinto also helps in making these treats.
Apart from Mangaluru, Sunitha has customers from Japan, London, Dubai too who have given good feedback and have been placing orders for the last couple of years. The homemade Kuswar is much cheaper too when compared to that available in bakeries. While 10 pieces of nevriyo cost Rs 130 in shops, the homemade ones are available only at Rs 95.
Sophia Ivon Sequeira, a resident of Nanthoor, also has been trying to maintain the age-old tradition of making Kuswar at home with the help of her friends and children. Since there is no job amid Covid-19 crisis, Sophia and her friends have taken this sweet route to earn some money. Franky Sequeira from Derebail who has been making Kuswar for the last 25 years says that earlier it was made at home as there were joint families. “Most of them have settled abroad. Lack of time is also one of the reasons and it is also labour-intensive,” he says.
He has customers from Chikkamagaluru, Mumbai and Goa. “One good thing that has come out of this health crisis is that families have re-discovered the joy of making Kuswar at home than buying them from bakeries,” he adds. Shreya Juvita Lobo, is a young baker from Valencia in the city, who makes delicious plum cakes for Christmas. Her aunts Regina Lewis from Kukkaje and Maria Pinto, along with their children, have been continuing the tradition of making Kuswar.
Shreya started making plum cakes this year. She has got over 40 customers already who are mostly her relatives and friends. “As a young baker, I would say that we need to discover our talents and do our best. As for our traditions, it’s not that there is no time, we have to make time for it. Traditions are learnt from our elders and they tend to die if not practised. So sitting with family to prepare the goodies helps us learn, keep up the tradition and pass it on while it brings us closer,” she says. A few organisations and churches are also organising Kuswar-preparing programmes in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi to make the younger generation aware of the tradition of making these delicacies.