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Roadside winter pitha sales boom in Sylhet

34With the advent of winter, sales of traditional pithas made of bran have boomed as roadside shops in the Sylhet have dressed the part to cater to the crowds at twilight the local delicacies in both taste and texture.
As the making of winter pithas at home is declining in the Sylhet city life, footpath shops have become the first choice for many for easy availability of the items.
Shuvro, who usually sells fruits in other seasons of year, now runs a makeshift shop in Kudrotullha area. An assistant helps him make and sell pithas in winter.
The vendor said, “I sell a cake at Tk 5 to Tk 15 as per their sizes and qualities.”
Like Shuvro, thousand others have turned to seasonal yummy pitha sellers this winter. They usually sell two most popular items—‘bhapa’ and ‘chitoi’.
Bhapa is a steamed flour sweetened with jaggery and desiccated coconut while chitoi a runny mixture made with flour and salt and then cooked on iron cooking pots to be eaten with mustard paste or chilli chutney.
Chitoi pithas are a winter staple for most people, including students, jobholders, rickshaw-pullers and the like.
Nurul, a customer, said, “I become nostalgic whenever I try pitha on footpaths. It takes me a flight back to my childhood when my grandma used to make pithas at dusk. We used to gather round the fire and chatted for hours.”
Pitha business brings smile on the face of sellers as they set up makeshift shops to earn extras at this time of year.
Wayside pitha shops are a common scene in the city’s Kazibazar, Taltola, Infront of Ali Amjod Gorigor, bondorbazar, Mirabazar, Dorgagate, Amborkhna areas.
Households in both rural and urban areas prepare various kinds of pithas like vapa pitha, puli, chitoi, dudh chitoi, jhal bou, calcutta puli, kheer puli, narkel puli, chandra puli, jamai pitha, jhal jamai pitha, kola bora, patishapta, malpoa, bhapa pitha, bhapa puli, shahi puli, phool pakon, nokshi pitha, surjomukhi, chicken pitha, jhal chingri pitha and such.
Each cake varies in taste and quality. In every house, people, especially children, eagerly wait to savour the taste of cakes on winter mornings.
In urban areas, commercially made pithas are gradually replacing home-made ones. Footpath is the first stop for many as pitha is headily available there.
Only a few items like vapa or chitoi are available at makeshift shops. For more varieties, a trip to specialised restaurants and fast food shops is a must.
Pithas are sold at some restaurants at prices as low as Tk 5 per piece and up to Tk 200-300 per kg as per their size and quality.
Vendor Mizan plies his trade in Bondor area. He said profits from pitha sales are poor now compared with previous years because of rising prices of essentials including crushed rice, flour, molasses, sugar, coconut, ghee or oil.
However, some vendors alleged that they have to pay Tk 200 to Tk 250 per day as toll to a local influential gang.
The share of the “extorted money” goes to the local police also, they said.