As the Festival of Lights draws near, revellers have begun to throng popular sweet shops in the city only to find that their favourite items have become dearer. But rising prices have failed to dampen their enthusiasm.
Most sweet shops have increased the price of their products — kaju barfi, boondi ke laddoo, besan ke gheewaale laddoo, moong dal ki barfi, kaju dilbahar and sonpapdi — by 10 to 15 per cent from last year to meet the rising manufacturing costs and expensive raw materials. They are, however, confident that sales will not take a hit.
“It is a tradition to buy sweets on Diwali. I don’t think anyone will abstain from buying sweets just because these have become expensive,” said Devendra Gandhi, the owner of Palsons on Exhibition Road.
He added: “On Diwali, devotees offer sweets to gods and goddesses during the puja and also to guests. So, they need to buy a large quantity of sweets. I believe that they will buy as much this Diwali as they did the previous years.”
Gandhi’s confidence was corroborated by some customers, who were out buying sweets on Thursday.
One of his customers, Namrata, 42, said: “I don’t mind if I have to shell out a little more to buy sweets for Diwali. It is a custom and we have to carry on with it.”
Those willing to loosen their purse strings are, however, choosy.
“The only sweets I shall buy are the ones that don’t have any khoya,” she added. Khoya, a milk product used in Indian cuisine, is similar to ricotta cheese but is made from whole milk instead of whey.
Shopkeepers, too, are advising people to keep off khoya sweets this Diwali. “It is inadvisable to buy khoya sweets during the festive season,” said Gandhi. “Instead, I advise my customers to buy sweets that contain dry fruits, like kaju barfi, moong dal ka halwa and sonpapdi.”
Business acumen is another reason why he has not stocked up on khoya sweets this year. “Last year, I had a lot of khoya sweets. But there is a common perception that such sweets are adulterated. So I had to incur a huge loss,” said Gandhi.
His sharp business instinct also tells him that the most important transactions would not be with individuals or households but with corporate houses that often gift sweets to their clients, associates and employees.
“Many corporate customers place bulk orders during Diwali,” Gandhi said. “In metropolitan cities, big corporate houses gift sweets to their associates. This culture is catching up in Patna as well. I get bulk orders during Diwali.”
He added: “So, even if individuals don’t buy large quantities of sweets, the corporate houses will. I hope to make a handsome profit this Diwali.”
Once again, the sweet seller has hit the bullseye. Pallav Banerjee, the regional head of a private company who was also buying sweets on Thursday, said: “I buy a lot of sweets for my business contacts and employees. This year shall be no different despite the high prices.”
He, too, is a connoisseur of quality. “I shall buy only sweets with dry fruits as these are usually fresh,” said Banerjee.
Sweet lovers would have no lack of options, though. Cozy Sweets in the Exhibition Road area is preparing its exclusive pista pudding and aawla mithai.
But prices of both have increased this year. Cozy Sweets owner Krishna Chandra Das said: “Sab cheezein kitni mehengi ho gaye hain; daam na badhaye toh kya kare? (All things have become very expensive; what can we do but raise prices?)”
He added: “But Diwali comes once a year, so I am sure people will not deprive their sweet tooth.”