Sweet magic.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Spun out of sugar, ‘Budiya ke baal’ — the old hag’s hair — is also known as cotton candy and candyfloss.

The Delhi Walla met vendor Rajpal Singh near Green Park. All day long the elderly Mr Singh cycles around the area with his cotton candy machine that he purchased in his hometown Aligrah for 4,000 rupees.

Wrapped in a red cloth to grab the attention of passers-by, Mr Singh’s precious possession consists of a blackened aluminum tray at the center of which is fitted a small metal bowl with very minute pores built into its sidewalls. There is a burner underneath; the whole contraption is attached to a chakri (wheel).

A large cloud of cotton can be made in five minutes. First, Mr Singh fills up the bowl with granulated sugar and food coloring dust. He then turns the burner to a low flame. A few moments later, he starts to rotate the chakri, and the tray begins to spin. Within seconds, the tray is cobwebbed with a thin film of barely perceptible threads – the melted sugar has cooled down and solidified into this cotton-seeming substance.

Finally, Mr Singh pulls out a wooden stick and twirls it into the cotton; the sugar strands immediately gather around the twig.

The candy feels hairy and sticky in the mouth and melts instantly. Mr Singh charges 20 rupees for his magic show.

The sugar’s second life

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