R's childhood friend has come to visit from Calcutta, bringing a carton of langda mangoes and a box of sandesh, one of R's favourite Bengali sweets. I believe that 'sandesh' means 'message.'

Sandesh is made from paneer. I have seen my sister-in law make it in Chicago, mixing paneer and sugar in a food processor, then stirring it in a wok over a low flame until it became a little less moist, then rolling it into lozenge shapes and decorating it with mandarin orange slices.

The modern version has many added flavourings. Here's a tour of the plate above: the yellowish squares are, according to R and his friend, the classic form of sandesh, with saffron and pistachios, and decorated with silver foil. "We never knew that sandesh could be white (the most common colour now - unless it's sweetened with jaggery, which colours it pale tan). Only in the villages would you find white milk sweets."

Next are slices of plain sandesh surrounded by sandesh flavoured with rose water and dyed pink. Decorated with chopped pistachio and saffron threads.

In the center are two large pieces, strongly rose-flavoured, decorated with fresh rose petals, resting in individual trays made of folded and stapled pieces of banana leaf.

Then, two balls of plain sandesh enclosing chocolate and rose petals and decorated with silver foil.

The cool soft graininess of sandesh, the freshness of rose petals (small and dark blood red, roses from before the essence was bred out of them): what a delicate message they convey.

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