Friday, January 20, 2012

The Pani Puri wallah

The ritual at the Pani-puri wallah always started on a silent note. You just stepped in to be a part of an existing circle around him or to form a new one. As you stood there, your eyes moved from watching the crisp puris moving into the pot of pani to watching his hands as they swiftly stuffed one puri after another. You waited as he completed this cycle of doling out delight in small, sometimes easy-to-eat portions and sometimes not.

Some more silence as he started preparations for you and the new circle. Fresh leaf bowls were handed out and the hands moved again in a rhythmic order. You swallowed the delight that came your way, one in every ten seconds or more depending on how large the circle around him was. The last of the puris and then a generous round of “just the pani”.

These are memories of the days when simple joys of life were meted out for one rupee each! Here was a man in the Bazaar who could do so much for you and what did he ask for in return? A few square feet for his puris and his pani and a space for you and me to stand around him. That isn’t much to ask. Did he have a place that he preferred over others? A street corner is what he always liked. You knew you could look for him and you would find him, he had his place in the bazaar. Today, you still can find him, though the backdrop may have changed - where there earlier was a Baskar Provision stores, today there is a Foodworld; where earlier there was an India Coffee house, today there is the Cafe Pascucci or where earlier there was a Brijwasi Sweets, today there is The French Loaf. The Pani puri wallah is still there...

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5 comments:

radha said...

Nice. Our chaat guys multi-task so efficiently. How they keep track of the puris and then handle the accounts too is amazing.

Divenita said...

:) Lovely post! Btw, there's chaat in other countries too.
Check yday's Young World, The Hindu

Indian Bazaars said...

Radha: So true.

Divenita: Thanks. I was just thinking it would be so good to have a book on street food and just found out that there is one already! It's called 'Street food of India' by Sephi Bergerson.

Anjali said...

Kiran your writting is now becoming emotive, love this style. Will speak to you on the weekend. Hope all well at your end.

Uma Bharath (nee Jagannath) said...

Loved this post. Come to think of it, wouldn't these count as markers of a community or neighbourhood, in some sense and with low carbon footprints to boot?