It was pretty early in the morning when I started my journey. This was into the heart of Delhi – the actual Delhi as many a Purani Dilli-ite will insist. I think at this point, I will introduce to you my co passenger.
Besides me and my non stop inner dialogue/commentary, I also travel with a feisty 5 year old whose other pass time includes wearing a combat uniform and proclaiming that she will be the first girl to join her father’s battalion when she’s tall enough. She also admits she is my daughter when she is in a good mood.
And so we were off. The sun was showing signs of being its flaming hot self as we made a pit stop at India Gate. After asking for strength and praying for patience for what would be a long day, we carried on. Red Fort soon loomed ahead of us, but not before I found myself marveling at the silence that enveloped the otherwise maddening streets of Darya Ganj. Screaming traffic and abusing rickshaw pullers had been replaced by a guy sleeping on his cart full of ware, swatting away a fly once in a while. Shutters were down but the vibe was still up and about. I was in the real Dilli.
We came to a stop in Chandini Chowk. As I stepped out, I asked someone walking by if he knew where Paranthe Wali Gully was. There, he vaguely pointed and walked away before I could badger him further. We continued and found the said Gully before we could finish saying Parantha.
Now, a gully – any Gully – in Chandini Chowk is a revelation. Every single time. So I walked into this one, not knowing what to expect and only hoping to make it out alive. The tunnel like opening led me in, almost serenading me with its outward calmness. But the real madness began all too soon. Suddenly, I was led into the very bowels of this gully thanks to the whiff of fresh paranthas and pickle.
And then it appeared. The first stall, and then the rest of them all. Paranthas were being shallow fried in dubious looking oil, while containers with squared off compartments held grated vegetables which were to serve as filling of choice.
“28 types of paranthas!” One guy told me, with his chest widening just a bit as he told me how many kinds he makes. The board in his make shift restaurant told me it had been around since 1800. Wow, I thought. “So that makes you a third or fourth generation owner here?”
“Seventh, Madam.” High octane madness was happening behind him in what he insisted was an everyday thing as they catered to the overflowing orders. Obviously, by now it must be clear to him and all of you that math is not my special love.
I moved on. This time into a second gully that led me away from the highly appetizing paranthas. Here sat a few vegetable vendors, waiting to pounce on harried parantha makers, no doubt, who would come scampering to them in case they ran out of filling for paranthas. A quick buck would be made, but not without a high pitched argument first. Well, argument is putting it mildly – but you obviously know what I mean.
So did I find tea here? Stay tuned to find out!