The Mughal Prince Salim was so besotted by the beautiful courtesan Anarkali, that to teach him a lesson the Mughal Emperor Akbar had her interred alive behind a brick wall. So the legend goes. There is no historical evidence of the existence of Anarkali, but still there is a tomb in Lahore, known as the Tomb of Anarkali. The word Anarkali means pomegranate blossom, quite befitting the beautiful tale that ensued between her and the prince who loved her so.
A kilometre and half away is the famous Anarkali Bazaar. Also named after our heroine. One of the oldest markets in South Asia, it dates back a good two centuries. It is a maze of winding narrow streets and there is nothing you cannot get. Handicrafts, shoes, clothes, kitchen utensils, bangles, jewellery, exquisite made to order bridal troussea , and of course FOOD!!
In all this Mad Hatter’s tea party are also places, if you need your brows done with a quick threading. I can’t imagine in the middle of shopping and suddenly deciding, I’m just going to pop in here for 5 minutes and get my brows on fleek.
Bano Bazaar is located in Anarkali Bazaar which is devoted exclusively to things for women and then there is “Paan Gali”, which has mostly stuff from India. You can also buy endless stuff for paan in Paan Gali.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a Rowling novel, and I’m in that maze. I swear there are times when I land up in a totally new place, in the Bazaar but its always magical for me. The lights are naked bulbs suspended over their wares by a long wire. It is always full of women and each one is telling the shopkeeper off for charging too much, or she has been his very old customer, further down another shop has it cheaper, and so it goes on. Playful banter until they reach an agreed upon price, and her parting shot is always that she has overpaid him. His reply will be that he has incurred a loss. There are no hard feelings and the shopkeepers are well versed with the nature of customers. In fact, one’s shopping experience would be incomplete without the whole dance.
Further down another shopkeeper is unfurling bolts of fabric, wrapping himself in them, and the bazaar feels like fireworks exploding in endless colours. Like a kaleidoscope with all these unconnected parts of people, and still part of a design. In between young lads are running around with chilled bottles of drinks, or balancing cups of tea and little metal teapots. The owner of the shop can within split seconds gauge, upon seeing a customer, how long she will sit or what she might buy. The solicitous greetings over, he will ask “baji”, or “Aunty”, “Bottal ya chai”.
You know, malls are consuming these places and you can spend more in a mall in one day without bargaining, than you might spend in Anarkali on a given day. But no one asks if you want a bottal or chai, in the mall.
The Bazaar is named after the beautiful courtesan, who with a glance stole the heart of a Prince.
And like all legends go, so too does the legend of the best Gol guppay in Lahore. Available at a particular intersection in Anarkali Bazaar, this man, he doesn’t have a shop. Just his cart. He just appears like a Gol Guppay Genie.
You don’t go to these places to be a snowflake and make faces, roll eyes or pop out the hand sanitizer.
It is not for the faint hearted. You have been forewarned!
This guy with his cart, his huge earthenware vat of the secret magical juice, that he will pour for you, into a bowl and ask you if you want it spicy or sweet is just the right kind of icing you need on your Anarkali Bazaar shopping expedition. He will hand you this plate. Your heart is pounding and your mouth is already preparing for the explosions of flavour as you eat a plate or two of these airy little puffs, filled with chickpeas.
Your eyes glaze over, this is food nirvana and you have found bliss. Here’s a quick recipe from my kitchen to yours, from Anarkali and Salim on a date night!
Gol Guppay ka khatta paani (secret magical juice)
For the golguppay paani
50 grams tamarind
Soak in hot water
Remove seeds and strands, if any, by passing through a sieve.
1 tblspn coriander seeds
3/4 dry red whole chillis
2 tspn cumin
Cool and grind
Add to tamarind paste
1.5 tspn tartaric acid
1.5 tspn chaat masala
Salt to taste.
Give it a good shake
Can be store in fridge for 4 weeks. Dilute and use as needed.