Childhood fantasies were made of this stuff. The magical aroma of Aloo tikki wafting through the lane, the sound of hit Bollywood numbers blaring from the speakers as if expecting the whole world to sit up and take note of their existence, the cacophony of numerous people chatting, shouting, ordering and giving instructions all at the same time; and the incredulous way in which the gifted man handles them all, while serving you the fastest, and most amazingly made Bhel puri ever.
Do you remember the last time you had chaat? Where was it? Most of us would say, in a restaurant. Sitting in a large air conditioned room, with family and friends for company, amongst people of the same ‘Standard’ as us, no other distractions to your conversation except soothing instrumental music, and an eager waiter to serve you Pani Puri (which you have to make yourself).
In this age, where extravagance has the upper hand, the humble chaatwala has been pushed to the corner; of the streets, and our minds. While some may argue that such stalls are breeding grounds for deadly germs which cause diseases, truth is that there exist a large number of stall-owners, who are legally licensed and maintain sufficient standards of hygiene. However, it’s still not a cool thing to upload a picture or put up a status which says, ‘Having Dahi puri at Divya Chaat Bhandar’.
Another thing that we seem to enjoy is standardization. After all, we can’t go into a restaurant and say, “Bhaiyya mere wale me pyaaz zyada daalna!” Such personalization makes sense only when somebody makes the dish you ordered right in front of you, which is not possible in hotels. And they say the world is moving towards customization.
I’m not taking sides here; neither am I trying to change perceptions. I’m just lamenting the loss of a world, where going out was a spontaneous decision; one that did not require looking through our diary to fix a time for the family, considerably burdening us with the hope of making this ‘once-in-a-blue-moon-family-trip’ a memorable one. Something that mere stalls might not be able to do.
Why should going out be such a job? After all, it’s meant for relaxation! Changing priorities have left us with less time for the family, leading to marketers coming up with ways of ‘Enhancing’ our time with the family; all of which continue making it an even more complicated, and thought- provoking cumbersome process.
While we have that to dwell upon, I still think Pani Puri tastes the best when I can relish it without having to make it, and say, “Bhaiyya teekha kam banana!”
How do you like your chaat? Comment below!