It was a brave decision, getting ready to buy a few of my college books from Nai Sadak Market in old Delhi. In the sweltering heat – I left home and boarded the Metro to Chawri Bazaar metro station with a friend.
Once out, the rickshaw ride that awaited was nothing as to what we had imagined. Standing in the middle of an intersection seeing a number of roads branching into various specialized bazaars, complemented by the waiting rickshaws and over-loaded handcarts pulled by men of all ages was a sight to me. As it would have been to any of the youth today – having never gone beyond the local market vendors and off late, supermarkets.
The Islamic architecture converted into shops and other encroachments provided an aura of serious business on a road barely wide enough for a car to pass freely. Not to mention the usual sight of the police moving around in their jeeps in an area prohibited for vehicles. This was Nai Sadak Market.
Once done with our shopping we decided to check out the other treats of the original Delhi (read food). A walk down the road led us to the bustling market of Chandni Chowk, again an area of specialized bazaars famous for ethnic womenswear. The market was divided into sub-markets thanks to the by-lanes, giving just enough room for pedestrians. Since my friend was a vegetarian and the weather was not on our side, we decided against the hot and spicy Karims and made our way to the famous Paranthewali Gali which has a line of restaurants serving paranthas of infinite types. We made our way to the oldest one that had been functioning since 1875 and was currently being run by the 5th generation of the family.
Within 5 minutes into the paranthas and the sweet lassi, it was obvious as to what brings people in large numbers to this place throughout the year. The food was a treat for the taste buds. The paranthas were crisp and loaded with fillings. The lassi had us feeling full in an instant. Looking around the shop one can see photographs of eminent personalities ranging from Indira Gandhi and family to the recent ones of Sheila Dixit helping themselves to a sumptuous serving of their specialities. This restaurant regarded its USP as the masala, which is not used by any other in the lane and their 25kg pan that is the reason their breads are crisper than the others, which they proudly showed to us explaining the intricate details. This was the main course, dessert on its way. We made our way to Ghantewala, the famous sohan halwa maker of the area. In business since forever, the name has a history behind it. Shah Azam, the emperor of Delhi in the late 19th century had an elephant that had a bell around his neck and was crazy about the halwa served here. Whenever in the mood for it, he stood in front of the shop shaking his head to sound the bell as a command for halwa to be served. The name has stood since. Again a business run by generations, it has gained popularity over the years with a number of who’s who visiting for dessert. Halwa is made in pure desi ghee and still served in traditional style on newspaper plates. On a bloating stomach, we made our way back to the metro station. The loud burps were symbolic of the great food we had had over the past hour. Not even the heat could take that away from us.