The Mixed Namkeen….the mixed lovely neighbourhood of Simla of the Sixties
Sometimes, Amma would send me to get Daal-seviyaan from a shop between lower bazaar tunnel and the stairs to Nai Factory. It would be, invariably, when some guests would come and Amma wanted to serve chatpati Daal seviyaan in the small white china clay plate. We always called it Daal seviyaan and never Daal bhujia!!
I would be so happy. How excitedly I would reach the shop, in a jiffy, with a few coins in my hand, perhaps four chawannis or two athaanis or a two-rupee note!!
This shop, with big thaals placed in an ascending order so that one could watch all the different types of fried channa daal, seviyaan, fried moongfali daana, fried moong, was a universe of its own kind. It had everything! The pride of place would be ” kooje wali mishri” perched atop all the displayed varieties of mixed Namkeen. There were different varieties of Gachhaks as well…. So many….of them!
That shopkeeper would sit on a small space surrounded with all these items kept in front and to his left. The one big thaal would have all these items in different peace meal segments….elongated and triangular in shape ….converging at the top. And when I would give him the money….the magic would start. He would scoop a little of channa daal, a little of seviyaan, very little of fried moongfali daana and some other tit-bits. How would I pray and wish, in my small little heart, fir him to be liberal whole scooping moongfali daana!! He had a very small taraaju with him and the weights, too, were very delicate….. Perhaps in the denomination 50 gms. or 100 gms. and if I remember correctly he had few stone to be used as weights as well for 25 gms. …. He would weigh the mixture on that small tarajoo and very deftly would transfer the mixture to a paper cone. Now making of this paper cone was such a tricky thing but he mad it do deftly…. He would make a cone out of a paper taken fron an old copy, role it with putting one hand inside it, and folding the tiny point neatly. Putti g all the mixture in that cone….he would add all those spices, one by one, just a small pinch of each. These spices would be which would occupy the wonderful place of pride in his shop… neatly displayed near his seating space. The last touch of the magical mixture would be squeezing a few drops of lemon juice from a half cut lemon waiting to be squeezed!!
He would very lovingly fold the protruded corners of the cone, securing it tightly and hand it over in my small hand. … I would run back with that precious bundle of magic in my hands.
And before I forget let me share how greedily but patiently we would wait….eying, from behind the curtain, the white plate with colorful spread of those beauties….and watching with horror the guests picking up the best of the pieces. We would be wishing for them to leave and would pounce upon the plate even when the visitors had put only one foot out of the door! We were really bhukkhad but what a joy it was. I pity my grandkids for missing this joy when each one of them would have their own Haldiram’s Bhujia packet in the hands. How would they learn all those beautiful lessons of life that we learnt in the alleys of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!!! I wish I could let them experience the joy of watching the magic of real Daal seviyaans in that little shop.
I would admire each and everything in his shop… I couldn’t understand how did he prepare all those things all by himself …how could he manage to display all those items in such beautiful manner where each item, even when being part of the whole, would maintain it’s individual identity… And how did he know that the real taste of Daal seviyaan would be when each of the ingredient would be mixed properly!
That was just like our Simla of the yore …Simla of the Sixties where all people lived together but at the same time maintained their individual identity….so many alleys, so many neighbourhoods but for the real savouring of the soul of Simla we amalgamated like the mixed namkeen to relish magic of real Simla…in the narrow lanes of Lower Bazaar of Simla of the Sixties!!