[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The pungent-smelling mutton curry is simmering in the blackened pot. One morning The Delhi Walla stumbles into Salman Khan’s kitchen. Actually, the lungi-clad rickshaw puller has set up a makeshift wood-fired stove just next to Turkman Gate, one of the five surviving Mughal-era gateways to the Walled City.
“My friend, who, like me, pulls a rickshaw, received the goat pieces in the Amrood Walli Masjid,” he says, referring to a mosque. “The meat seemed a little stale so we decided to cook it quickly.”
Mr Khan lives with a few other rickshaw pullers on a footpath near Rajghat, the memorial to Mohandas K Gandhi. He says he sleeps on the passenger seat of his rickshaw and that he dines daily on roadside food stalls. But there are exceptions, of course, like this morning.
Mr Khan, whose family lives in his native village in the eastern province of Bihar, says that nobody taught him to cook. “I learned it on my own,” he says in a flat tone as if this is no big deal. “I keep the mutton curry very spicy.”
Mr Khan covers the pot with a lid and stares vacantly at the fire. The passers-by walk past him without noticing his cooking pot. A stray dog is asleep nearby. A few minutes later, Mr Khan lifts up the lid. “It’s almost done”, he says, without showing much enthusiasm.
Morning’s Mutton Curry