City Food – Piyush’s Chhole Kulche, Ghaziabad
The taste of the new world.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A full modular kitchen. Designer bathroom. Unique private theatre. Steam and sauna. Bowling alley. A luxurious lifestyle.
These words, accompanied with supporting photos, make up a large banner that stands by a dusty roadside, here in Ghaziabad. A multi-floor apartment complex is coming up on the site. The construction firm’s makeshift site-office is operational for interested buyers to make bookings for the “3/4 BHK luxury apartments.” Home loan facility is provided in partnership with a private bank.
Further along the roadside, just next to the banner, stands a dead tree; its bare branches are raised into the air like arms stilled in a posture of mourning. Behind the tree, separated by a blue tin wall, is the aforementioned building-in-progress, a crane is perched on the top. While up in the sky, the sun is glowing apologetically in the post-Diwali haze like a pale gold teeka.
This entire setting is the backdrop of Piyush Chhole kulche cart.
Eating out is never only about eating. It entails a fleeting rendezvous with disparate worlds—of the persons who cook, and the persons who serve. This is inexorably combined with the spirit of the place in which the eatery is located. In that sense, this extremely modest culinary destination offers a peculiar fast food experience unique to any upcoming part of the National Capital Region, which is still bricks and cement. The primary clientele comprises of labourers, the suburb’s first residents who are building the very suburb. To be sure, this region in Vasundhara is already well settled with apartments, malls and schools. Even so, the area is rich with vast open spaces. Now, these vacant patches too are being claimed. You see that in the high-rises being constructed, and in the accompanying shanties that spring up briefly to house the labourers and their families.
“Most of my customers are mazdoor log,” says cart owner Piyush who started his snack business a year ago. Indeed, labourers Vikas and Mantu are standing on either side of the cart, silently eating their chhole kulche. Once the building behind the blue boundary becomes yet another gated “society,” Piyush will shift to some other construction site dense with labourers. He says it matter-of-factly, adding in the same breath that he makes parathas on request, because “there are people who don’t like factory-made kulche.”
Snack for the soul