City Landmark – K & R Pickle and Murabbas, Matia Mahal Bazar
Pickle with monthlies.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The pungent aroma is heady. This is Ali Baba’s treasury of pickles —mango, karela, carrot, lemon, ginger, garlic, shaljam, amla, bamboo, lesua, tela, green chillies, and red chillies. Each red chilli achar is stuffed fat with spices, and its vivid colour is looking as fiery as the timeline of any hot-headed tweeter.
Old Delhi’s Matia Mahal Bazar is full of curiosities, but this little shop is its most unusual landmark. It sells unbranded pickles and magazines. “We are the only place in this part of the city for both eaters and readers,” says Ramavtar, half-jokingly. He is the R of K & R Pickle and Murabbas. The K stands for his elder brother, Kamalkant, who died in 2017.
This afternoon, the hospitable gentleman is manning the shop with nephew Gaurav, who is late Kamalkant’s son, and his own son Kashish. The Hindi and Urdu magazines are hanging from an upper rack, comprising recent issues of Pakeeza Aanchal, Mehekta Aanchal and Huma. “Very popular with women,” remarks Ramavtar, though these monthlies are rarely sighted anywhere else. “Earlier, we kept more magazines… Shama, Khatoon Mashriq, Mashriqia Aanchal, Sushma, Stardust, Filmfare, Mayapuri… some of these are no longer published.” A box by the counter is crammed with back issues of Mehekta Aanchal, along with booklets on pizza recipes and mehendi designs.
Rarer are the light brown “cheeni mitti” vats for the pickles. Even rarer is the stone “kund” in which lies the so-called biryani achaar—it is the pickle masala that can be put into biryani, or curries, or spread on parathas. Gaurav explains that the old vessel is similar to giant chirags of yesteryears that used to be lit up in temples and mosques before the age of electricity.
The shop was founded “20 years before the freedom” by Ramavtar’s father, Lala Devi Sahai. Back then, the pickles were made at home. Today they are made at a “karkhana”, in suburban Loni.
Meanwhile, it is getting furiously hectic. A man pushes in through the crowd and starts reading a newspaper amid the din. The shop opens daily from 10.30 am to 9.30 pm. The owning family lives across the river in Lakshmi Nagar.
Rare spicy landmark