City Food – Chole Bhathure, Civil Line Walla
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The angrez types spell it as wallah, as in Merchant-Ivory film Shakespeare Wallah. But we desis pronounce it as walla, no ‘h.’ Walla is a super-endearing word that instantly resonates with the idea of belonging. Chai walla belongs to chai, Dilli walla belongs to Dilli, and Civil Lines walla belongs to Civil Lines.
The last is the name of a chole bhathure shack in Gurgaon’s… guess! (The place is spelled Civil Line Walla, no ‘s’—see photo).
Actually, The Delhi Walla has already been to the place, had its chhole bhathure and even wrote about it. But that was years ago. Long before reel after reel started popping up on our Instagram feed of Virat Kohli praising the Walla for its… guess! Having grown up in West Delhi’s Paschim Vihar, the cricketer has a passion for authentic Delhi khana, which hasn’t dimmed despite the superstar’s extensive exposure across the foreign lands where he must have enjoyed all the posh pastas and sushis of the world. Our world-famous batsman haven’t forgotten his roots, and he still bats—as an example– for the modest Rama Chhole Bhathure at Jail Road. Like many affluent Delhi households, his family eventually moved to the greener pastures of the Millennium City some years ago, where it first discovered the object of our today’s affection, and pointed the place to the cricketer.
“I started it ten years ago,” said Vivek Arora of this Civil Lines landmark. The interaction unfolded in his eatery’s noon hour, during the peak summer. The very air was so blistering hot that you would imagine everyone hiding in homes and offices. But the non-AC outdoorsy Walla was teeming with citizens, most clamouring for the hot-off-the-oil chole bhathure, although the menu also promised other stuff (Amritsari choor-choor nan is love).
The Walla’s chole is spiky enough to explode the senses into a mushroom cloud of happy satiety. The crisp bhathure, deep-fried live on the counter, feel so deceptively light that you don’t feel full at all (much like eating one kaju katli after another!).
The shack is like a hole in the wall except here it is just a hole and no wall, with tall round tables decked in front of the counter. One tree is particularly noteworthy, decorated with a frame of Hanumanji.
Like many such lunch stopovers, Walla suffered during the tough times of the coronavirus pandemic. “Our main customers are office people,” the owner had said during those dark days, when most of us were WFHing.
The Walla opens daily from 9am to 4pm. And let’s confess: there’s nothing sinful about the bhathure here. Virat too has eaten this same fried thing and he remains so fit, so can we!