City Food – Gajar ka Gur, Around Town
Like a rare metal.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Gajar ka halwa is red. Because gajar is red. This is the case most of the times. Perhaps you might have heard of white gajar ka halwa. A rare specie, but available these days in Old Delhi’s Sheeren Bhawan mithai shop.
Then there is super-rare gajar ka gur, which is jaggery made out of carrot.
A conventional gur is of unprocessed sugar, obtained from ganna, the sugarcane. Winter is the season to spot very many street merchants hawking the ordinary gur along the city streets. A shop in Gurugram’s Sadar Bazar keeps fifteen varieties of gur. But gajar ka gur is difficult to spot. This icy afternoon, vendor Shehzad Khan is in Delhi’s Sadar Bazar. He is carrying gajar ka gur in a straw basket, which is tied to the back of his motorcycle.
Looking like lumps of earth, the gur is embedded with coconut slices and sesame seeds; a kilogram is priced at 100 rupees. Walking beside the bike, Shehzad is dragging the vehicle with the pace of a bullock cart. Hailing from a village in nearby Muzaffarnagar, he makes the gur “in our kolhu.”
The word kolhu is usually linked to the phrase kolhu ka bel, which is actually a small ox-powered oil mill traditionally employed to obtain oil. The bonded “bel”, the ox, is made to endlessly circle around the wooden kolhu, which in turn extracts the oil out of, say, mustard seed paste. The animal has its eyes covered with a leather strip so that it doesn’t get dizzy. The oil is stored in containers such as tasla, martban and matka. Every house in Walled City’s Phatak Teliyan was said to have a kolhu during a long-ago time. Shehzad and many others in his village still have their kolhu. “We first extract ganne ka juice, then gajar ka juice, then we mix the juices, then we boil it for two hours in a karahi… we grow our own ganna, our own gajar.”
Every year, Shehzad and his two cousins spend the cold months in the Delhi region, selling this gur. Each man operates separately, though at night they stay together in Loni. “Yesterday I was in Gurgawa, the day before I was in Seelampur.”
Wading deeper into the bazar crowd, Shehzad says that he and his cousins plan to return to Muzaffarnagar in a couple of days to prepare a fresh stack of gur. “After the winter ends, we will go back to our tractors and our khet.”