City Food – Winter Season Gajak, Jacobpura
Hands of Bhind.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
They say that a great number of Siberian birds migrate to north India during the winter. It’s also the time of the year when scores of folks from parts of Madhya Pradesh migrate to the Millennium City of Gurgaon in the Greater Delhi Region.
These days Gurgaon is milling with these cold weather migrants who set up special shops across the town. Here they make and sell many varieties of gajak—the crispy crackling treat made of gur (jaggery) and til (seasame seed) that not only keeps you warm but is also so addictively delicious that you might keep nibbling at it until the body is ready to burst.
One place that you might like to visit is Jaishri Balaji Gajak Bhandar in Jacobpura. The establishment operates annually from November to January and is manned by a gang of four—Satinder, Bunty, Rinku and Raja. “We are all from Bhind only,” says Raja in English, adding with a chuckle, but now in Hindi, “Our Bhind is famous for dacoits but now we don’t have any of them left.”
The counter is stacked with various kinds of gajaks and other til-based delicacies, including a rich laddu whose ingredients comprise of mewa, kaju, elaichi and kishmish (400 rupees per kg). One noteworthy gajak is made of kaju (320 rupees per kg). It is said to be so warm that you might not need a blanket at night.
Visit the shop during the afternoon hours when the guys are hunched down on the floor, preparing the new stock. Right now Raja and Satinder are silently beating down the soft gajak base with impressively large wooden hammers. The place is suffused with the invigorating scent of fresh gajak. It’s an experience that makes the most hostile chill a tad welcoming. The four men will return to their village in Bhind on 20 January “where we will do farming until returning to Gurgaon again the next winter.”
The shop opens daily from 8am to 8pm.