City Food – Deepak Kumar’s Rasgulla-Bread, Nehru Place
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
He is standing motionless, like a statue – his arm resting on his cycle’s handlebar, his face exuding calmness. Every now and then, he glances about, as if to signal to the moving crowd that he, too, is a fellow human. A man holding a laptop bag approaches him curiously.
Deepak Kumar is a snack vendor in the commercial plaza of Nehru Place. The area teems with stalls, cafes and restaurants that together offer a wide variety of dishes. But no place has what he sells — white rasgullas with white bread.
The combination is unusual but not uncommon in Delhi’s street cuisine. Veteran vendor Lalta Prasad, for instance, has been selling rasgulla and “double roti” in Jangpura and surrounding neighbourhoods for more than 30 years. Vendor Sita Ram has been selling the same in Civil Lines. Vendor Jagram hawks the combination along Mathura Road. Lalta Prasad once told this reporter that most of his regular customers are labourers and rickshaw pullers — which is understandable because anybody who exerts hard, physical work can find a quick (and inexpensive) energy boost in this union of sugar and starch.
This plaza in Nehru Place, however, isn’t teeming with labourers or pullers. Mr Kumar insists most of his customers here happen to be office-goers, salesmen and shoppers. “I think they come to me to refresh their childhood memories.” He says rasgulla-bread vendors often park their cycle-stalls outside the schools, “and when the classes get over, the children rush out of the gate and many of them crowd around rasgulla-bread wale”. In fact, Mr Kumar had been selling his speciality outside a school for seven long years. “I started in Nehru Place when the school shut down due to the bimari (pandemic).”
Mr Kumar’s offering lies inside a container that is fitted on his bicycle’s back-carrier. The rasgulla and white bread slices are kept in separate compartments. Each is dipped in sugar syrup. These are fresh rasgullas, the vendor points out, saying he gets up at four every morning to make them. The bread is sourced from a “Jumna paar” bakery.
Soon, Mr Kumar begins preparing a plate for a customer. He picks up a knife and cuts two slices of bread into neat halves, and carefully places two rasgullas on the top. The sweet dish is delicious and ice-cold. The body is instantly filled with energy and a happy feeling. Mr Kumar is seen in Nehru Place from 11am till evening.
PS: Do note the red drawings on the rasgulla container. They are drawn by Annu, Mr Kumar’s wife.
The taste of school days