About ten days before any Indian festival, Old Delhi sweetmaker Ram Sharan halwai’s phone begins buzzing with orders. Some orders are for 40-50 kilos, although that’s on the lower side considering his clientele that includes the traditional elite of the city. A third generation halwai from the Jiwa Ram family of Cheera Khana Maliwara, Ram Sharan is carrying forward an old Indian legacy: something that only a few halwais (most of them in Chandni Chowk) can boast of. He visits the residences of his clients and prepares mithai for the family in their homes. “Many families call us over for special occasions and festivals. For some, it’s a matter of shauk, for others, it’s because of the purity that this tradition ensures. They offer mithai to the deity and many use it for a fast. This tradition is in our roots and over the past few years, new families have also been calling us,” he says.
An authentic legacy
One of the families Ram Sharan caters to are the Parakhs, originally from Chandni Chowk. His family has been cooking for them for three generations. “We get traditional Chandni Chowk mithais like pista, kaju, khajoor and other dry fruit barfis, made for us,” says homemaker Neera Parakh, 54, born and brought up in Chandni Chowk, whose family has followed the customised sweets tradition for five generations. “Some, like the walnut lauz, are not even available in the market; we get them made in the house on festive occasions. Besides purity, we also get the same traditional taste.”
Established business families in Delhi have been following this tradition for generations, says TV host Mayur Sharma, one half of the popular duo Rocky and Mayur from Highway on My Plate. “Mahipat halwai, for instance, has been making pinni ke ladoos for the Deshbandhu Gupta family for years.”
Riding a revival
Although Ram Sharan does sell individual boxes, his store in the middle of the bustling Chandni Chowk market has no display window or seating. One can see people cooking, slicing, and packaging sweets. “A large batch takes 24 hours to complete,” says Sharan. “Many people don’t have the time for such a luxury. But still, these mithais have their followers, and through word of mouth, more people have begun to get it done. After all, most of us do want to hold on to our traditions.”
Nuts over tradition
It’s a no-no Sweetmakers who customise mithai for their clients don’t make sweets made of khoya, chenna or besan.
The traditional favourites of Old Delhi – badam lauz, pista lauz, walnut lauz and other dry fruit lauz varieties – are the most popular among their clients.
The full munchy
Often, halwais also make traditional biscuits and namkeens for the families.
Good old ladoo...
Some halwais specialise in pinni ke ladoo.
From HT Brunch, October 28
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