From coaching institute students to office workers and government employees – a diverse crowd mills around in Sector 34, one of the city’s two downtown areas.
The day has just begun and the sun is already shining bright.
Suddenly there is frenzied commotion in one corner of the office blocks.
On the side of a parking lot a man has just put up two benches under a tree’s shadows to set up his own little “eatery”.
And, judging by the throng of people soon descending on his open air stall, it’s evident his arrival has been anxiously awaited.
From ‘manchurian chawal’ and ‘rajmah chawal’ to ‘chana chawal’’ and ‘kadhi chawal’ – the orders pour in, with something for almost everybody.
Yash Kumar, 37, is one among hundreds of ‘chawal walas’ in the city who offer a quick and inexpensive bite.
Both taste and price are the USP for him and many others who serve thousands of hungry people every day.
A primary school dropout, Kumar doesn’t even remember when he joined his father, who was offering just ‘dal-roti’ at the time at his stall in Sector 22.
About a decade back when the Inter State Bus Terminal was moved from Sector 17 to 43 after stalls offering a quick meal gradually began going out of favour.
Kumar then shifted to Sector 34 and the change of location brought a change in clientele too.
He has since “reinvented” his “business” by introducing ‘manchurian chawal’ and other popular dishes.
“Here we found a large number of youngsters, so we thought manchurian would be a good option and it turned out to be a hit,” he says.
On a typical day people from all walks of life, from car drivers, office goers, students and even some well-heeled women can be seen lining up at Kumar’s stall. Hoshiar Singh, a chauffeur, often takes his lunch there.
He asks to be served first. “Madam has to leave for a meeting and I need to be there in five minutes,” he tells Kumar.
Meanwhile, 5 km away in Sector 17, Shyam Lal, 38, arrives near the front of the Chuttani Medical Centre at 11 am sharp as he has been doing for the past 17 years.
The next hour will be spent packing rice, ‘rajmah’ and ‘kadhi’ in separate packets to deliver them to open air stalls during the peak hour that starts around 12.30 pm.
Lal came to the city in 1997 and a year later he took up this “business’.
He and his wife start cooking at five in the morning and prepare about 100 lunches a day. Keeping it spicy and clean is his mantra.
“Business is fairly good. Most of the time I’m able to sell all the meals,” he says.