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Delhiwale: Tuesday with Hanuman

Experience a slice of Delhi life at the vibrant plaza outside the Hanuman temple in Connaught Place.

delhi Updated: Jun 28, 2017 13:44 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place is teeming with characters all day long.
Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place is teeming with characters all day long.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

Every amateur anthropologist ought to visit the Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place, or at least, the plaza outside the temple. The place is teeming with characters all day long. For instance, a bearded, long-haired man hangs out here every day. He does nothing but recite nonsense Hindi poems that are his own creations.

In the mornings, we often spot a stylish man dressed immaculately in a suit and hat. He sits quietly on a plastic chair, seemingly lost in thought.

A local landmark is a barber’s makeshift stall. It consist of a small steel trunk filled with all the necessities of the trade (knives, shaving brush etc). One day we shall write a fat book on life in Hanuman Mandir but today we tell you about three must-do things there.

The man who reads tomorrow

Visit facereader-cum-astrologer Awdesh Tiwari. You will find his workstation — desk, chair and his three cellphones — under a peepal tree. The point of this is not really knowing one’s future but to engage with a man who gives the plaza some of its unique flavour.

There are many other astrologers here but Mr Tiwari is special — he is an MSc in Botany from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University in UP. He says that mostly couples tend to be his customers and all they want to ask is, “Will I be able to marry the one I love?”

The earth-scented chai

Treat yourself to adrak (ginger) chai from the 16-year-old tea stall of Sagar Kumar. It is one of those increasingly rare places in the city that serve tea in the earthen kulhar cups.

While the tea is delicious, it is also absorbing to watch the chai stall’s layout consisting of mini towers of kulhars and ginger pods. The chipped kettle looks as used as a much-thumbed secondhand book. The stone grinder for crushing the ginger is heritage-worthy.

Eat Bihar

Have litti chokha at Lakhan Soni’s stall. The soul food of Bihar, it is only now becoming a part of Delhi’s street cuisine. Mr Soni set up his establishment two years ago. He says most of his customers are from Bihar and Jharkhand but “Punjabis also sometimes show interest, asking me what is litti and what is chokha.”

In Bihar’s villages, the young man tells us, peasants make littis by stuffing the staple sattu — roasted gram powder — into thick round balls of atta, which are then baked over goyetha (dried cow-dung patties).

Chokha, he says, is prepared by roasting eggplant, boiled potato and tomato over a direct flame till the skin turns black. The vegetables are then peeled, mashed, spiced, mixed with chopped onions, garlic, green chillies and lemon juice, and spiked with a little raw mustard oil.

Mr Soni makes litti chokha right here. He stays from 2pm to 10pm. On Tuesday, the day when Hanuman devotees queue up outside the temple, he stays till as late as 2am.