At Platform No. 2 of New Delhi Railway Station, amidst unending announcements and the blurred bustle of coolies and vendors, a largely unfamiliar dessert invites harried passers-by to saccharine comfort. Never has the succour been so delectable.
Originally from Gujarat and Maharashtra, shrikhand is not a customary sight in the city’s khoya-chhena halwai shops. Delhiwallas do not suspect that the best of it sits in an undistinguished stall at the railway station. How it gets there deserves a mention.
Every alternate morning, stall assistant Ratnesh Kumar lumbers towards the station’s Ajmeri Gate side to receive 25 cartons of chaach, badam milk and shrikhand, all neatly packed in glass bottles and plastic cups (a 100 g shrikhand cup costs Rs 10).
Prepared by workers of Madhya Pradesh Dairy Co-operative Society, the milk products reach Delhi after an overnight journey in a refrigerated mini-truck from Gwalior. During his tenure as Railway Minister, the late Madhavrao Scindia had set up exclusive milk parlours at various stations to encourage the daily co-operatives of his constituency.
Shrikhand is essentially strained yoghurt and considered a delicious substitute for food when away from home or fasting. “Two cups and you have a meal”, says Karuna Shankar, who runs a bookstall on the same platform. This cold, creamy delicacy turned this reporter’s palate into a battleground of competing flavours. However, the sweetness soon reconciled with the tanginess to create a harmonious balance. The subdued aroma of natural elaichi invigorated the senses, leaving a lasting aftertaste.
It’s unfortunate that most customers at the stall are unadventurous North Indian gourmands. “Our doodh and lassi bottles outsell shrikhand,” confirms Ratnesh. In fact, shrikhand is most in demand towards the evening, the time of arrival of the west-bound Dadar-Amritsar and Malwa Express trains. Then the Maharashtrian passengers quickly disembark to buy the dessert. More alert than Delhiites, they know this Dilli delight is not to be missed.