Delhiwale:The secret jaggery elixir
It’s so tedious. Everywhere you look, those Old Delhi shacks selling summertime favourite drinks seem to confine themselves to rose-flavoured concoctions, or lemonade.
No other choices. Not even a humble lassi.
But there are always exceptions to any rule.
That hunch proved right the other day as we chanced upon a jaggery sherbet stall in Pahari Imli that’s been at it for more than 70 years. “It was started by my father,” explains proprietor Aqeel, who is literally doling out his special sherbet day and night.
He politely but firmly declines to share the family recipe but does explain that he buys the jaggery from a nearby market. The finished drink is poured onto an ice-filled brass platter and then covered with a plastic sheet to ward off flies.
A little girl now approaches with a Rs 5. Aqeel squeezes half a lemon into a glass and pours the sherbet from an old ladle that has a Mughal-kitchen appearance.
The child gulps down the very sweet drink in and wanders off happily, far less listless.
The shop opens from 8am to 10pm. Years ago the stall would start even earlier — at the crack of dawn — “but people sleep later these days,” mutters Aqeel, shrugging his shoulders as if the world has lost all its good manners.
THE FOOT OVERBRIDGE MUSICIAN
Most commuters walk hurriedly past Pradeep as they head home. They hardly notice him.
But then a little girl, nudged by her, hands over a ͉Rs 2 coin. Even though he’s not performing at the moment. Pradeep carefully places the coin atop his harmonium.
“I only turn up for an hour or two every evening, because the summer sun is too much for me,” explains the 28-year-old physically challenged musician. He specialises in Hindi film songs and bhajans — always performing here on the footbridge at Vaishali Metro station.
Before long, he’ll make his way back to Anand Vihar, at a Rain Basera that is a shelter for the homeless. During the heat of the day he normally slumbers under a tree until the temperature subsides by eventide.
Pradeep says he grew up in Hardoi in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh, learning music in school. He never had a family and can’t walk. “I go around in a special rickshaw.”
Is it difficult living alone? He lifts his eyes, looking at the other side of the bridge, and then he speaks.
“But I’m not alone! I have four friends, and we all earn by trusting people to give some little money to us. At night we’ll all be together at the shelter.”
Pradeep now withdraws from the conversation, staring vacantly at his harmonium. Finally, he starts playing, picking up a tune that is difficult to recognise.