Labouring to make the festival 'sweeter'

INSIDE KITCHENS

Neti Ram Choudhary gets up in the morning at 7.30. After completing his daily chores and a short prayer, he walks down his accommodation in Paharganj to reach his restaurant in Connaught Place’s Outer circle.

The minute he reaches, he places a huge utensil on the gas stove to boil daal and starts making Gujarati meethi daal.

Though his dish is a hit as hundreds turn out to relish it during lunch hours, his day is spent in cooking and serving. “I came to Delhi eight years ago and for the last two years, I have been here full time. The rush in restaurants is less on Diwali as compared to cities like Mumbai and Gujarat,” says Neti Ram who hails from a family of farmers in Rajasthan. At the age of 12, he realised his interest in cooking and soon moved to Mumbai where he received training to become a corporate maharaj at Khandani Rajdhani.

Working for 22-years at the organisation, he has no qualms about not being able to celebrate Diwali with his family. His smile turns sheepish when one enquires about his wife and son. “They live in Rajasthan. Of course they miss me and I miss them too but since I knew I wouldn’t be able to go home on Deepawali, I took an off a few days ago to meet them.”

He sounds satiated emotionally but the fact that people call for him after tasting the food and reward him with money, makes him excited! He is one of the many hands who work relentlessly to make the festival special. Even as their celebrations remain incomplete, they try and learn the best in their trade, to appease food lovers.

Looking for sweets, be it for deities or guests who land up at home unpredictably, one
often ditches the queue at the sweet shop to buy their favourite mithai. But beyond these can be spotted a face which works tirelessly to prepare them.

30-year-old Om Singh, is one such person to these halwais, who gets too busy to be able to speak with anyone as Diwali nears. “We make two quintals of doda halwa and about 250 kilograms of pinni on a daily basis,” shares Om while standing in a pool of mithais around him. “Of course we make a lot of other things too,” he adds pointing to the room where his colleagues are cutting and chopping vegetables.

A worker at Lakshmi Sweets in Guru Nanak Market since 16-years, the man who hails from a farmer’s family of Madhya Pradesh is adept in making perfectly rounded pinnis and ladoos. “I reach here by 8 am and start cooking vegetables. Once that is done, we make sweets. For Diwali, the preparation of sweets starts from 10 am and goes on till 10 pm,” he informs intending that his otherwise six-hour duty extends by a good three hours to complete the orders.

Even while talking to Metrolife, his hand continues cutting dodha barfi in exact breadth but the thought of celebrating Diwali with his family (which stays with him) brings a smile on his face. “We will wind up by 7 pm and go home to fire crackers with our children,” he says making one think about their aspirations for the festival.

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