A bakers tale: From Jawzjan to Jangpura

The Jangpura-Bhogal locality of southeast Delhi on an evening can easily be confused with the streets of a busy market, somewhere in Central Asia. Men and women from countries that include Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries form long queues to purchase groceries.

Their children prance around the busy market while the youth, most of whom sport a pathani and aleather jacket, busy themselves discussing their daily lives whilst sitting on parked scooters.

A bakery, in the same locality, which was set-up more than decade ago, is now not only known for the hot Afghan breads that it sells but also for the new recruit who had come to India just over a year ago. Meet Najibullah Moradi, a 33-year-old Uzbek, and a native of Jozjan or Jawzjan, a province in Northern Afghanistan bordering Turkmenistan.

Working as a baker in his hometown, Moradi, is now a household name in Bhogal. His ‘designs’ on Afghan breads also called naan, might not gain as much popularity as he personally has over a period of one-and-half-years. Those who know him closely couldn’t avoid smiling while talking about him.

“He is good at heart. Back home buying naan used to be an exciting time. We would go to the baker, meet our neighbours and friends there and huddle around to chit-chat. The baker would crack jokes and talk to us.

Here the culture is different, everyone buys bread and heads back home. Moradi is different though, he makes us feel at home,” said a resident of the same locality requesting anonymity.

“He speaks many languages, Turkmani, Uzbeki, Dari (Persian dialect)
and now Urdu,” the customer added.

Moradi, was hired by his boss, Sadiq late in 2012 after he fled his native land. He claimed that ‘Talibs’ were the reason that he had to leave his parents and nine siblings. “They wanted me to collaborate with them. I chose to flee instead,” said Moradi. “Back home you just can’t be. Everyone makes you chose sides,” he added.

From Jawzjan to Kabul and Kabul to Delhi, Moradi now does not have a sword hanging over his head to choose a side. While in one corner of the bakery where he works is a hanging rug with Ahmad Shah Massoud (called Lion of Panjshir) embroidered on it, the opposite wall has a photograph of Najibullah Ahmadzai, whose regime Massoud fought against.

After his customers had left, Moradi expressed his worries about the job insecurity, the cost of living and so on. His witty face, which looked like a teenager’s suddenly revealed the mark of a worried man. “I am earning here but it’s not enough. Most of it goes into my rent and the money I am left with has to be sent to my mother back home as she suffers from diabetes,” said Moradi.

The bakery sells close to 500 naans a day which cost Rs 10 each. The numbers, according to Moradi and his boss are dying down. They said most of it owes to the fact that there aren’t many takers of the Afghan bread in Jangpura and Bhogal.

“Afghans, Uzbeks and Tajiks buy from here. Kashmiri people have a sizeable population in this area and they shop here as well, but they eat naan with tea mostly. Indians like the thin bread which we don’t make,” said Sadiq, adding that the inflation has only added to his problems with more and more people now opting for white bread.

A gloom spreads in the bakery which only lifts when Moradi breaks the silence. “Send me to Europe, they like thick bread too. I assure you people, they
will love our bread and I will be famous,” announced Moradi.

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