|Attar Wala Near Nakhoda Masjid|
I’ll start with this man. He stood there, selling his ware with a simple ditty- “Buy one get two free – ittar ke saath topi aur surma bhi” (With the ittar, get the cap and surma too!). Standing there in front of Nakhoda Masjid, he made his sales a brisk affair, posing for S’s camera in between, smiling at us. We spent some time waiting for the crowd to disperse. S has her huge DSLR camera out, with a stunning focus, and she keeps on zooming it into the faces in the crowd, capturing memories and expressions, cursing her faulty memory card sometimes.
We are both standing outside Aminia Hotel, famous for its meat dishes in this region. I particularly am a fan of the Special Awadhi Biryani, which I decide to pack home, anticipating more to come. There is a man beside us selling dry fruits and nuts. He makes space for two women taking photos, and even remove some of the curious onlookers easily. Two men stand behind us, talking loudly about how they would like to be shot. We ignore them, till one dude actually stands right in front of S’s camera the moment she is taking a shot. She clicks calmly, and as soon as the guy moves away, deletes the photo. Occupational hazard, we surmise easily, and move along.
|Man Drinking Rooh Afza|
Shooting is a difficult and often frustrating thing to do. S is working hard to get the right shot. We stop by a guy selling cold Rooh Afza. Those who do not know what Rooh Afza is, its a fabulous syrup which smells faintly of roses and many other things, and is often mixed with water or milk.
As I start picking up one of the glasses to drink, the man who is selling them tells me to not pick it up, but rather pick the one behind it. “Don’t drink that… its not cold… pick the one behind it, that’s chilled.” Thankfully, I accept and drain the glass and pay him 5 rupees for the drink.
|Photographer on Masjid|
We aren’t the only ones taking photos. There are plenty of other cameras that we spot. One especially, because he was pretty high up, if you know what I mean. We didn’t spot another female though. We were the only ones, and we were getting questioned a lot. Did we come from a newspaper? Did we sell these photos to companies? Why are we shooting here? Why are you taking photographs? What is there, anyway?
|Date Seller Who Stared At Us|
In between disdainful looks, curious stares, and questions, we cover ground. We move over to the section which is mostly about food. I run for the breads – they all have names, and are leavened mostly.
|Small Round Breads. Yum.|
I also spot loads of Sheermal. I think I am slightly obsessed with Sheermal. These are priced at 15/-, 20/- and 25/- rupees.
From tiny rounds to large, flat loaves glazed with sugar and topped with glace cherries and sesame seeds, we see bread of all sizes and shapes. Some are sweet, and some are savory. They smell of ghee and sugar, and I decide to pick up a Sheermal or two for dinner.
|The Vermicelli Guy|
|Raw Vermicelli or Sevaiyaan|
Dried vermicelli is stacked around men who are making brisk sales. I spot one shop where you can get a certain amount of vermicelli and immediately transfer it into Falooda, and enjoy it with some chilled Koolfi.
|Sheer Khurma or Korma|
And if you don’t really like Falooda, then there’s always the Sheer Khurma or Korma. It is basically vermicelli cooked in milk and flavored. It is topped with dry fruits… in this case, it is a bit of coconut.
|He was clearly scandalized!|
Of course, I cannot help but mention the Chicken Changezi and Moradabadi Laziz Murgi Shops. These shops have whole chicken and whole fish and chopped pieces all marinated and ready to be fried or grilled. You tell them what you need, and they shall cook it for you. Generally, the meat is sold by the kilo, but you can ask for half or a quarter of a kilo. The demand is heavy, and the meat literally flies off the plate it stands on.
|Chicken and fish marinated. Look at the whole marinated fish Hanging!|
|Huge Fish Hanging Outside Shop|
|And Look How Other People Are Staring At The Fish Too!|
At this point, people are sitting and eating, some on wooden benches, some on the streets. Bowls of haleem come out from nearby Islamiya restaurant, and consumed quite quickly. Some people cook meat curry and rice, and people starts eating around me. Fruits are peeled and chopped, pieces of fried goods are placed on communal bowls. We sit there and eat with them.
|People Breaking Their Fast|
Plates of dessert are waiting for the hungry crowd, to be picked up at the end of a meal. T tries some of the Firni and declares it to be nice, but less sweet than what she is used to. Of course, the bowl is scraped clean.
|Firni, Shahi Tukda, Bowls of Vermicelli Waiting to be Added to Hot Kheer.|
We drink tea, sit and talk to the men who serve us, and answer the questions thrown at us. S gets requests of photograph, and she shoots some of them, happily.
We score about 300 gm. of the meat for 120/- and they fry it over medium-low heat and serve it up to us while we sit on the small space on top of the eatery. S runs off to get some cold soda, while we sit there inside the tiny place with folding tables and chairs.
The dish come to us piping hot – the chicken pieces are small, battered lightly, and fried till they are well-cooked. They are spicy little bits, and we squeeze freshly cut lime over them, and dip the pieces in an addictive little dip smelling of cilantro and chillies. Perfect for munching, I daresay!
We loiter around. Suddenly the place become super-active, with virtually every shop doing brisk business. From clothes to jewelry to food, no one is left idle. Women fight with shopkeepers, bargaining down prices. Beautiful aluminum plates, embroidered, are sold off by the dozen. Assorted desserts are plated and served.
And amid this ocean of moving people, I saw one girl, sitting there with one hand propped against the side of her face, still and slightly melancholy, watching the world go by.