Ramzan month is synonymous with Haleem and there is one man who played an important role in getting the GI status to Hyderabad Haleem.
It is 2 p.m. in the afternoon and the men of the Mohammed family are out at their respective business establishments. Veering their way through the Nampally traffic, Mohammed Abdul Mohsi and Mohammed Mohddis Ali, along with their father Mohammed Abdul Majeed — owner of the famed Pista House, reach their shop in the old city on the dot. Dressed in sherwanis, the three men assemble at the function hall which is a few hundred steps away from their shop. Adjacent to their shop is the Nayab Function Hallwhich houses the kitchen and the dine-in section for the Ramzan season. The 150-year-old function hall is taken on lease by the owners of Pista House for the Ramzan season. When not at their parent branch the three men are managing three different branches across the city. While the father takes care of the Pista House in the Old City, the sons are in charge of the newer branches.
Their day begins late, but “then we also end our day very late. We reach home towards early morning. Because we have to ensure the packs for abroad are on board the late flights,” informs Majeed.
And to ensure freshness and better quality of the ‘travel packs’ the business establishment has come out with special vacuum-packed tubs which keep the haleem good for consumption for a longer period of time, explains Majeed. What about the haleem which has to be consumed by haleem lovers in the city? “This time we are distributing the boxes zone-wise. Unlike older times we are not distributing the haleem to the outlets and stand alone stalls from the Old City kitchen. All the three establishments have a kitchen each and depending on the area, the distribution happens,” explains Majeed.
A death in the family has kept them busy, but Majeed and his two sons along with his numerous trusted workers are ensuring that the business isn’t affected. Back in the shop, as the iftar time nears, the hundreds of men who are employed for the haleem season are given instructions. Dressed in their red and black chequered aprons they are allotted their respective corners to be attended to.
Near the kitchen the eating area of the Nayab Function hall is getting scrubbed and cleaned to ensure that the customers get a clean place to relish their haleem by evening. But the story of Pista House doesn’t date back to the Nizam period. Surprisingly this man started late and within a span of 10 years he was selling more plates than he could count, “In the very first year, (1994) I sold only 100 plates. I wasn’t disheartened. I made up my mind to improve my product and finally get people hooked on to this,” laughs Majeed. Majeed credits the taste, smell and feel of the food to the recipe which has come down from his forefathers. “This is what we always used to eat at home during Ramzan. But commercially this was not on the menu. As food, it is highly nutritious and is a must for youngsters, I felt,” says Majeed.
Majeed was sure of the taste because he claims his forefathers would interact with the Nizams and would dine together. And from the conversations of his family’s elders he remembers, “Haleem from our house was loved by all.” So what makes this haleem so different? “A formula that is different from others, it’s unique. And don’t imagine that the women of our house have nothing to do with it. They are equally responsible for helping us get this product together. Right now at home they aren’t relaxing. They are putting their concoction of spices together for different outlets. The women put the spices together and packs of the spices are sent to various outlets in the kitchen,” informs Majeed.
With Haleem getting the Geographical Indication (GI) status Majeed and his men are now exporting the product to North America, Gulf, South East Asia, Europe, etc. In 2010 Majeed, who is also the President of Hyderabad Haleem Makers Association, was granted the GI certificate. The GI status for haleem was initiated by Majeed so that he can work out some plan for the benefit and welfare of the community engaged in the making of traditional, authentic ‘Hyderabad Haleem’ and benefit the thousands of families involved in this product.
But Majeed hasn’t making and selling all his life. Before he decided to make and sell haleem, Majeed was in the textile industry. “I shifted focus because I wanted the world to know about the goodness of haleem and present something commercially that will make the world sit up and notice,” says Majeed.
As Majeed and his sons pose for the camera, the father is very keen that his sons smile and explain to us about the ingredients used. They lead us to another verandah in the compound where they spread a table with various ingredients for us to see and feel. “As the boys explain about the various raw ingredients and the process of cooking, Majeed points to a peculiar looking spice and says in a hushed tone, “this spice is very peculiar. Works like Viagra.”