Purely by chance, the writer comes across an old man in a Connaught Place verandah who calls himself Plaza rabriwallah, sells hot gulab jamuns, cold rabris and gajar ka halwa that has a caramelised taste
My reading habits have changed over the years. When I was a young boy, my books mostly came from the pavements of Darya Ganj, and some years later, the second hand bookstore near Plaza. Then I borrowed books from a lending library in Shankar Market, which was followed by Sunday morning trips to Midland’s in South Extension. Then came Flipkart, and finally there is Kindle.
But the other day, something drew me to the old bookstore in Plaza, which has always been a very attractive book corner. When books seemed to cost the earth, the shop offered wonderful books at very low rates. So I went there last week and picked up a tattered copy of “Shogun” — of which I probably have several copies at home.
Then, on my way out, I noticed an old man sitting at the corner of the Outer Circle in Connaught Place, on the verandah near Plaza Cinema. He sat on the floor, with three counters in front of him. One carried hot gulab jamuns, the second had cold rabri, and the third had gajar ka halwa. The counters were covered, and the place looked clean. So I had to stop, of course.
The rabri seller says he has been sitting in this corner for many, many years. What do people know you as, I asked politely. Just call me the Plaza rabriwallah, he replied. His rabri, he said, came from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh because the milk there was particularly good. The halwa was cooked at home. The gulab jamuns were for Rs.10 a piece, and the other two were for Rs.250 a kilo. I asked for half a kilo of both the rabri and the halwa. He packed it well in plastic containers for me. And I left after bidding him adieu, Shogun in hand.
I tried out the desserts that evening after dinner. The rabri was thick and creamy, and tasted good. The halwa when heated up had a nicely caramelized taste – the khoya bits in the carrot halwa had melted a bit, adding to the taste. The gajar itself had been cooked well in milk, and I quite enjoyed it. My problem was just this – both the desserts could have done with a little bit less sugar. But then I suppose most people like it sweet.
Connaught Place has these nice little places where you can get Indian sweets. On the outer circle near Barakhamba Road, again on a verandah, sits a man with chilled and juicy rasgullahs. Then, of course, there is the rabri and ice cream man who sits in the lane that connects Kasturba Gandhi Marg to Janpath (somewhere near Anand Restaurant).
For people like me whose sweet tooth is predominantly Indian, these CP corners are like little plots of Heaven. You do what you have to do in CP (see a film, do your shopping or buy an old book) and then pick up some rabri or rasgullah on your way back home. And if that’s not a sweet life, I don’t know what is.