Each day, with the setting of the sun, a unique phenomenon takes place in Indore — its bustling jewellery market turns into a teeming chaat chaupaty

Shubham jewellers selling pav bhaji! Laxmi Jewellers offering chilly paneer and chowmein! Shiv Shakti jewellers enticing you with aloo ki tikki! Yet another jeweller offering mouth watering hot gulaab jamuns, gajar ka halwa, moong dal ka halwa and piping hot milk!

This is not wishful thinking but a regular affair in Indore. Come night and the city’s bustling Sarrafa Bazaar (jewellery market) turns into a teeming chaat chaupaty. And the novelty lies in the fact that this chaat chaupaty is open almost for the whole night. Teeming crowds can be seen devouring various delicacies with great abandon at 2 a.m. and that, too, with families in tow.

The phenomenon is a proud possession of Indore residents and they speak fondly about it. Nobody remembers exactly when chaat chaupaty started selling in the sarrafa bazaar, but it has existed for years. Indore MP Sumitra Mahajan remembered the market since she arrived in the city as a young bride 40 years ago. “Khau gali” is what this market is known as, she said, which means you get good sumptuous food no matter what time of the night it is.

The khau gali was also a favourite haunt of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a known foodie, who used to visit it often during his trips to Indore. “Ask him. He will still laugh fondly at the memories of our eating binges there,” Ms. Mahajan recalled with a touch of nostalgia in her voice.

In fact, the people who sell the eatables feel the idea might have germinated in the minds of people who came to Indore for jewellery shopping and could not find proper eating places back then. Some enterprising soul started off with a few stalls, which gradually spread along the entire length of the road in Sarrafa bazaar and now the market is as famous for eatables as for jewellery. Vendors set up shops on the open verandahs in front of the shops; they may or may not pay anything to the jewellery shop-owner, depending on the arrangement worked out between the two. But it is a symbiotic arrangement since the night-long business guarantees shop owners of security and prevents major break-ins.

“I come here around 8.30 p.m. every day and sell chilly paneer and chowmein till 1.30-2 a.m.,” said Punam, who runs the shop along with her husband Balu. The items are quite a hit with visitors here. “It is a good night-out option; one can taste various delicious items here,” said Narendra Rathore while devouring piping hot chilly paneer at Punam’s shop.

According to jewellery shop-owner Nand Kishore, the market has co-existed with the chaat chaupaty for years. “There has never been any problem either of security or of any other nature,” he said.

There have been instances in the past when the district administration tried to restrict the timings, but these were shelved following stiff resistance from the shop-owners, vendors and customers alike. “As long as there is no security problem, we have no issues about the market remaining open the whole night,” said Indore’s District Collector Akash Tripathi. “Business is good, people are happy. So why should we intervene,” he asked, adding that he tried to replicate this business model in Gwalior, during his stint as collector there, but the initiative failed. This is something extremely unique to this city and we would like to keep it that way, Mr. Tripathi said.

So all Indore residents can continue savouring delicacies to their hearts’ content once they are done with shopping for their gold and diamonds, or even otherwise. But a word of caution! Do not ask for non-vegetarian fare here as it would be only met with disapproving glances and sniggering comments.