Gangotree, Sweets & Snacks, have a very simple goal – to make the people of the city fall in love with their fiery pani puris and ghee-saturated motichur ladoos

The platter of dynamite chaats, the aroma of pure ghee, the dramatic crafting of pani puri behind the counters, the hustle and bustle of people walking across its spaces, struggling to balance the chaat trays in their hands and the creamy softies oozing out of the machines and arranging themselves (in an almost disciplined pattern) on the rims of the sleek cones at Gangotree, Sweets & Snacks, has changed the panorama of the food scene in an idly-dosa-dominated Madras, since its inception in 1994.

Gangotree was the brainchild of my father (Navaratan Bohra), who wanted to fill the void caused by the lack of chaat houses in the city,” says Bharath Bohra, “He wanted to focus on chaats exclusively; his main intention was to make the people of this city (who are so alien to the concept) fall in love with the cuisine. Today, many years later I can say that he has succeeded in doing so.” Bharath, along with his two brothers Deepak and Ranjith Bohra, are shouldering the responsibility of transforming the house that their father fabricated, into a beautiful mansion. Gangotree is currently situated on Cathedral Road, Adyar, T. Nagar, Anna Nagar, Ascendas, IT Park and Express Avenue. If you are disappointed that your area isn’t listed, here’s the good news — a bunch of branches are on the way.

Chakra pongal, a favourite

It’s a task to carve a niche in a city that’s so conservative in its food habits. Gangotree, however, has transformed its taste from a semi-spicy sambar to a fiery pani puri. “Initially, we had a lot of north Indians visiting us but today our clientele predominantly comprises the natives of the city,” says Bharath, “They even carry our food for their relatives abroad. We tell them that the pani that we make will last only a day but they insist! It feels very special.” Maybe they have changed the taste of Madras, but some things about the city will never change. “The chakra pongal is my favourite. I can eat it all day,” says Bohra.

Talking to him, we realise that the bond that they share with the city goes beyond their food connections. “I’m extremely fond of the people here. Unlike other cities, people here are anything but aggressive and are always willing to help. We have seen the city grow,” says Bharath nostalgically, “And we have grown with it. We have seen students from Stella Maris College, drop in for pani-puri in-between their classes and then seen them visit us with their children, a few years later. It makes us happy because we feel like we are only adding members to our own family.”

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