Residents who have left the neighbourhood and moved to other parts of the city keep returning to Mint Street for Vishnu chaat's items. Shivani Pandey on his success story
For those regularly passing through Mint Street, Vishnu is a familiar stranger. For some though, he is the man who serves them mouth-watering chaat items day after day.
For around 40 years, Vishnu has been selling his goodies from the same spot on Mint Street. Therefore, residents of Sowcarpet who have long shifted out of the neighbourhood but have retained a taste for his gastronomic preparations, know where to find this hawker. There are indeed erstwhile residents who make regularly make visits to Mint Street just for his samosa, pani puri and cutlet, among other things.
Ajay and his wife, an aged couple, say they left left Sowcarpet five years ago, but keep returning to it to have Vishnu’s pani puri.
Vishnu says, “He thanks his grandfather Babulal and father Ramaswarup Sharma for what he is now. His grandfather used to sell kulfi, but due to poor earnings, shifted to selling chaat items. During those days, people craved chaat items. After six years, my dad took over from my grandfather. The mantle was passed on to me fifteen years ago,” he says.
He recalls how he would, after school-hours, get trained by his dad in preparation of these snacks: He would stand beside his dad and patiently watch the process. The long hours at the shop did not exasperate Vishnu. “I was more interested in cooking rather than studying,” he says.
The drills of discipline he was subjected to early on, now help him as a hawker. He says he wakes up at 4 a.m. for preparing all chaat items. From 11 a.m to 9 p.m., I will be at Mint Street selling them. After 3 p.m., the sales get intense. On special days – such as Diwali and Rakshabandhan – people wait in queues to buy these chaat items, says Vishnu.
Nikita, a customer, says, “I loves the flavour of his pani puri and do not mind standing in a queue for it.” He is at present going through a lean patch. He explains, “This year, sales are down mainly due to two reasons: increasing competition among chaat item sellers and skyrocketing prices of vegetables and other food items.”
He is however still happy that he earns enough for his family, which consists of his parents and a brother.