The other Khan Chacha

The closure of the Khan Chacha Kabab outlet in Khan Market is in news these days, with many customers disappointed with this surprising turn of events. Way back in the 1950s there was another Khan Chacha, a pathan who had a nahari shop in Suiwalan, who had moved there from Fatehpuri after the partition. Khan Chacha was in his early sixties then, the son of an Afghan moneylender who had been operating in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur after he fled to India, following a bloody tribal feud, with his wife, Halima, and 12 year-old son, Mubarak at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Abdullah Khan was over 40-year-old then and had fought in the second Afghan war (or so he claimed). Lending money to butchers and petty shopkeepers became his mode of livelihood, though he had to suffer the loss of bad loans from time to time. He walked with the aid of a thick Afghani stick because of a limp in his left leg from a bullet wound sustained either during the tribal feud or in the Afghan war that was to end the reign of Amir Sher Ali in Kabul after a three-pronged British attack during the viceroyalty of Lord Lytton in 1878.

The best nahari then

An enraged butcher attacked Abdullah Khan with a meat chopper one day when he insisted on a loan being repaid, and the pathan would have lost his right arm had he not taken evasive action. This incident, however, did not deter him from continuing with his old business, but he vowed that his son would not become a moneylender.

So he bought him a shop, where the young man opened his nahari and tandoori roti joint. Abdullah Khan died and, as Mubarak aged, he came to be known as Khan Chacha Nanbai. A lot of Muslims were living in Fatehpuri then and they flocked to his shop because it was considered one of the best in Delhi. Among the customers were also pathans carrying on trade in the Capital and those who came on occasional business trips for sightseeing or medical treatment.

Mubarak Khan’s sons joined him in running the shop both at the old location and later in Suiwalan. One remembers hearing from Haji Zahoor that he and Mir Mushtaq Ahmed (the well-known freedom fighter and the first CEO of Delhi) Mohammad Mian were among the regular customers along with Akbar, Afzal Peshawari and Hagi Mustan. But the nahari was sold in the morning. In the evening one could buy only biryani, roomali roti and kababs there.

Khan Chacha was a particular favourite of children who came with small katoras to buy nahari (actually payee or buffalo heel) for two paise or an anna, as things were very cheap those days and so also meat (mutton at Rs.1 a seer and buffalo meat at eight annas).

How and why this Khan Chacha closed his outlet in 1955 is not exactly known, though some hinted that the family returned to Kabul as the tribal feud had ended and it had got back its disputed properties. Incidentally, Khan Market itself is named after a pathan, the legendary Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, so the pathan connection continues.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 6:44:44 PM |

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