GHANTEWALLA SHUTTERED FOREVER
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Richa, our eldest daughter, an Associate Professor in a prestigious university, came calling. She was in a somber mood. After having a glass of water she bared her heart. “I am very sad today. Ghantewalla, my favourite sweet shop in Chandni Chowk, Delhi has downed shutters forever. Now there is no place to go to for having mouth watering Sohan Halwa and desi ghee jalebi. How Sad!” We had no option but to sympathize with her. This was not the appropriate time to comment on the close relationship between desi ghee sweets and women’s obesity in modern times that they inherited from ancestors of yore. No time for sob-sob stories either. It was appropriate to change the topic and ask her about her recent visit abroad. Indeed that cheered her a bit.
The episode sent me down the memory lane. Although I am not a Delhiite, I had always taken time out to visit old Ghantewalla whenever I was anywhere near Chandni Chowk during my professional visit to the national capital. Later in life when I had established myself as a national commentator, I climbed stairs to ramparts to enter the commentator’s box of the Akashvani to have a bird’d eye view of Chandni Chowk I thought of the Ghantewalla sweet shop. National freedom struggle for independence apart, what fascinated me most was the big brass bell hung right in the middle of the shop over mouth watering delicious sweets of many varieties.
On an enquiry made in more peaceful moments, I was briefed about the utility of the Ghanta or the bell and I had no option but to gulp down the bizarre stories as gospel truth. The sweet shop owner confessed that he did more lucrative business after the midnight and beyond when ethereal spirits like djinns, ghosts, she-devils and he-devils came over to buy delicious sweets that they missed in their other worldly abode. They made it a point to pay cash for whatever they bought. The Ghanta or the bell was rung by them to draw the attention of the grand halwai to the items they wanted. Neither party understood each other’s language but the deal was struck all the same.
The other worldly creatures paid for the goodies in gold mohurs and dinars. No one asked them what the source of their income was. It was not the “Done” thing. For one reason or the other, those other worldly figures spoke in nasal voice that was rather difficult to grasp, what to say of comprehending it. And yet the business was done without any haggling or bargaining. There was no short changing either. In any case the gold mohur and dinar owners were never bothered about minor points like getting back small change. The story is too fascinating to be true. Nevertheless all those story tellers hanging around the Ghantewalla sweet shop vouchsafe for the truth of every word they utter.
If a listener dares the teller to produce evidence to prove the truth of their story, they would counterattack by asking whether the Indian Evidence Act was in existence when the Moghul kings were on the throne sans takhte taus or the Peacock Throne. Indeed the Ghantewalla sweet shop was there and so were the djinns and ghosts in existence.
Of all the buyers of sweets, the ones who are going to miss the Ghantewalla most will be the ethereal spitits, the djinns and ghosts, if they still exist.Who can lead evidence for or against their existence in our mundane world?
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