2) Makhan Lak Tika Ram's doodh jalebi:
It all started with Delhi's voters' list. One fine day I was a voter, the next moment I found that I wasn't. Now I am one of those people who take their voting responsibilities very seriously. So, like a disgruntled disenfranchised citizen, I started up the totem pole of Delhi's bureaucracy to get my name back on the voters' list.
After some initial enquiries, I made my way to the Delhi Election Commission office in Kashmiri Gate which once housed St Stephen's College. But by the time I was at the head of a long line of equally grumpy people, it was lunch-time. The clerk at the window did what he has been trained to do for years: he looked sneeringly at us, downed the shutters and disappeared.
I was feeling rather peckish, so I went looking for something to eat. I noticed a large group of people standing in front of a shop called Makhan Lal Tika Ram. There was a blissful look on their faces, so I lined up as there well. I found some huge cauldrons of milk boiling over a low fire. I asked around, and found that the place was the Mecca for all doodh jalebi lovers of the city.
I got really emotional when I heard the phrase doodh jalebi. In my student days in Meerut, when I had hoped to become a wrestler despite weighing something like 40 kilos, my breakfast used to consist of half a litre of scalding milk poured over two plump jalebis, followed by atta ladoos made with pure ghee and a fist full of almonds. But being of mixed parentage - which is the reason why I have a Jat brain and a Bengali physique - my genes did not respond adequately to the morning breakfast, and I gave up wanting to be a wrestler.
But my love for milk stayed. After dinner, we used to saunter down to Kallu Halwai's shop in Meerut, order a kulhar of creamy milk with a thick slice of malai to garnish it. Milk, suitably altered, can be wonderful. It doesn't just make great dessert, but, coupled with jalebis, it makes for an excellent breakfast meal, too: it is tasty, nourishing and good for digestion.
After I moved to Delhi, I looked high and low for a doodh jalebi wallah, but could never find one. And since people outside the Walled City believe in having muesli and papaya for breakfast, most of Delhi sneered at my frenetic search for doodh and jalebi. And then one day, a quirk of fate -- or the actions of a typical babu -- helped me realise my dream.
It is not difficult to spot the shop. Go to Kashmiri Gate, locate the Bata shoe shop or Carlton Cafe (another of those places that I fondly remember from my childhood) and keep going down the same side of the road till you reach the election commission office. Once you have crossed that, you will find the doodh jalebi stall just a few shops downs the same side of the road.
I went in and ordered a plate of aloo poori (Rs 12) and a glass of milk jalebi (Rs 21) without sugar (my family says it sees no signs of it, but I take care of my weight). While I waited for my order I noticed with interest how they thicken the milk. Milk was being boiled in 4 huge karais. As the milk thickened in one karai, it was poured into the next karai and so on till it had reached just the right consistency and was ready to be doled out.
Once the milk was thick enough, the maestro at the shop would deftly place two thick jalebis into one tall glass and then pour thickened milk into it till the glass was full. To this he added a wedge of malai. A spoon was dropped into it, no doubt to titillate the jalebis.
I thought it was pure nectar. I had some of that, and then moved on to the puri sabzi. This was great as well -- the puris gave me all the roughage that I needed to keep my heart healthy (well, if you can stretch a point) and the sabzi was tart and tasty. For Rs 45 (I had a second plate of puri sabzi), this was a full, wholesome and delicious meal. I finished the last of the sabzi and lapped up what was left in my glass of milk and jalebis.
After this, I was ready to take on all the babus of the Election Commission. I strode up to the EC office full of verve and vim. And I silently thanked Makhan Lal Tika Ram for being the Guardian Angel of the disenfranchised, and of the would-be wrestlers of the world.