Every time when I eat a plate of “pani poori” in Mumbai I keep the bill for income tax purpose. Not only the price makes me cry but the unsatisfied tongue reminds me of Kanpur where people mastered in making wonderful pani poori( pani ke batashe actually) .I am sure other places in U.P. might also be equally competitive in this spicy industry. Every locality there has couple of grand masters of chat and batashe and they keep it cheap yet the best. In my childhood we could have 4 of them at a rupee and sometimes for even less.
A particular shop was known among its admirers as baba batashe wale. Baba himself appeared very unhygienic and people used to speculate about the occasions he would take a bath. Since he lived very near to my house and preferred a public bath, I had the opportunity to confirm that he took a bath almost as frequently as a gentleman would. However, somehow water never had desired effect on him and hence the dirty tales.
He appeared dirty at all times, just as some delhi girls always look fresh even after an entire shift of work.Something like similar concept to opposite effect. His product had a unique taste, and if conspiracy theorist had their way it was, allegedly, taste of his accumulated sweat! To me it tasted like asafoetida and I preferred to believe it that way. But it was not just the way he looked, it was the flickering dim lamp, the age old pot he used for spicy water, his ancient handcart, all of these gave it a poor feeling. Probably marketing gimmicks are not such a hogwash after all. But the taste was superb. Exotic.
Things changed drastically when I started attempting to impress the girl who lived in the vicinity of that shop. From a proud customer I turned into secret admirer. And such was the magic of love that soon I stopped eating there all together. I had a stupid image to make or so I thought. If only I had the foresight of Aamir Khan ,I would have had at least few extra plates.Though the way this story is being told,it appears that the shop and shop keeper are no more but fortunately this is not the case.He is as old as he was and proudly selling his make to the cult he has.My own shift to pratapgarh makes my tense selection past here.
There are so many other famous and very good chat shops in Kanpur, and it’s one of the things to do for anyone who, for any weird reason, get to visit this place. It’s sad that a city historically as important as Kanpur eats dust in name of politics. The once called Manchester of India failed to become what it was destined to and somehow yet surviving industrial hub is not getting half of what it makes. I am surprised how this great city never gets any importance in election. This is a place that can change the face of U.P. with slight will of government.
The city has a great industry, it has great institutions for education, a rich history and none the less, a specific and interesting character.. “Kanpuriya”