SHIKARPUR: “Bachoomal, Bachoomal!”, the children chant excitedly as they race towards the vendor parked at Hathi Dar.
“Here Bachoomal,” they say, handing Pritam Das, the man with two degchis set on his cart at slightly tilted angles and one little red plastic tub along with several cups made out of falsa leaves, a Rs20 note each. “Let us have your dumdaal!”
Pritam doesn’t mind being called Bachoomal. “It was my father’s name after all,” he says smilingly.
“My father was the one known for the finest dumdaal in Shikarpur. These children never knew him as he passed away 16 years ago, in 1998, after selling dumdaal for some 36 years. But the delicacy is still associated with his name around here. The children think Bachoomal alone sells it. I am proud of this fact,” he explains.
The quality of his dumdaal is the same as his father’s, Pritam insists.
“Just like him I get the saabit moong daal, chana daal, imli [tamarind] and am up early at 3am every day to prepare both the lentils and chutney,” he says.
The little cups to sell the daal in he makes by folding and joining falsa leaves together with toothpicks.
“The cups are completely biodegradable. My father was very particular about not making a mess that couldn’t be cleaned up easily,” he says.
And so a little cup is filled with steaming hot moong daal with another spoonful of chana daal and imli chutney poured over it all to be relished with clean plastic spoons. “I’m at my usual spot at Hathi Dar at 7am every morning and am all sold out by 9am,” he says.
“Sometimes, I go back home to come back with a fresh supply for the evenings, too.”
Nearby, Shah Mohammad sells steamed lotus flower root, known as behi in local lingo. “I have been selling it to people right here in Shikarpur for some 25 years now,” says Shah who adds that steaming the vegetable itself only takes a couple of hours but the cleaning takes longer.
“It’s a root so it is very muddy after being pulled out. It’s not as if I do the pulling out myself,” he says laughingly.
“I buy around four to five kilogrammes from the market. After I am through with the cleaning part, all I do is place it in my matka and sprinkle some salt over it before sealing the lid to let it steam.”
“All that is left to do after that is sell the simple delicacy to my customers. I sell on small pieces of newspaper with masalasprinkled over it for Rs5 each,” he says before turning his attention back to his customers.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2014