In Search of the 'Paranthe Waali Galli'
As a kid, my idea of a perfect vacation certainly wasn't walking through narrow by-lanes and catching glimpses of the lifestyle of the locals, or trekking up seemingly never-ending hills just to watch the setting sun for the day. To me, a perfect vacation revolved around expensive hotels with huge swimming pools, trips in air-conditioned vehicles to the main tourist attractions of the destination and also a lot of midnight television in my room. It was entertaining to revisit these memories as I was walking through a cramped alleyway, past street vendors setting up their wares early in the morning, acrobatically pulling stunts to avoid cowpats splattered on the road and dodging motorists zooming through the already narrow alley. If I had been a scruffy ten-year-old in these moments, there would have undoubtedly been loud tantrums and endless grumbling from my end, so what changed?
Perhaps it was all the scoldings I got from my parents for behaving like a spoilt brat during our vacations, or it could have been the effect of watching movies like ZNMD and 'Eat, Pray, Love', who knows? For the first time, the sights and smells of a typical Indian galli didn't disgust me as I marched briskly with my family in search of that one special galli, the Paranthe Waali Galli. "You will never taste a paratha like the ones you will taste in that galli,". Neither were there huge posters advertising this location in the streets of Delhi nor did it appear in the 'Recommended' sections of newspapers, it was through sheer word of mouth that gave this galli its name and fame, and why not? We weren't the only ones wandering around the meandering alleys in search of the Paranthe Waali Galli, there were Biharis, Punjabis, Americans, Russians and South Indians who were also on a 'quest' to find the hidden galli, we were not alone.
Since it was a Sunday morning, certain lanes-cum-bazaars that would normally be packed with vendors selling a plethora of goods such as garments, footwear, stationary, college books, 'designer-wear' and electronics were almost empty. As I passed by the almost-empty lanes, I wondered whether it was my good luck to have evaded the cacophony and chaos of the alley, or was I unlucky to have missed the opportunity to walk amidst the hustle and bustle of those very people... Nevertheless, from a distance, I heard sounds of cyclists ringing their bells, of hoarse voices shouting orders at the top of their voices, the simmering of various goodies being fried and I knew I had arrived.
Yes, it was the Paranthe Waali Galli! Menus of each restaurant were propped outside and proudly displaying the various delicacies they had to offer, the standard aloo parathas and gobi parathas, on the more exotic side there were mushroom parathas, dry-fruit parathas and to top it off, karela parathas! Keeping on the 'safe' side, I decided to go for the aloo paratha, and a single bite of the flatbread captivated my taste buds and made me relish the paratha slowly, it truly was like no other. As I savoured the paratha alongside my family, I watched foreigners wolfing the parathas with a bottle of mineral water by their side, mothers enjoying freshly fried kachoris in the cold winter morning, the tangle of wires on the electricity poles didn't hinder rays of sunlight brightening the galli, the congestion didn't in the least cause any inconvenience to people. Everything within the Paranthe Waali Galli! was perfect; it was a world of its own.
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