A royal treat in Chandni Chowk...
Even as businessmen across Delhi are rebuilding and renovating their shops, the good old Ghantewala in the Walled City clings on to tradition. The shop, founded in 1790, continues to have dedicated customers to this day. MADHUR TANKHA writes... .
Photo: R.V. Moorthy.
The age-old Ghantewala in Chandni Chowk retains its traditional customer base despite new entrants to the field.
WHILE CRISS-CROSSING the Chandni Chowk shopping arcade in the Walled City, you must have been surprised to see the name Ghantewala, a popular sweetmeat shop, which
came into existence in 1790. Well, the name was derived by the Moghul Emperor, Shah Alam-II. A school used to exist near this shop and whenever the caretaker of the school would hit the hammer on the clanger, the sound would echo to the ramparts of the Red Fort. Whenever he felt like tasting some sweets, Shah Alam used to tell his flunkies to go to the `Ghanta Niche Halwai' -- the shop under the clanger. Hence, the name `Ghantewala.'
Lala Sukh Lal Jain -- the founder of this shop -- had come from Amer district in Rajasthan. Leaving everything behind he brought along with him the famous Kalakand sweets. Did he seek permission from the emperor, one asks the frail lady at the shop? Nirmal Jain, who has been managing the shop since 1988 after her husband passed away, says, "Those days no licence was required. The shop was formed at this place. No cars used to whiz by but there were processions, palanquins and emperor's elephants that used to stop at Ghantewala. Sethji used to feed these elephants with choicest of sweets. With jubilation, the elephants used to shake their heads," she recalls on a note of nostalgia.
When the late Indira Gandhi had imposed the Emergency, the besan which was being supplied to Ghantewala declined in quality. Work in the shop came to a grinding halt for six months. All the employees were chucked out. Jain says, "We didn't want our customers to get sick after devouring besan. So we opened up a Bombay Dyeing Franchise. Getting good quality besan was a manna from heaven. All our employees, who were thrown away, were re-employed."
Now the shop has been partitioned between the two sons of Nirmal Jain. Shashant Jain, her son, says, "We are having old, traditional sweets along with 50 varieties made from khoya and cashewnuts. Pista Loje is the most expensive at Rs. 750. This sweet has been steeply priced as the pistas come mostly from Afghanistan and are sold at Khari Bawli. Badam Loje has been priced at Rs. 500, Kashmiri mixture at Rs. 190 and Fenni Sweet is available at Rs. 150."
The biggest patron of Ghantewala were the Nehrus, who since the time of Pandit Nehru to his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi, used to order frequently. Moans Jain, "Even other leaders like Jagjivan Ram and Morarji Desai used to get stuff from our shop. But the atmosphere had undergone a metamorphosis. This is mainly due to the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis."
For now, the owners don't feel the need to go in for exports as foreigners come in such huge numbers at Ghantewala giving them ample chance and time to flourish.
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