Discovering a Maharashtrian delicacy in a city railway station.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
At Platform No. 2 of New Delhi Railway Station, amidst unending announcements and the blurred bustle of coolies and vendors, a largely unfamiliar dessert invites harried passers-by to saccharine comfort. Never has the succour been so delectable.
Originally from Gujarat and Maharashtra, Shrikhand is not a customary sight in the city's khoya-chhena halwai shops. Delhiwallas do not suspect that the best of it sits in an undistinguished stall at the Railway Station. How it gets there deserves a mention.
Every alternate morning the stall assistant Ratnesh Kumar lumbers to the Ajmeri Gate side to receive 25 cartons of Chaach, Badam Milk, and (yes) Shrikhand, all neatly packed in glass bottles and plastic cups (100g Shrikhand cup costs Rs.10). Prepared by the workers of Madhya Pradesh Dairy Co-operative Society, the milk products reach Delhi after an overnight journey in a refrigerated mini-truck from Gwalior, the fiefdom of the late Madhavrao Scindia. During his tenure as Railway Minister, he had set up exclusive milk parlours at various stations to encourage the daily cooperatives of his constituency.
Healthy & Fulfilling
Shrikhand is essentially strained yoghurt and considered a delicious substitute for food when away from home or during fasting. "Two cups and you have a meal", said Karuna Shankar who runs a bookstall on the same platform. This cold, creamy delicacy turned my palate into a battleground of competing flavours. However the sweetness soon reconciled with the tanginess to create a harmonious balance. The subdued aroma of natural eliachi invigorated my senses, leaving an aftertaste that lasted for some time.
Badaam Milk Vs Shrikhand
It is unfortunate that most customers are unadventurous North Indian gourmets. "Our doodh and lassi bottles outsell Shrikhand," confirms Ratnesh. In fact Shrikhand is most in demand towards the evening, the time of the arrival of westbound Dadar-Amritsar and Malwa Express trains. Then the Maharashtrian passengers, if lucky to have noticed the stall, quickly disembark to buy their dessert - for themselves and for folks back in the coaches. More alert than Delhites, they know this Dilli delight is not to be missed.