The roadside eateries are called “Dhabas” in India. Village look, no fancy furniture is what describes them. At most of the Dhabas you will find Cot system for seating. The Dhabas are famous for providing homely food with local ingredients. Some of these Dhabas are more famous than any city restaurant. They flaunt highways and invite travelers to stop.
There is one such place named Murthal which is about 45 kms from Delhi and lies on NH 44 (National Highway). The Dhabas of Murthal are famous for their tandoori “Paranthas” and is a must stop place for people moving towards Chandigarh or Punjab via NH 44 . “Parantha” is a stuffed Indian Bread. Stuffing of these breads varies from Potato, Onion, paneer to vegetables like cauliflower, radish and to dry fruits as well. It is served with plenty of butter, curd and mixed pickles.
Murthal has clusters of Dhabas. Lot of people from Delhi enjoy going out there for breakfast and coming back. Bikers, cars flaunt these joints for a bit of famous tandoori paranthas.
While going to Amritsar for our short vacation this time we planned to stop at “Ahuja No 1”. We have been frequent visitor to this place and have seen these “Dhabas” changing from typical village dhabas to fancy restaurants. But the word Dhaba exists as the word is still hot selling. The changes are evident when you visit any of these. The basic Cots are being replaced by chairs and tables because the cosmopolitan crowd likes it that way. The look and feel of village life is also going as the thatched roofs are being replaced by concrete roof and the place of clear and plain water of well has been taken by bottled mineral water. But what about the taste – yes it does exist – thank god…. but changes are evident in that also. What also has changed is the warmth of the people. The activities are purely commercial now. Economics has taken over the quality and warmth from the people. You come, order, eat pay and go. If you are generous and offer a tip you get a smile otherwise no one looks at you. Smile is also billed now a days and it has a cost.
I remember spending whole evening on a Dhaba, talking to locals, listening to their stories, but that does not exist now. The warmth and service was beyond money then. So after waiting for a while our order was served along with curd and mixed pickle. Though the ambiance of dhabas has changed a lot thankfully the taste exist and we had no complaint on that. But yes service has deteriorated and so the warmth of the people.
What is also noticeable is the onset of many other outlets selling items of daily need, ayurvedic medicines, toys and many more. The bigger dhabas are getting converted into shopping malls of a kind. Many of these claim to cure your problems in minutes. While our order was being served we took a stroll in these shops. Shopkeeper was guarantying the quality of these and some of these he claimed comes directly from Himalayas.
Economics is taking over the real experience of authentic food. The focus is on maximizing profit. The cost of ingredients is calculated and adjustment are made accordingly. As every action has a equal and opposite reaction, this is leading to deterioration in quality and service.
One question always troubles my mind that is the money more important than the warmth, togetherness and happiness……
We ended our food, paid our bills and yes did not forget to pay some tips as we wanted some smile back….. a paid smile….