Despite big malls, restaurants, and lavish hotels, Dwarka is also famous for its street food. Whether it's momos, kathi rolls, or a steaming bowl of thupka, there is something for everyone. In India, street food vendors are an important element of daily life. Pooran Singh, 65, a resident of Gola Dairy Village, is one such street food vendor.
Pooran Singh has been setting up his stall in Dwarka near Shiksha Bharti School, Dwarka Sector-7, for twenty years now. What started as a small gol gappa stall has now become a full fledged 'Chaat van' named 'Pooran Singh Chaat Bhandar', serving several varities of chaat. However, this journey was full of challenges.
Pooran sets up stall during the evening, starting from 4 pm till 10 pm. There are several residents of Dwarka who are regular customers at Singh's van. People call him uncle, bhaiya, Pooran daa, Singh Sahab, chacha and by many other names. Such is the place he holds in the hearts of his customers.
Talking about the beginning of his journey he says, “I have been selling my chaat in Dwarka since 2002, from this very spot. I started this stall some 22-23 years back to support my family financially. Twenty years back, it only used to cost 10 rupees for 5 pieces of Gol Gappe and 20 rupees for Bhalla. Now, the prices have gone up. It is now 30 rupees for 6 pieces of Gol Gappa and 70 rupees for Bhalla papdi. Dwarka folks have given me lots of love and support.”
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And he is right. K.K Sharma, resident of Dwarka Sector 22, says, "I have been coming here especially to have a serving of chaat for the last 15 years. In the beginning, it was just a small cart and now, he has set up chaat vans across Dwarka. I love their dahi golgappe and bhalla chaat.”
There are three more 'Pooran Sing Chaat Bhandar' vans in Dwarka, in Sector 23, 19 and in Goyla Dairy village.
While talking about his daily routine, Pooran Singh says, “I wake up at around 4 am in the morning and start cooking,. I prepare everything myself, from Golgappe, tikki, papdi, bhalle to my special homemade masala. That is the secret ingredient of my chaat”.
He further says, “I have four sons and they all help me run my business. They also help with the preparation of the food. All of them are working in different vans to support me.”
Pankaj Singh, the grandson of Pooran Singh, says, “My grandpa is very hard working. From my childhood, I have always seen him working with full dedication. He cooks with his heart for everyone and that's something all of us have learned from him.”
The Covid pandemic has broken the backbone of these street vendors. While talking about how Covid affected his life and business, Pooran says, “This is our only source of earning and when the government announced the first lockdown, I was hopeless and worried. We did not know how long we would have to wait. I and my family faced lots of difficulties. We needed the money. I also tested positive during the second wave of Covid. That was a very hard period for all of us.”
Pooran Singh considers himself extremely fortunate, having grown up in a small one-room home, he was able to build his own home in his village of Goyla Dairy. He now leads a happy and peaceful life with his sons, daughters-in-law, nephews and grandchildren.
While concluding our conversation, Pooran says, “Maybe this is the last time we are having this conversation as I might stop coming here because of my knee pain. I have been working from last 20 years and now my body is not allowing me to work as efficiently.”
And then there was time for some life lessons. Says Pooran," One should never run from hard work. You will make mistakes for sure but learn from them and keep going and if you feel weak or low, pick up your phone and listen to the song ‘Ruk jana nahi tu kahi harke’. I still listen to this song whenever I feel sad or low." And then he gets busy setting up another plate of his much loved and spicy chaat for another eagerly waiting customer.