By Raja Murthy
The grand Red Fort in Delhi looms as glowing citadel,with the setting sun bidding farewell to Lahore Gate in its western ramparts. Tourists queue up for the nightly “Sound and Light” show in the Red Fort lawns; lights of Chandni Chowk come alive, as centuries of time seem to merge in the twilight. Chandni Chowk, or Moon Market, is the originally crescent-shaped bazaar designed in 1650 by princess Jahan Ara, daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.Doing brisk business within five minutes walking distance from Red Fort is the 215-year old “Ghantewala Halwai,” one of Asia’s oldest sweet shops. It still sells delicacies that were savoured by Mughal emperors, from Shah Alam to last of the Mughals, the tragic Bahadur Shah Zafar. “Ghantewala” means “fellow with the bell.” Legend says a bell was rung to let Bahadur Shah Zafar know the latest batch of sweets was in. The last Mughal emperor had not much to do …
Near the ‘Fellow with the Bell’ is the “Paranthewale Gully” (“Street of Fellows Making Paranthas”), and the good fellows have been at it since 1872. Asia Times reported in 2010 that, “Here in Paranthewale Gully, the Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan restaurant has been serving India’s best paranthas — flat bread shallow fried here in healthy ghee (clarified butter).” The classic “aloo parantha” version comes made with mildly spiced mashed potatoes, with other popular editions including cauliflowers and cottage cheese. “Paranthewale Gully” and its mouth watering works are favorite of prime ministers, presidents and American ambassadors.
Read more in RV Smith’s narrative — from Emperor Shah Jahan’s recipe book to water carriers of Jama Masjid — in “Mughal culture continues to linger on” in Delhi, The Statesman, June 4, 2015