Jammuites deserve better living conditions

Aerial view on Bagh-E-Bahu park and Jammu city with Tawi river . Beauty of nature in garden

Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
My maternal grandmother lived like a true aristocrat in Jammu. Well ironed traditional Punjabi salwars, long kurtas or kameez with full sleeves and buttoned cuffs, long heavy dupatta, a stylish waistcoat and shining pure leather sandals made by the expert cobblers of Fattu Di Chogan defined her everyday dressing.
Her pockets were always full of dry fruits, which she loved to distribute to us grandchildren. Her eating habits included choicest fruits, select portions of mutton or chicken, and milk, with adequate amount of vegetables and dry fruits thrown in.
Wife of a tehsildar of good old times, she relished eating round rusks topped with milk cream sprinkled with grains of sugar and cinnamon powder. These rusks were regularly procured from a select bakery near the renowned Raghunath temple.
This special baker was called Jai Hind Bakery founded by one Durga Dass Mahajan sometime in the fifties. It was, and still is, located on the left side of the road as you proceed towards Tourist Reception Centre from Raghunath temple.
Today, the business of Jai Hind Bakery stands divided between first cousins. Vijay Mahajan retains the brand Jai Hind whilst the other half is nameless.
I learn they have four more establishments in the city; Gandhi Nagar, Trikuta Nagar, Chhanni Himmat and Talab Tillo.
The old and the original shop is divided into two separate establishments. All the six branches are doing roaring business across the city.
Though there are many other bakers in the city today, Jai Hind still remains a name to reckon with. Their list of products has expanded manifolds and so has the clientele.
I have tasted their products presently and find them of good quality.
The other big brand name I will like to speak of is Pahelwan’s and Dayal Bakers.
In the mid sixties, my cousin Suminder and I used to rush to Pir Mitha bazar every evening to savour rabri, a mildly sweetened product of thick layers of milk cream.
Near Pir Mitha chowk, a pahelwan ( wrestler) called Anant Ram Abrol used to sell the most delicious rabri of those days. Every evening, he would squat in a corner of the gully on a seat made of wooden plank placed over an open drain, dishing out his milk product from a round deep plate of about two feet diameter.
His clientale was almost fixed and the rabri would be over in about three to four hours.
Anant Ram never compromised on the quality of his preparation, which earned him good name and fortune. He kept growing at a fast pace.
Within a few years, Anant Ram Abrol could manage to own a proper shop at the same spot to sell his rabri and that was the beginning of a well known food chain of Jammu, Pahelwan Di Hatti.
Today, there are several outlets of Pahelwan’s in the city and the range of products has grown manifold. Rabri, the original product has taken a back seat. The sweetmeats are produced and sold in tons every day.
Several varieties of chaats, namkeemns and delicious savouries are doled out to the ever growing clientale. Evey time I visit the city, I try to patronise this shop of sweets. But, sadly, they have not maintained the quality of their products befitting their reputation.
A few times they sold me stale and sour ras malai and their famous kalari kulcha I find disappointing.
So strong is the strength of the goodwill established by Anant Ram Abrol and his sons that they will take several years more before relinquishing their top spot in the business, in account if growing competition and dwindling quality, to vendors like Prem Sweets and a few others.
So, I thought of visiting their flagship store, the original Pahelwan Di Hatti in Pir Mitha chowk. To my pleasant surprise, the shop served me real good ras malai !! I hope such quality is maintained each day, in every outlet.
Chocolate barfi is something Jammu can call it’s very own presentation to the lovers of sweetmeats made of milk.
During my college days in Jammu, I would consume a quarter of a kilo of chocolate barfi at a time, all by myself ! And, I used to get it carted all across India, wherever I was posted, during my tenure with the Indian Air Force. Rawalpindi Sweets was one of the best makers of chocolate barfi in good old times, but, sadly, no more.
Over the years, the quality of this delicacy has gone so bad that I have stopped eating it, leave alone getting it to Mumbai where I stay.
Like any other city, Jammu has a complete department to supervise the quality of food items sold so that citizens’ health is not impaired.
May I request the district administration to begin with a strict campaign checking the milk products that are consumed by the tons each day ? Quality of milk products like sweets and the milk itself must be monitored on the strictest parameters.
My tastebuds tell me that the khoya products are tempered with non milk ingredients, which amounts to cheating the trusting buyers. Besides, such adulteration definitely affects citizens’ health.
The overall deficiency in quality of many products is visible. There were times when paneer and curds used to be of the highest quality in Jammu ; this is not true anymore. Interestingly, it used to be the only city in India where curd and milk were sold at the same price !!
Rice of Ranbir Singh Pura, rajma from Bhaderwah, honey from Kishtwar and Rajouri, and desi ghee from the hills of Jammu, besides kalaris from Udhampur were the quality products we used to enjoy during the times we were growing in this City of Temples.
But, these days, we get good quality rice and better quality rajma in Mumbai at very competitive prices. Desi ghee is no longer of the quality we were used to. About honey, the lesser said, the better it is.
That utter commercialization has taken away the sheen from the lives of Jammuites is only one aspect of the problem. Commerce is not a bad word. You can increase the prices as per the prevailing market dynamics, but, for heaven’s sake, don’t take away the quality and okay with health of the citizens.
Give us the quality we deserve as the indulgent paymasters and discerning consumers.
As children, we used to look forward to our summer school vacations when we could visit Jammu and enjoy the goodies and spend quality time at a leisurely pace of life.
The goodies are far less good these days ! We the kids used to eat all kinds of sweets made from the hands of Jagan Nath, popular as Kaka Halwai, in Malhotra Street.
I recall green barfi with banana flavor, coconut based barfi with pink color, steaming hot puris with delicious kabuli chana and that Dogra delicacy called oriaa.
Crispy mongra made from the fried droplets of gram flour, along with fried moong dal were the delicacies Jagan Nath would prepare every evening around four, in pure Desi ghee ! Many times, this mongra was cooked like a dish for the dinner too.
As I searched for this childhood memory of ours, I found readymade clothes, mostly ladies’ nighties, hanging in the shop we knew as Kake Di Hatti !!
In good old days, there were very many Street side vendors used to sell booked colocasia popularly called “kachalu” topped with onion seeds and red colored tamarind chutney. Next to the famous rajma, kachalus were the most popular local food item-cum- snack-cum-savoury-cum appetizer of Jammu.
Dozens of shops, rehris and vendors sold kachalus and rajma chawal on the streets and gullies of the city. Alas, there are, but a few such vendors in the city today. Samosas, kachalus and rajma chawal have been largely replaced by patties, doughnuts, kalari-kulcha and the likes.
Even the famous pakora shops at the crossing of Jain Bazar, Raj Tilak Road and Purani Mandi have vanished giving way to shops selling clothes.
It appears Jammuites are obsessed with clothes. Or, else, are they so short of clothes that every visible shop in the old city seems to have been converted to a clothing store ?
With so many shops selling clothes in the city, this City of Temples seems to have been converted into Manchester of the North India !