Pravin Rathod’s shop does not have a signboard. Instead, it is the aroma of the bhajjis being fried crisp that pulls crowds of people to his shop every evening. “I don’t need a signboard. I believe in quality and I keep my customers happy,” he explains.
Rathod is the fourth generation of his family to run this shop that was started 74 years back. It was started by his grandmother, the late Tarabai Rathod who came to Pune in 1942 from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She passed away two years back. A picture of his grandmother hangs on the wall of the shop.
“She had really seen Pune grow into the city that it is today. She clearly remembered the times when M G Road was called Main Street. While the British were ruling, Indians weren’t allowed on Main Street after four in the evening. She witnessed what the city went through when the Panshet Dam broke in 1961,” narrates Rathod while frying the bhajjis.
Rathod has a graduate degree with a special focus in marketing from Pune University. He was earlier a vendor for Mid-Day and worked as an office assistant at the Pune branch for The Hindu. He left his job to handle the shop full time and is very satisfied with what he does.
The speciality of this shop around the corner is the moong dal bhajjis that are crisp on the outside but soft on the inside and leave a spicy aftertaste in your mouth. The second food item to try here is the palak bhajji. Tiny spinach leaves are dipped in a gram flour-based batter that is spiced with a variety of condiments and fried till hot and crunchy. To accompany the bhajjis, a spicy red chutney made with red chilli powder and tamarind is a great way turn up the heat in your mouth.
Rathod’s customers are a loyal bunch and they have been coming to the shop ever since his grandmother ran it. His customers belong to different communities but it is the bhajjis that bring them together.
“My father is 82 years’ old and he is paralysed. But, he sends me here every day so that I can pack some hot bhajjis for him. I am the second generation of customers that has been coming to this shop,” says Aziz Pardiwala.
“I have been coming here since 15 years but the taste of his snacks hasn’t changed one bit,” states Rustom Patel, who was introduced to Rathod’s shop by his father.
The taste of the bhajjis remains the same but so do other things. Rathod has not changed the way his shop looked since his grandmother started it. The doors have not been replaced with sturdier ones. He even continues to use the same glass box that his grandmother used to store the bhajjis in.
“My grandmother started off by using coal, then she shifted to kerosene and now I use gas. That’s the only thing that has changed here, nothing else,” remarks Rathod while looking around his shop where the walls are painted blue.
Rathod has two school going children. On being asked if he would ever consider letting them take care of the shop once he is unable to, he responded with a smile saying, “Time changes, taste changes, education changes. I cannot say for certain. I’ll have to wait for another 10 years and watch what happens then.”
Where: 908 Booty Street, Opposite Railway Reservation Centre.
Timings: 5 pm-10 pm
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