On the Delhi-Haryana corridor,the Grand Trunk Road is a tarred finger pushing through fallow fields,factories and farmland. On its left shoulder after Sonepat comes a hamlet that never sleeps Murthal. The reason for Murthals insomnia is the large number of 24×7 dhabas located there,some 50 years old. Of these,Amrik Sukhdev Dhaba or Sukhdevs as it is popularly known,is one of the most checked-in places on Facebook in 2013,in the country.
Over here,the parantha is to the highway what Maggi is to the hills,and Murthal ke paranthe have become a byword in NCR parlance,thanks largely to Sukhdevs tandoor paranthas. Started in 1956 by Sardar Parkash Singh and now run by his sons Amrik and Sukhdev,the dhaba has evolved from a pit stop for hungry truckers to a haunt for holiday makers,business travellers,college traders and seemingly anyone with free time who lives nearby. Even in the middle of a week,it is packed to the brim. The management is currently busy with the opening of a pakka building coming up (next week) behind the dhaba,which will house a restaurant and motel.
Parking attendants usher your vehicle into the multilayered parking just off the National Highway as trucks and volvos scream by. The dhaba is not so much a stall as a hall,its voluminous dimensions sequestered in tenting and pillars swathed in red rexine. The central space is given to wooden and metal benches and tables which are surrounded by food counters and shops. The tables are packed with locals,tourists,policemen and college students. Its barely 40 minutes from here to North Campus on a normal traffic day. We go to the other dhabas as well,but mostly to Sukhdev. They have the largest variety, says Aditya,a DU student on an indefinite lunch break with a couple of friends.
A glance at the menu proves Aditya right. Apart from dhaba staples such as stuffed paranthas,dals and subzis (of which it has myriad varieties) Sukhdev offers chaat,South Indian,Chinese and Continental fare,the last of which includes sandwiches,pizzas and even pasta in white and red sauces. However,like all the dhabas in this particular belt,the food is all vegetarian since Murthal is a religious site on the pilgrim route. As for drinks,one can get everything from lassi and milkshakes to Red Bull and caramel macchiatos and all the fizzy,caffeinated and milky options in between.
However,its the tandoor parantha that holds a special place in peoples hearts and orders. These are healthier versions of paranthas,cooked in a tandoor without oil but the health bit can be undone by the copious amounts of white butter that accompany them. Aloo,pyaaz,mooli,and paneer,all paranthas are served with a glacier of the stuff in stainless steel katoris while the sunmica-topped tables are accoutred with pickled onions,tart lime pickle,spicier mixed pickle and gargantuan green chilies. I come here three times a week,and whatever else I have,I always eat at least one aloo-pyaaz parantha, says Manish Bhasin,an engineer working on a construction site in neighbouring Sonepat. Indeed,almost every table has some form of the celebrated tandoori paranthas,which are Rs 38 a piece. The regular tawa paranthas come at Rs 48 a piece. For dessert,most people favour the treacle-like kheer and the delicate but decadent jalebis made with shuddh desi ghee.
After all that ghee,a digestive is certainly needed. Among the stores on the side,is a churan ki dukaan,apart from a toy store,a CD shop (fully loaded USB also available),a handicrafts emporium,a clothing house and yes,clean,functional toilets. There are even a couple of ATM machines to convert plastic into paper. Despite being on a 2,000-year-old road,Sukhdev dhaba has clearly kept up with the times.