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Phuchkas with a twist

Like Kalighat temple,Victoria Memorial,the Hooghly Bridge and roshogolla,phuchka is an integral part of the spirit of Kolkata.

Written by Sreecheta Das | Published: March 6, 2011 1:39:16 am

Geeta Pandit,whose phuchka is a hit among food connoisseurs,has her customers’ health in mind

Like Kalighat temple,Victoria Memorial,the Hooghly Bridge and roshogolla,phuchka is an integral part of the spirit of Kolkata. And anyone who claims to be a connoisseur of the gastronomic delights the city has to offer must have had Geeta Pandit’s sweet and sour phuchka.

Sitting in a dimly lit stretch of the pavement in front of Lake Kalibari at Southern Avenue,Geeta has created a niche for herself in the minds of phuchka lovers. This is evident from the large number of cars that screech to a halt in front of her stall every evening.

Geeta has been running this stall single-handedly for the past 30 years. She wakes up at 6 am every day and prepares the ingredients till 3 pm — the spicy mix,the sweet and sour water,aloo dum and dahi mix for dahi phuchkas. Then she takes the train from Tollygunge and opens her shop,which stays open till 8 pm.

Geeta was 16 when she learnt to make her first phuchka from her father Vasudev Pandit. Vasudev ran a phuchka stall at Tollygunge. “I used to help him in his shop. I loved the way he used to feed people. Later I got married and started this shop here,” said Geeta.

However,Geeta’s phuchka is special for a different reason—she is one of the very few phuchka sellers in the city who prepare the tamarind water and sweet water mix with mineral water. “Health comes first. I want customers to enjoy my food and be safe at the same time. I don’t want them to fall sick,” comes Geeta’s simple reply. She uses about 4 litres of mineral water every day. On festive days,the amount is higher.

Doesn’t she feel bad during festivals like Durga puja and Kali puja,when the entire city is out pandal-hopping and she has to tend to the rush of customers at her stall? “No. when I was young,I felt a little bad,but not any longer. I love my work. I love feeding people and seeing them feel satisfied,” she said.

Named after her father-in-law Vilas Pandit,Geeta’s phuchka shop has earned a reputation and admirers from far and wide. She has got orders to set up stalls at marriage receptions in cities like Ranchi,Patna and Gaya. Her husband takes charge of the long-distance orders.

Her earnings from the stall have helped Geeta educate both her sons. She hopes they will carry her business forward.

“As a mother,I definitely want them to get jobs and do a lot in life,but this is the result of my relentless labour over the past 30 years,” she said,pointing at the signboard in front of her stall. “I hope the tradition does not die.”

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