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Families in Food: South Delhi’s 70-year-old sweet shop with a view of Qutub Minar

In Mehrauli, a bite of mithai and a slice of Delhi’s past.

Window into the past: An array of sweets on display.

How about admiring the towering Qutub Minar while munching on sweets from a shop the 12th century monument in south Delhi overlooks?

Pt Siya Ram Sweets, in Mehrauli village, has two outlets in the same area. Its new outlet is located near the bus depot right in the middle of the Mehrauli market after one crosses the Qutub Minar precinct and the plush designer studios dotting One Style Mile. Its older shop is tucked away in a lane inside the main Mehrauli market.

The shop dates back to 1949 when Pandit Siya Ram migrated to Mehrauli from Bupania village in Bahadurgarh (now part of the National Capital Region), in Haryana’s Jhajjar district. “He set up a small shop in the Doodh Waali Gali of Mehrauli where he started selling milk. If some milk was left at the end of the day, he made khoya, milk barfi, rabri, and kalakand. The seed he had sown then has borne fruit now,” Pandit Siya Ram’s grandson Sanjay Sharma, 48, says.

On a cold winter morning, the shop is abuzz as people queue up to taste their chosen dish. There is hardly any place to stand even outside the shop. Some dig into chhola bhatura, others, into a wide variety of sweets, and yet others sip piping hot milk. The regulars know this is a place that has enough to please their palate: mouth-watering kalakand, gajar ka halwa, rasmalai, raj bhog are just a few items on their extensive menu.

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After the death of his father Prem Chand Sharma, Sanjay and his two elder brothers, Mahender, 55, and Narender, 50 took over the running of the business. “While they look after the older shop, we now have a fourth generation stepping in. My nephew Vasu Sharma, 25, is helping me run our second outlet. This outlet was opened 14 years ago,” he says.

After the death of his father Prem Chand Sharma, Sanjay and his two elder brothers, Mahender, 55, and Narender, 50 took over the running of the business.

Back in the day, Mehrauli was a sprawling, open area, where residents often helped run each other’s business through a system of barter. “We often gave our clients milk in exchange of flour. That’s how a sense of community grew up among the residents of the area,” says Sanjay.

Today, the bazaar is congested, with its arterial lanes vanishing into each other and shoppers and foodies jostling for space. “People from 92 villages used to come to this shop then. As more establishments have sprung up, many of the older, familiar faces have stopped coming,” he says.

That, however, doesn’t mean the shop has seen a decline in its footfall. To keep pace with the competition, it has added more items to the menu. Its popular snacks include samosa, chhola bhatura, sabzi kachori and dhokla. Milk sweets, paneer and lassi continue to be preferred by those with a taste for them.

The shop uses buffalo milk to make its products and sources it from a gaushala in Vasant Kunj’s Masoodpur. During winters, gajar ki barfi and halwa, and moong dal ki barfi are not to be missed. “What’s different about our gajar ka halwa is that we finely grate carrot and mash it in the milk,” says Sharma.

Other winter specialities include matar-gobhi ke samose and methi ke ladoo. During summers, lassi is served in kulhad, besides kulfi falooda and lauki ki barfi, to beat the heat. As monsoon arrives, ghewar starts selling like hot cakes.

Sanjay has his eyes set on the future. “We’re thinking of opening a restaurant as people no longer prefer just sweets these days. Fitness ka zamana hai. Also, today, people are busy and tend to opt for home delivery,” he says.

This article appeared in print with the headline: ‘Families in Food: Milky Bar’