The messengers had arrived with the king’s missive. They pounded the nagadas hard and as soon as they had the villagers’ attention, they made the announcement – Maharaja Jai Singh II was building a planned city, the first in the area near Amer, and he was inviting people to shift base from the nearby villages. The year was 1727. Ghodhamal, a halwai in Tonk, promptly migrated with his family and set up shop in Partaniyo ka Raasta, a street in the famous Johari Bazaar of Jaipur.
Generations ran the sweet shop in this lane till Seth Maliram Ghodawat, the 16th generation owner, decided to move the shop to the main road, sometime in the 1940s, where it stands even today. “We claim to be as old as Jaipur, which was founded in 1727,” says Ajay Agarwal, owner of the shop, Jaipur’s famous Laxmi Misthan Bhandar. Now known by its acronym LMB, it is the go-to place for the traditional Rajasthani thali — daal-baati-churma, missi roti, ker sangri, papad mangodi ki sabzi et al. Known for being pure vegetarian, it started using onion and garlic in 2001 to match the changing tastes of the people. Of its sweets, paneer ghewar is a speciality, along with doodh feeni, gulab sakri, sohan halwa, among others.
The family opened a restaurant in 1954 — till then, only sweets and savouries had been sold. Nine years later, it made way for a three-star hotel called Hotel LMB. The hotel complex, a three storey building, houses a sweet shop, a fast-food counter, a restaurant and 33 rooms. “My grandfather didn’t have a lot of money, but he built his business smartly using loans from the government and private players,” says Agarwal, who runs the business along with his father Radhey Shyam Agarwal, younger brother Sanjay Agarwal, and son Ananya Agarwal. “It is a very tedious job. The working hours are long and every process has to be supervised. Whether it is man, material or money, managing it requires a lot of effort,” he says.
The royal family of Jaipur has been a patron of the shop for long, as have been many chief ministers of Rajasthan. Artist MF Husain was also a regular customer. During one of her India visits, former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had also stopped over at the shop. “When Bill Clinton was in Jaipur, he was told to visit LMB, but for some reason he couldn’t. So sweets and snacks from here were taken for him,” Agarwal says, adding that the Sultan of Oman, Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said, once persuaded him to open a shop there. “But we wanted to take up a task only when we could do it well,” he says.
LMB doesn’t have a full-fledged branch, but there are small outlets at the Jaipur International Airport and Bikaner House in Delhi. “We don’t want to compromise on the quality. One can branch out with two-three products, but not with the whole inventory. We’re a very small family that is running it… let’s see if we can take it to new heights. But in another year, the size of this shop will double,” says Agarwal.