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Thursday, September 24, 2020

In Amritsar’s walled city, pandemic takes a toll on famous food joints

While the walled city is known for its sumptuous food and famous eateries, its dense population and congested lanes have made it a high-risk zone amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | July 24, 2020 8:03:48 pm
Amritsar eating joints, Amritsar coronavirus cases, Amritsar famous food joints, India news, Indian Express Girdhari Lal selling Halva. He makes call on permanent customers to buy Halva, when he don’t find enough customers. in Amritsar on Saturday, July 18 2020. (EXPRESS PHOTO BY RANA SIMRANJIT SINGH)

The famous ‘Kesar Da Dhaba’ in the narrow lanes of the walled city in Amritsar was closed for two weeks last month after becoming part of containment zone. The kitchen fires have been lit again at the dhaba, but customers are a rare sight.

While the walled city is known for its sumptuous food and famous eateries, its dense population and congested lanes have made it a high-risk zone amid the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s the reason that food outlet owners here are suffering huge losses.

“Whenever anyone comes, we ask them to sanitise their hands and then we sanitise the table. We again sanitise table when customers are done eating. But not many customers have been coming. We are not sure when it is going to be normal. We have been selling online, but overall sales have been impacted,” said Ramesh, owner of Kesar Dhaba.

“Our business will improve only if Delhi will recover from the coronavirus because only then airports will open and tourists will be allowed to come from the other states and countries. Most of our business comes from tourists and they are not coming to the city right now. I don’t think government can do much to help us,” said Ashawani Vaid, manager Bharavan Da Dhaba, another famous food joint in the walled city.

Amritsar eating joints, Amritsar coronavirus cases, Amritsar famous food joints, India news, Indian Express Kulcha Land has now vacant tables that too when half of the tables have been removed to maintain social distancing in Amritsar on Saturday, July 18 2020. (EXPRESS PHOTO BY RANA SIMRANJIT SINGH)

Walled city is equally famous for small food stalls and street markets, which are popular with locals and tourists.

Street food market, Ganj Di Mori, is a perfect example of an area where locals as well as tourists like to eat.

From vegetarian to non-vegetarian food and sweet dishes everything here represents the local taste.

Famous for his ‘Gur and Sujji Da Halva’, Girdhari Lal has had many permanent customers for the last 35 years.

Talking to The Indian Express, Girdhari Lal said: “I have not seen something like this in my lifetime. I have many customers who would come to me for twice or thrice in a week to eat halva. I will also have tourists. But now local customers are also not coming. So sometimes, when I am left with Halva at closing of the stall, and then I try to call some of my permanent customers and request them to buy the remaining halva. Most of them buy it from me due to our personal relations of years but still it is very tough time for all of us. I don’t know when it would end and normal business will resume.”

Another stall owner, Surinder, added:”It’s very difficult to change food habits but coronavirus has shown that fear of death can overpower the love for food. I have been selling puri and aaloo-cholay for last 20 years. It is a kind of breakfast for many locals and shopkeepers in the walled city. They cannot live without it. But now very few people come. Some of my customers told me that they would again start eating after coronavirus is over,”

Amritsar eating joints, Amritsar coronavirus cases, Amritsar famous food joints, India news, Indian Express Giyan Di Lassi has few drinkers due to COVID-19 in Amritsar on Saturday, July 18 2020. (EXPRESS PHOTO BY RANA SIMRANJIT SINGH)

In normal times, customers would struggle to find a table at the Kulcha Land, the famous Amritsari Kulcha makers in Ranjit Avenue. However, things are different now. Half the tables have been removed to maintain social distancing, and still the occupancy is not 100 per cent.

“Our Kulcha is famous in the world but now the world cannot come to us due to coronavirus. I have reduced my workforce to half as most of them have gone back to their villages. I think this year is already wasted and we hope that we will start recovering from next year,” said owner Pawandeep Singh.

Famous Beera chicken on the Majitha Road is still not open for the customers. It is only accepting online orders.

“I have not opened the restaurant. We are selling only online. I have employed some boys to deliver the food at homes. Now we are depending only on the local customers and local customers have also not been calling in big numbers. We are not only suffering due to lack of tourists but initially we also suffered due to rumours that coronavirus spreads from chicken,” said Gurpreet Singh, owner of Beera Chicken.

He added, “I have increased at least Rs 20 per kg for every dish so that supply chain can recover some losses caused by fake news.”

Harjeet Singh, owner, Makhan Fish, blamed the government policy for adding to their woes.

He said: “I do not understand what government wants to do. It has allowed buses to run with at least 60 passengers each. But government has permitted only 50 persons that too in restaurant of at least 5,000 sq feet. Do you find any logic behind these two parameters related to Covid-19? Also there are orders that shops should be shut down by 8.30 pm when it is time for people to start coming out of their homes to have dinner outside.”

The pandemic has not even spared Gian Di Lassi, a must stop outlet while returning from the Golden Temple. Established in 1921, Gian Di Lassi is famous for lassi and its special khoeya milk sweet dish.

“We are left with 25 per cent of our business. Tourists are not coming. School and colleges are closed so students are not coming. Our labourers had gone to their home states through Sharamik trains and now they are also not able to return due to unavailability of trains,” said Mohinderpal Thakur, owner of Gian Di Lassi.

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