Feb 2, 2008

The Great Panipuri Expedition

This is something I wrote for a DCC assignment in 2006. DCC or design concepts and concerns is a course that one goes through in foundation(frst year) at NID. This excercise involved us going out and studying roadside "businesses" and preparing a business model for them. Each group covered different things- bhajiwalas, omlette-walas, gola-walas, panipuri-walas and more.

read on.


It was a hot day and people were dozing off in class.To be honest the only thing that kept me sort of awake was the fear that I would be photographed when i was floating away in dreamland. I was pulled out of my blissful state on hearing the word 'ASSIGNMENT'. I had alarm bells ringing in my head.."huh?what assignment?but I'm too sleepy!"..And then Ranjan said the other magic word-"outside". Woohoo...we had to go out for the assignment AND we had the weekend for it. Translation- Sleep now work later. I made my way to my group to find out what exactly the assignment was. We had to make a business model for the panipuri business. Panipuri shops open only in the evenings.Life couldn't get any better. It was too easy.

I mean, how difficult is it to make a panipuri anyways? Make a hole in the puri, stuff some aaloo inside, fill it up with khatta or meeta pani and shove it into your mouth.As simple as that.

Yeah right.

I found out how wrong I was. It was the next morning at the studio. We were all furiously working to make our sfs submissions. Rashmi and Dimple were quite dismayed to see us all still in the insti.

Rashmi came upto our group and said-"oh, you got panipuriwalas. But why are u still here?Go out and see the panipuriwalas at work!"
"But they don't open till 5pm"
Rashmi-"You guys should have gone out at 5am and seen them preparing for the evening"

Now, I'm quite slow in the head towards the end of the week, especially if I'm trying to finish last minute stuff for submission. And what Rashmi said just completely confused an-already-spaced-out me. Why on earth would they start preparing twelve hours earlier? Its a panipuri for God's sake!
But nevertheless we went. We left at 3pm to look for panipuriwalas. We managed to find one in his house. And THEN i found out why they need twelve hours..

I always thought those guys BUY the puris and sell them off at their laaris.But NO..they MAKE them. Two thousand five hundred a day on average. They actually make the damn things!! The panipuriwalas are up from 4am preparing for the evening. Would anyone ever dream that these guys start working before sunrise and keep going till after sunset?

There are a lot of things to do before actually taking the cart out onto the roads and selling panipuri. Puris have to be made, potato and channa have to be boiled, chutney has to be ground and the pani has to be mixed.

The puri making takes up most of the day. Around five kilos of atta is used. The dough is made and really small balls are made at an amazing speed. Oil is spread on them. They are then flattened into tiny chappathis. This is done either with a roller or by machine. When all the puris are done, they are fried. While the puri preparation is going on, the potatoes are boiled. The puris are fried around 1.30pm. The laaris are loaded and the men leave at 4pm to their respective locations and set up shop. They normally stay there till 10pm or so and return home.

As everywhere, the panipuriwalas face problems from the AMC and the police. This was evident from the fact that they were quite reluctant to talk about them. A license is required for selling panipuri on the roads. This license allows the men to stay only in the lanes. But when they come out onto the main roads they face the risk of having their carts taken away by the police. The carts are either purchased(Rs5000- Rs.15000) or rented(Rs.20 a day). Each day's investment depends on the previous days earnings.

The panipuriwalas seemed secretive when talking about their profession. While some of them agreed to talk with us, the rest tried to avoid questions or lied to us about certain things. One man said he made a profit of only Rs.80 a day. But on the contrary when we calculated we found that panipuriwalas make quite a bundle everyday. On an average they earn about Rs.800-Rs1200 a day.
Many of them actually thought we were from the tax department and that we were going to conduct a raid on them! Now in this respect, I think they were being overly paranoid. Nidans are easily recognised anywhere by Amdavadis. Like we have a stamp on our heads or something. Some people say its our clothes(ripped jeans, cut up t-shirts, oversized kurtas, oshos and jholas). After 6 months of having people point at me and say "NID!nid!" to each other, i was quite surprised that the panipuriwalas actually thought we were officials of some sort!!I mean..come on, do I look like one?

There are panipuris and there are panipuris.
Some panipuris are bad. Some are good. And some are excellent.

The panipuriwala outside Agashiye has got to be the best panipuriwala here.They are EXTREMELY hygienic and the puris are damn tasty. They don't mash the potatoes-its all chopped up. The channa and the aaloo are added separately, they aren't mixed. The puris aren't dipped in the water. They use a special ladle for filing up water in the puris. And the meeta pani...I could actually taste jaggery in it. And it costs the same five Rupees.

But then there are panipuriwalas who sell substandard stuff. There's a guy in Vastrapur who sells such panipuris. The meeta pani was an unearthly shade of orange and the khatta pani was equally gruesome looking. I fell ill after eating at his shop. Interestingly, when we asked him if he ate the panipuris that he made, he said -"no.I don't like panipuri"..He probably got grossed out by his own food.

At the end of one weekend of hogging panipuris and falling sick and hogging some more, I can proudly say that I have got a better understanding of the business. Its not as easy as it seems to be. Handling ten customers, each with a specification for the puri, is not easy. But they do it. They enjoy their profession. Which is what matters in the end.

Shreyas R Krishnan
Foundation (batch 2005)

Dimple Soni and Rashmi Korjan were the faculty who took DCC along with MP Ranjan.

Being photographed in class---thats how Ranjan takes attendance, and knows whether you've been paying attention in class. He clicks pictures of the class while talking. Simple no?

1 comment:

Madhura said...

oy- just bumped into your blog...i love the wrappers!!! :) post more- postmore!!