SUKKUR: When samosa vendor Athar Ali left his house to sell samosas one day, he decided to try a more innovative approach instead of shouting his usual slogan “come eat hot hot samosas”. “Aaj to parhey likhay samosay kha lo,” he called out to attract people towards his ‘educated samosas.’
Ali said that the slogan worked like magic and his sales shot up from 300 to almost 800 samosas per day. He has been selling samosas for the last 12 years and today he sells them for Rs24 per dozen.
An informal survey by The Express Tribune revealed that most people are looking for spicy snacks for Iftar, without caring for how the food would affect his health later. Those selling daal-filled samosas and rolls are making a fortune, because their products are comparatively cheaper than those filled with meat or vegetables. They sell samosas for Rs36 per dozen and rolls for Rs48 per dozen.
Saleh Mohammad sells boiled potatoes covered with a spicy sauce and grams which are thoroughly rinsed in a spicy liquid. His outlet is also always crowded, especially with girls, because after 14 hours of fasting people want spicy food.
“Arre baba, people can eat anything in Ramazan provided it is hot and spicy,” said an elderly pakora vendor, Gullu Mirbahar.
When The Express Tribune visited his stall near the Sukkur bypass, he was mixing pieces of stale pakoras in the freshly-made paste of gram flour. He explained that he was mixing the stale pakoras in the fresh paste so that the pakoras would become fresh again. “And by the way what is the harm in this?” he said, without feeling ashamed for his actions. According to Mirbahar, adding spices helps conceal the off-putting taste of stale food.
The old pakora vendor also reminisced about Chacha Shabbir, who used to sell pakoras in a small cabin at Jinnah Chowk. Regardless of whether it was Ramazan or not, people used to gather around his shop and continuously issue demands. “Chacha give me six potato cutlets and six green chilli pakoras,” demanded customers. “Chacha give me half a kilogramme of mixed pakoras.”
Most of his regular customers lived in the neighbourhood and so Chacha Shabbir gave them priority over others. His specialty was a thick spicy sauce made of tamarind and other spices, an essential condiment for the pakoras. After Shabbir’s death, his son Danish has taken over his business and managed to retain the customer base. Like his father, Danish also know how to attract customers. According to his customers, hundreds of people sell pakoras in Sukkur, but the sauce that Danish makes adds great taste to the pakoras and so the customers always come back for more.
Shopkeepers start preparing samosas, pakoras, chicken and vegetable rolls, pastries filled with minced beef and chicken, potato cutlets, green chilli pakoras, spinach pakoras, jalebis and kachoris in the afternoon to meet the heavy rush of the customers as Iftar approaches. People start gathering at their outlets as early as 4 pm and the crowd increases with every passing minute. Most of the vendors take out half-fried samosas and pakoras from their pans to pacify the shouting customers. The clientele also pushes and shoves each other to get ahead in the queue because they have to stand for at least half an hour or so before they can get their hands on the fried snacks.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.