Where have all the matkas disappeared on Pani Puri stalls in Srinagar?
Aakash Hassan/ Zafar Aafaq
Srinagar–Evaporation causes cooling; it is a scientific phenomenon that has given birth to the business and culture of selling and eating Panipuri in South Asia.
The Panipuri vendors have an earthen matka (pots) containing a mixture of flavored water. However, in the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, instead of matka the vendors keep water in steel containers.
This change, Panipuri lovers say, has spoiled their taste. “The steel containers ruin the flavor,” complained Faizan, a teenager from Dalgate area, while relishing the hollow crisp puris at Boulevard road.
But why are Matkas missing?
Panipuri vendors, who are mostly non-locals, blame IG Traffic, Basant Rath for the “undesirable change”.
“He comes with aplomb, pulls the matka and drops it on the road. The matka is shattered,” said Rajan, a vendor selling Pani Puris by the Dal Lake on Boulevard road, who hails from Udhampur area of Jammu region.
Rajan is selling Pani Puris for last six years on the roads of Srinagar. “For the first five years the traffic cops would reprimand us for setting carts on the pedestrian way,” Rajan said, “we would play hide and seek with them.”
But Basant has his own style, he chases bikers, he slaps and gets slapped by violators.
There is no sight of matkas on Pani Puri stalls in Srinagar. “The IG has shattered them all,” Sourab Kumar, another panipuri vendor said in a woeful tone. “This is a total injustice against a poor vendor.”
The vendors have not given up setting stalls wherever they find a spot. The anti-matka policy has compelled them to keep water in steel container ringed with ice cubes. “We spend Rs 50 on ice cubes every day, with matkas this was a saving,” Kumar said.
When twp tried to contact Basant Rath for comment, there was no response to phone calls from his side.
However, once the story was widely shared on the internet, IGP traffic Basant Rath tweeted about Pani Puri.
Hug. Beg. Plead. Touch your chin. Touch their chin. Shout. Argue. Then go beyond. Good, bad and indifferent. Get the job done. Paani-puri can wait. The taste, that is.
— Basant (@KangriCarrier) July 14, 2018
(some names have been changed on request)