Vajpayee leaves behind a foodie trail in Lucknow
Lucknow : Former Prime Minister and five-time MP from Lucknow Atal Bihari Vajpayee leaves behind memories of the foodie in him.
"Before his health deteriorated after a paralytic stroke about a decade back, Lakhnavi food always topped his list," recalls an old-timer of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. He says not only did the three-time prime minister have a sweet tooth, he also liked 'chatpata' (spicy).
A close aide told IANS that Vajpayee loved 'dudhiya barfi' from a shop in Raja Bazaar, 'malai paan' from Ram Asrey and Babulal's bada-makkhan or 'thandai.' At times he would pass through narrow lanes of old Lucknow for his favorite 'gol-gappas' and 'chaat papdi'.
"I remember how his staff would order his favourite sweets in advance much before his arrival. Most of the times it was on personal request of Vajpayee ji," says a staff member at the famous sweets shop Ram Asrey.
Vishal Khanna, a BJP worker of Lucknow, says there were occasions when Vajpayee would randomly walk into shops to have 'chaat' and have impromptu dinners for party workers. Sometimes he cooked himself.
Raj Kumar Tripathi of the famous Raja Thandai, credits much of the popularity of his shop to Vajpayee. "There would be endless 'chakallas' (gossip) sessions of Atal ji and his poet friends. There would also be some political chit-chat involving him and his close friends at our shop, run at that time by my father, Vinod Kumar Tripathi," says Tripathi.
"He was a very simple man, uninhibited...he looked so much like us," says Tripathi.
A party functionary says that despite being a diabetic, he was so fond of special milk pudding (dudhiya barfi) made at Trivedi Mishthan Bhandar in Raja Bazaar that at times it was sent by air from Lucknow to Vajpayee's 7, Race Course Road residence in New Delhi.
Tiwari Chaat of Latoosh Road and steaming hot 'poories' from Bajpayi Poori Bhandar at Hazratganj were also his favourites, residents say.
Virendra Nath Chaturvedi, an octogenarian who has followed the political career of Vajpayee, says Vajpayee came across as a commoner to most people. "That made him stand apart from other politicians. Can you think of any politician today who could stop by for 'chaat' or sweets at a shop and have a bit," wondered Chaturvedi, his wrinkled face hardly hiding his emotions, as he watched the last rites of the former Lucknow MP.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)