A man is waving at the speeding auto rickshaws here on Lodhi Road. But he is not going anywhere. It’s just his job. To signal the auto drivers to slow down, and urge them to stop by for a late lunch at the adjacent pavement eatery.
This late afternoon, it’s almost evening, scores of autos are parked by the Gupta Vaishno Khana. Some of the grey uniformed drivers are supping in the privacy of their auto’s passenger seat. Others, eager to stretch their strained arms and legs, are ambling about under the eatery’s blue tarpaulin roof, which is noisily flapping in the cold breeze. Everything is in open air, including the kitchen. The stall’s nucleus is a cart loaded with dal and veggies. While two men are busily making rotis on a tandoor perched right on the pave.
The eatery owner, the friendly Gopal Gupta, confirms that auto drivers and cab drivers are his principal patrons. “Sometimes the drivers are hauling “lambi sawari” along long distances and miss out on their lunch hour… but many of them know that we continue to serve the lunch until 5pm.” He ferrets out the essentials of his typical meal. “Four things are constant — tandoori roti, chawal, paneer naan, boondi raita and dal makhani… our subzi changes daily.” Today it’s matar paneer (very tasty!)
The stall was founded by Gopal’s father, Ramji Lal Gupta, who passed in 2009. “I’m not sure of the exact year our place came into existence but the oldest parchi (document) of the business dates to 1979.” The stall’s location and the look has stayed the same, he informs. The autos that stop here though have undergone transformations over the decades—from the extinct black autos that ran on diesel to the ones in green-and-yellow that run on CNG. And now electric autos, the ones in blue, are popping up on the roads. Lodhi Road itself has changed so much—there was no India Habitat Center in 1979 (it came up in 1983).
Indeed, it makes sense for any speeding citizen to apply the brakes here, and experience a landmark that has stayed unchanged in our changing world. While here, do look out for the tattoo on the owner’s right arm—it’s a hooded snake.