Lakhpati Kachauri Walla

Balaganj

Satish Chandra is called Lakhpati (Millionaire) by the good people of Balaganj. He has been running the shop for the past 25 years. “I used to sell chaat in Balaganj earlier, but it has been 15 years since that stopped. I was very fond of food as a child, and have learnt all the recipes from my home. I was born in Unnao, but my childhood and youth were spent in Lucknow. My father used to have a shop in Sa’adat Ganj when I was little, and later in Daulat Ganj. He sold chaat for 3 or 4 paisa a serving. I have sold paani ke batashe for 10 paise with my own hands. People didn’t have much money those days, but gourmets were as plentiful as they are today. Chaat used to be eaten with the fingers, and the act of licking the fingers gave the name to this dish. Or, they would shape a leaf into a spoon. These days, everyone wants a spoon. In the early days, we used to roam through the bylanes with a large basket of chaat on our heads. Today, I tell my customers, ‘brother, please come over if you want to have something.’ We are still very reasonable—a kachauri is only five rupees. People are queuing up to buy them. I employ 10 people. Paani-batasha sells more in the evenings and jalebis in the morning. There was a time when I used to keep the shop open all night and shut it only at 6 AM. Nobody in Lucknow would have sold as many jalebis as I have. When one is in difficulties, he works night and day. There is no snack that I have not sold in my time. If a late night customer happened to arrive after the stock had finished, I have cooked khichdi so that they didn’t go away hungry. This has always been my endeavour. Now things are better, but I am not fond of money. I spend whatever I earn, which is why they call me a millionaire. I arrange for a free bhandara feast twice every year. We’re setting up a shop to sell pizza soon. I have presented cars to both my sons-in-law. As for me, I still don’t have even an ATM card!”