Did you know that there is a ‘hotel’ in Karachi that has four branches in the most affluent parts of the city?
Well neither did I
Did you also not know that they sell only 3 items from 6:30 in the morning till midnight?
You guessed it! I didn’t either.
And there is a lot more I didn’t know until I decided to find out more.
Since the last couple of weeks, every morning as I hip hopped on the elliptical machine cornered in a local gym, and peeped out of the window to burn time and calories I noticed a small, Coca Cola bannered shop named ‘New Quetta, Super Sharjah Hotel.’ All nearby shops were shuttered down tightly while this one would be smoking away ‘Dalda’ oil on a huge flat pan flipping freshly made dough into yellowish golden oil dripping parathas, served with hot steamy tea to all those who were heading out for early morning mazdoori (labour). Someone more ravenous also had the option to order an omelette cooked on the same black pan.
Strangely curious, as I started peeping down regularly the only thing that would always strike me was the relentless energy that all the staff exuded. The server, the tea maker and the paratha man, all seemed focused and committed emphasizing on their daily monotonous chores with complete expertness.
Finally I decided to go speak to them… as I approached them with cautiousness they eyed me with absolute bewilderment. I gathered it was because all their clientele was male but I was proved wrong when they immediately questioned me
“Aap media sey hain (Do you belong to the media)?”
As I assured them that I did not belong to any media channel and they will not be featured on any political tabsaraas (discussion) forum, they eased down and very reluctantly divulged some information.
Having emigrated from Quetta roughly 8 years ago, Mr. Katkar and his family opened up a tea joint near the Karachi Highway. Now they have 4 outlets in Defence Housing Society – one of the most upscale residential areas in Karachi.
This particular outlet sells two hundred parathas from 6:30 in the morning till midday and followed by only tea till midnight. The dough is prepared fresh every morning at the outlet. One egg omelette, Paratha or a cup of tea – nothing exceeds Rs. 25 per item.
When asked about his daily sales or savings, he was cautious to answer (naturally so)
“Kabhi 4 hazaar, kabhi 5 hazaar bach jaata hai, baree baji” he tried to evade the question, and I did not persist either. (Hmmph on the baree baji)
The shop employs six people and pays a rent of seventeen thousand rupees per month. I asked Katkar how much he paid his staff and he gave me a tea stained smile saying
“Sab apna log hai, baji jee” Yet another evasive reply. (Aha on the baji jee)
Soon after, I realized he was squirming in his seat and didn’t want to answer any of my inquisitive questions. I let him go and took his permission to take some clicks while he worked at his respective station. He smiled in agreement and immediately took out a cellular phone (all this while it had impatiently been buzzing in his side pocket).
Whilst I clicked away, he made about 2 parathas and 1 omelete for a customer, and all this while he was on his phone… intently chatting away with a “khocha.”
When I finally thanked him and sat back in the car he shouted
“Baji jaan, kidhar jaati ho, koi chai paratha?” Yet another tea blotched smile and a generous invite to the offerings at his tea joint (Ballay on the Baji Jaan)
Katkar and his family may not have conquered the world yet they have climbed up the social ladder in the last few years and made a name for themselves. They seemed complacent with the limited menu and did not seem to have any desire to diversify. Serving from dawn to midday they have monopolized on the early risers and late sleepers alike. Happy and contended they continue to serve a hot and steamy fit – for - slurping ‘chai’, flat bread doused in hot oil and a freshly whipped egg cooked into an oblong omelette to innumerable customers. 8 years, 4 outlets and only 3 food items … way to go ‘New Quetta Super Sharjah’ team.