The legacy of Badayuni Halwa Paratha

The story of Haji Baqir Ali Badayuni, the Halwa Paratha seller who was acknowledged by the Late Prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi

Portraits of Haji Baqar Ali.

Each year during the month of Dhul Qadah, the annual congregation (Urs) of 19th-century Sufi saint widely popular as Shah Ji Mohammad Sher Miyan took place in the small city of Uttar Pradesh, Pilibhit. The main congregational prayers were held on 03rd to 05th Dhul Qadah. As common with all Urs and traditional fairs, one can find makeshift stalls of Halwa Paratha erected on road leading to the dargah. Last year while passing down the crowded street near the dargah, it was two old portraits hanging on the stall of ” Badayuni Halwa Paratha” that caught my attention for exploration. The first one is the portrait captioned in Urdu and Hindi introducing him as Late Haji Baqar Ali Badayuni. In the first portrait, the late Baqar has nicely wrapped a traditional white turban with a vest jacket (Sadri). The pen clipped to the front pocket of the vest reflected an impressive dressing style more of a writer than a Halwa Paratha shop owner. The second portrait was torn from the lower edge and almost faded. In this portrait, the Baqir was receiving an award from late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi. I made a request to the man sitting on the cash counter to parcel one packet of his calories loaded large size Paratha, and Halwa made up of Suji (Semolina). During the conversation,  he told that Haji Baqar Ali was his grandfather who started to sold Halwa Paratha during Colonial days. The Halwa Paratha stall was named after his birthplace, Badayun. Badayun is the small city of Uttarpradesh located one hundred twenty-eight kilometers south-west of Pilibhit. It was once the mighty capital of Katehar Province during the reign of Mamluks and also the birthplace of the famous 13th-century Sufi of Central Asian origin, Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya.

The torn and faded portrait of Haji Baqar Ali receiving the shield from late Prime minister Indira Gandhi with the live portrait of man frying large size parathas.

In the decade of the sixties and seventies, the Badayuni Halwa Paratha was a popular street food stall at Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Hajj house near Turkman Gate at Delhi. In off times, he used to manage a hotel at Badayun named as Sultani Hotel. It was during this time, Haji Baqar Ali was also acknowledged by Late Prime minister, Indira Gandhi for serving his street food delicacy at syncretic Indian gatherings especially at Hazrat Nizamuddin Urs. For almost six decades, the man moved with his stall at the Urs (death anniversary) of Sufis like a wandering nomad. Haji Abdul Qadir passed away in mid-eighties at age of eighty-eight years. While recalling the old days, the grandson of Baqar Ali got melancholic.

Grandson of Baqar Ali with his chef.

In the present scenario, he is hardly able to manage expenses as the earnings are meager in comparison to the grandfather days. These two portraits and name of the stall “Badayun Halwa Parath” made his street food shop different from the several others. This seems to the prized possession of a grandson who is now taking care of Haji Baqar legacy.

Muttam Al Turkistani Bukhari

A restaurant of Persian speaking Afghan at AlMajmaah

Text & Pics by Rehan Asad

(مطعم) Muttam an Arabic term used for the restaurant. The Al Turkistani Bukhari restaurants are commonly seen in Saudi Arabia. Majority of them are own or manage by the Afghans. Its a typical preparation of the rice (Ruz) and the recipe that reached here from the central Asian city “Bukhara” located on the old silk road.  It is this historic connection, the rice preparation got its Arabic name, Ruz Bukhari. The Bukhari rice is one of the delicious and familiar rice preparation of Middle East, especially in Gulf countries. Its a preparation of basmati rice and grated carrots cooked in olive oil along with spices like cinnamon sticks, cardamon, and cloves. The crushed Saffron and fried garnish of whole carrots, almonds, pistachios, and raisin also add to its flavor and appearance. The rice has been served with different types of the roasted preparation of chicken and lamb.

Sample plate showing two different varieties of the rice. The yellow one is Bukhari ( Ruz Bukhari). The white one is Peshawari Rice ( Ruz Abyad).

Located a hundred meters away from the main Al Rajhi Bank on King Fahad Road, at Al Majmaah, this Muttam Al Turkistani Bukhari is managed by Abdul Ghafoor and his son. The man in his fifties originally belonged to Shehberghan, the capital city of Jowzan province of Afghanistan. Etymologically his home city name is derived from the Sassanian monarch, Shapur. Abdul Ghafoor was fluent in Arabic but hardly able to understand Hindustani/Urdu language. While communicating with him in my broken Arabic, I came to know that Persian was his first language. He told that Pashtun & Uzbek speakers are also present in Shehberghan but his tribe is hundred percent Persian speakers from the centuries. Abdul Ghafoor was dressed in the red shirt and trousers, a uniform for all the Al Turkistani Bukhari managers in Saudi Arabia. The son was dressed in modern attire with black casual shirt & jeans. He communicated in his sluggish Urdu predominated by the accent of his native language.

Abdul Ghafoor told that his son is studying and helps him for managing the restaurant. Other than Arabic and Persian, he is also studying the English language. Both father and son missed the food, culture & weather of their hometown but they are residing here for making the better livelihood of their family. He was satisfied with his business. The cooking team is from Afghanistan and the assistant is from our neighboring country Nepal. As Saudi Arabia has the separate section for bachelors and families. The front section for bachelors have both types of arrangement, the dining tables, and traditional carpets for those who wish to dine on the ground. Behind the main section, there are separate cabins for the family section. Other than grilled chicken, he is also serving several other middle eastern meat preparations such as (Shish tawook), (Shawaya), Camel, and Mutton Kababs (Muqebelat)

From the vegetarian dishes and salads also on the display are cucumber yogurt salads, Hummos ( Chickpeas paste), green salad, Mulokhia (Jews Mallows: an Egyptian vegetarian savory sauce made up of green leaves Molokhia with coriander and mint leaves), and Arabic style of ladyfinger preparation.