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16 August 2016

The all new Ghalib Kebab Corner

Ghalib Kebab Corner in Delhi's Nizamuddin holds a special place among hostel students of Delhi Public School (DPS), Mathura Road, especially those who studied there between 1980 and the year 2000.

The school is about a kilometre from this rugged eatery that serves kebab and tikka, apart from the usual chicken fare that one finds everywhere.

It was considered a rite of passage for DPS hostel students to scale the giant school wall at night and run to Ghalib. Most became night-runners after eight standard. Some brave sixth-standard kids also won the coveted title of having been to Ghalib at midnight.

Students of all shades and hues—since DPS hostel took kids from all over India—went to Ghalib. The vegetarians accompanied their carnivorous friends just to eat delicious roomali roti with chutney. Such was the hold that Ghalib had over the students.

The hostel uniform at night (for dinner) used to be white kurta-pajamas. That made things easier for students as they could blend in at Nizamuddin. The people in that historical locality (read Nizamuddin Dargah) also came to recognize the kids as from DPS, and extended generous line of credit for cigarettes and tea. Safety was never an issue. No student ever faced any bad experience.

journey basket went to Ghalib for the first time in 1995.

That framed collage (bottom) was already there way before 1995. The certificate (bottom left) says Ghalib won the title of 'best kebab-maker' in a food festival organized by five-star hotel ITC Maurya Sheraton. That was some time ago, before liberalization.

The place saw a makeover recently. Pepsi has taken over the walls. The tables are new, made of thick wood, and nailed to the floor. But the benches have not been replaced. The wood is still strong.

Ghalib's owner Haneef Qureshi, 69, has run the restaurant since the time it opened. He was young then. He has taken up no other work. Qureshi is recognized by regulars—ex-students who are now past 35—as "the old man with the loud voice". You, too, will notice that if you went to Ghalib.

Saif (right) has been working at Ghalib for over 25 years. It does not look like it. For some reason he has not aged, not grown. He came to work for Haneef in 1990. After spending years behind the charcoal stove Saif has moved to the other side, from where he gives orders to the revolving cooks. He says no cook stays longer than a year these days. "If we don't open another branch we will sink," Saif says.

It does not take long to see that after having stayed for many years he has started thinking like a proprietor.

In 2015, during Durja Puja, journey basket was surprised to see Ghalib's owner Qureshi (left), standing in front of a food stall at Chittaranjan Park (CR Park). On a closer look the stall carried the Ghalib menu. He said they opened a stall at J Block ground every Durga Puja.

If you are too lazy to fight the maddening traffic and visit Nizamuddin to experience Ghalib, you might want to visit CR Park during Durga Puja in October.

Ghalib is coming this year also.

Some more photos from 2011.

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Journalist. Taking a walk in India. | Email to journeybasket[at]gmail | Special thanks to M.S. Gopal | All rights reserved. No commercial use.

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