Jhumpa Lahiri mentions betel leaves and a small stall that makes, them in her book: the Lowland. As usual, she can just touch a cord and strike a tune in my brain. It reawakened a familiar image in my mind, similar to the photo above although this photo is of a stall I have only seen once. There must be many I saw throughout my youth in Delhi. Many I passed everyday, that I may never pass by again.
At the corner of a restaurant and house, or at the end of a long line of shops by the bicycle repair shop, betel leaves used to await us. I never liked their bitter taste. My grandmother always had some in her mouth for the longest time with ‘supari’ ( betel or Areca nut). Until someone told her the stuff is carcinogenic and a stimulant ( like most other stimulants), she still chewed some, even when she had one tooth in her mouth, from time to time. She is gone now. The betel stalls are disappearing with the increase in fly overs and malls. Now they do exist as a reminder of what was old Indian ‘charm’ in expensive restaurants and five star hotels. The charm is lost to me and tobacco chewing is actually scientifically proven to be carcinogenic, betel leaves (themselves, not the things that are used to stuff them) are not.
The other two photos were taken quite close to the betel stall, in the famous and very old Chandni Chowk area, where all kinds of Indian clothing and jewellery, FOOD abound. Will all these embroidered fabric borders, just waiting for a fancy dress, find a girl who wants them? Will she wear them and pass by another pan stall, in a fancy restaurant, this time?