Daal Muft!
By Shoaib Hashmi

You are probably too young to remember it, but at one time it was the usual slogan of a lot of eating places in Lahore. No, not your fancy restaurants and eateries of Defence and Gulberg, but the dyed-in-the-wool Lahori 'tandoors'. And the line was 'anna roti daal muft'! You bought your hefty roti for an anna, and a generous dollop of piping hot daal was thrown in for free so you had a complete meal for the princely sum.
This munificent culture applied to other things too, like the daas kulcha. This was a Lahori speciality, and I believe there is a single purveyor still left plying his trade, and keeping a hallowed tradition alive inside the Walled city; it looked like an ordinary kulcha, but the dough was kneaded in goat's milk or something, and it was eaten with a helping of pakoras called launchharras! Hence the phrase, 'daas kulcha pichhon launchharray'!
And over all this there was the blanket tradition of the jhoonga. This was a little extra thrown in for free as part of the culture of any shopping. At the local veggie shop, a few sprigs of dhania or podeena, or a fistful of green chillies were thrown in; at the halvaii it was a couple of extra bits of barfee; and even at the village Hattee, if a kid went to get soap, he'd stick his hand out and be given dollop of gurr or a pinch of shakkar to sweeten his journey home.
No, this is not a hankering for a bygone age, and a time when you could get a meal for an anna, and it needn't be nostalgia because in a sense the tradition continues. I suppose the modern equivalent of the local veggie vendor who came on a rehree is the platoon of 'Neapolitan Pizza' establishments mushrooming all over. And they are still at it.
If you order pizza from the same place twice in a month, the second time he brings you the pizza and also a long spiel offering to make you a 'member' of his exclusive Pizza Club. He takes your address and phone, and gives you a shiny plastic 'membership card' which entitles you, whenever you order a pizza, to get another one for free!
Pardon my French, and my lifelong training in economics, but that set me thinking. The 'charge' for this membership is pretty nominal, see, only two or three hundred; and for that they are willing to throw in a thousand rupee pizza each time you order one for yourself, and are willing to do it for months!
They are not doing it as a favor to you, and they are not doing it for the goodwill because they already have you hooked with the card; and so my economics tells me they make a pretty darn good profit even selling you two pizzas for the price usually charged for one. So how much profit do they make when they are not doing us any favors?
You can make a quick calculation on the basis that a serving of reasonable chicken-corn soup in a decent Chinese restaurant costs upwards of a hundred. You can get an equally good helping of the same soup off one of those Karachi samosa establishments. It comes out of an earthen gharra, but it has the same sweet corn, and a bit more of the chunky and juicy chicken, and it comes for ten rupees, and the man still makes a decent profit!
These guys are not feeding us; they are eating us out of house and home, and taking us for a ride down the garden path, and selling our fortunes down the river! I always thought the Lahori fetish for eating would ruin us!

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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