Ganapati has already entered our homes to shower his blessings and N. R. Chiplunkar, who owns the Maharashtra stall in Dilli Haat is a busy man. His staff is rolling out modak, the happy god’s favourite food a dime a dozen. There is a steady flow of customers at Chiplunkar’s stall, some getting modaks packed to carry back home and others choosing to eat them piping hot at the stall itself.
An ad man from Baroda, Chiplunkar had bought the stall in 1994, the year Dilli Haat came up, on the suggestion of a friend working at Maharashtra Tourism. “The stall was inaugurated by Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” (Vajpayee was not PM then), an unassuming Chiplunkar says. “My wife and I have been running it since then,” he adds.
Probe him for more details and Chiplunkar reels out the names of his celebrity customers, which include Suresh Prabhu, Prakash Javadekar, Sumitra Mahajan and Sushil Kumar Shinde among others.
Among the all-time favourites here are the saboodana cutlets served with mint chutney, paav-bhaji, bhelpuri and jhunka bhaakar and mattha. Since our man is from Baroda, he has also added the Gujarati specialities thepla and thalipeeth (made from the flour of 13 grains, kneaded with chopped onions, coriander etc and rolled into a chapaati), to the menu. There are big photographs of all the dishes served at the stall on the huge wall near the cash counter.
Chiplunkar’s wife, Vibhavari is a true blue Delhiite and more forthcoming than her husband. She prides herself in popularising Maharashtrian food in Delhi.
“Only five per cent of our clientele is Maharashtrian. The rest are all north Indians,” she says. “A Sikh gentleman from Chandigarh makes it a point to eat modaks from our stall every time he visits Delhi,” says Chiplunkar. They also take orders for catering. Supplying Maharashtrian food in the homes of politicians is a regular feature.
Vibhavari does not shy from rattling off their list of honours, which includes a gold medal each at the annual Surajkund Crafts Mela and the Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan. The enterprising couple also runs an outlet at Spice Mall, Gurgaon. Their daughter too, runs another Maharashtrian food stall in Dilli Haat. But their son has decided to chart out a different course in life and has a gardening business in Mumbai.
Interestingly, none of the staff members employed by the Chiplunkars is a Maharashtrian. They are all from different parts of the country and have been trained under the watchful eye of Vibhavari. They sell up to 9,000 modaks during the 10-day Ganesh Puja every year.
So, waste no time. The best option is to take the Metro, feast on modaks and be happy like Ganesha. Ganapati Bappa Maurya!