New Delhi: A culture curry has been cooking at India Gate lawns. The occasion is Paryatan Parv, a mega tourism galathat’s on till September 27.
The festival celebrates culinary traditions, arts, handicrafts, attire, jewellery and other aspects of culture of 32 states and Union Territories. Representatives of these places have put up stalls that have a wide array of goodies. One of the stalls is owned by Zeilmang Phesho. The 22-year-old Naga youth has been serving a traditional snail dish called akini chokibo, which was perfected by his father who created a special recipe for it over a decade ago. In Nagaland, culinary traditions are preserved and passed down.
“We have diverse cuisine, which remains largely unexplored. I hope it gets more exposure in this festival,” said Phesho who was thrilled to be representing his state in such a big national fair.
Food is a big part of the festival but not the only part. Colourful jewellery and handicrafts stalls have also attracted a large number of visitors. Uttam Deo has been selling silver jewellery and other handicrafts from West Bengal at the fair. He is delighted with the response. “We have fixed prices for all items, but people still try to bargain. Till now, we’ve sold over 30 pieces, and it’s going really well,” Deo said.
But not everyone has managed to do brisk business. For some, the response has been disappointing. At the Himachal Pradesh handloom stall, Gulab Singh lamented: “I’ve been selling Pashmina shawls in Manali for the past 22 years, and this is my first time in Delhi. I had high hopes before coming here, but so far, its hasn’t been quite profitable. Few people turn up in this scorching heat; those who do, do not buy anything.”
Gaddam Balaiah from Telangana, selling pochampalli wears, echoed Singh’s sentiments: “There are many visitors, but buyers are less. Most of them complain about the high prices, but what can we do? It’s high quality material.”
But Northeastern street fashion has been a hit. Waikhom Aimol who is in charge of the Manipur textile stall said she has been swamped by people asking for pure cotton kurtis. “These are not only very popular in our state, but also have a huge demand in big cities like Delhi. The material is light and breathable, most suited for this weather,” she said.
TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India) has also participated in the fair in its second edition this time. Under its banner, several adivasi communities from across the country have set up stalls. “Our aim is to lend maximum support to the artisans and empower them so that they can sustain their craft. They’re not just selling their products, they’re also selling their stories, their culture and traditions that are unique to them,” said Yogesh Singh of TRIFED.
But even Singh said the sales have been low in an age of machine-made goods. “People come and admire the products, but don’t buy anything. There’s definitely a lack of serious buyers,” he said.
But Sulochna Devi (32), a homemaker from Punjab selling phulkari items at the fair, said the exposure matters more than profit.
Food stalls are crowded, though. And that’s natural for a city like Delhi that has a thriving cuisine culture. From crispy Mysore dosas to steaming hot chicken thukpa from Arunachal Pradesh, there’s a plethora of options for the Delhi foodie. At the Tamil Nadu stall, chief chef Malavaram Swami delights the visitors with his traditional Chettinad chicken biryani. Dosa lovers also get to pick from a variety of options here.
For those with a sweet tooth, the Odisha stall has piping hot malpua and chhena gaja, the Rajasthan stall has ghevar rabri, the Manipur stall has madhurjan thongba, and UP stall as matka kulfi.
Stalls by students of IHM Pusa and National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI) are also doing well. “Ah, the joy of watching people relish our preparations! It’s also a learning experience for us,” said Janvi Sharma, a second-year student of IHM. Their stall is manned by half a dozen student volunteers.
NASVI has brought together street vendors. Vinod Kumar, a street vendor who runs a roadside stall in Karol Bagh, said, “We have regular customers in Karol Bagh, but here we can cater to almost double the number of people. This is the most profitable time of the year for us.”
The evenings come alive with live music and traditional dance performances by artistes from across the country.