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By Francoise Grellet

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The menu is extremely limited—in fact there are only two dishes on offer—biryani and korma (chicken every day, mutton on Wednesday and Saturday), both of which are, I had gathered, finished within an hour of opening. And yet, those two dishes, I discovered, were heart-stoppingly good—possibly literally, given the amount of ghee involved. It was food to crave and get misty-eyed over; food to brave filthy backstreets and a searing Delhi summer for. The reluctance of the ‘Shokkys’ to tell me anything about their history or recipe was disappointing.

The hot weather, he told us, despite driving us to the brink of insanity, was actually a good thing. ‘It develops certain characteristics,’ he said. With that he plugged himself back into his iPod and power-walked off, leaving us to wonder what he meant—probably fortitude, determination and a backbone as upright as his own. I thought about Mr Lal’s words one Sunday a few weeks later when I decided the characteristics the summer had developed in me were the first signs of madness. I was sitting in a tiny meat shop in Sadar Bazaar—one of the city’s least photogenic spots—as dust, dirt, flies and diesel fumes swarmed in from the street outside and stagnant, fetid air trapped every passing smell, fragrant and foul.

One of Anuj’s friends had driven across town, leaving his wife at home with their newborn baby. ‘Goggia Uncle’s mutton is more important,’ he said. The men cracked open some beers and started to reminisce about the good times and great meals they’d shared in the house. Anuj told us that although his wing of the family moved away from Sadar Bazaar in 1966, all of his childhood summer holidays and festivals were spent here, and Goggia Uncle’s korma was always made for special celebrations. As the beer and whisky started to flow, and famished expectation grew, I slipped out to watch the cook at work.

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