Located in the heart of Shillong, Delhi Mistan Bhandar is never found short of visitors on a regular day. It’s a must-visit for the sweet lovers of Shillong. On special occasions, people queue up to grab a bite of their jalebi, one of their specialities. In 2008, as part of its platinum jubilee celebrations, five cooks fried a jalebi which was 75-inch in diameter weighing 15 kilograms. This made it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest fried jalebi.
From Quetta to Shillong
The store’s founder, Ram Prasad Verma, migrated to Shillong in 1928 from Quetta (Pakistan), then a part of India. He made his journey to Shillong with a Gorkha regiment troop that had been shifted here. His close acquaintance Shyam Singh had already established a jewellery shop in Shillong’s largest market, Bara Bazaar also known as Lewduh. Soon, Ram Prasad started his business next to it.
But things changed when a well wisher named Shiv Charan Roy started appreciating Ram Prasad’s work and offered him the plot in which the shop is located currently at a rent of Rupees 25 only. ‘My father was hesitant to take the full place on rent and asked for only half the place. But the kind Shiv Charan said it is okay if you don’t give me the rent but I can’t divide the plot. Hence, my father took up the challenge but he did manage to pay the rent right from the very first month’ says Kailash Verma, son of Ram Prasad Verma, an ex-Edmunds boy and an IIT Kharagpur alumnus. Thus, Delhi Misthan Bhandar was established in 1933.
Recruiting new staff was not a herculean task for the determined and persistent Ram Prasad. ‘My father trained all the employees. In fact he was also called Guruji.’ A person of nationalist views, Ram Prasad wore Khadi all his life after Gandhi’s message had come to quit British linen during the freedom movement. He was also a Congress Party leader and had a good rapport among the party members. ‘We have seen many dignitaries walk in to our shop for grabbing sweets or having their evening snacks. We have also had Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru in our shop, trying our sweets.’ The room where I was having a conversation with Mr Verma was called Room No. 6 back in the days. ‘Many party meetings with important personalities have been held in this room’, says Kailash.
Continuing the Glorious Tradition
I couldn’t get the exact figures of the number of people walking into the shop on a regular day. But they change their floor marbles in every five to six years. ‘It’s a ritual that we have been doing since the 80s. Our marbles don’t last more than half a decade’, says Kailash. He has been helping his father in his business since the 70s. He couldn’t go further in his engineering course due to his father’s ailments. ‘I received a scholarship for my education which my father had asked to reject so that it helps someone who is in more need of it.’
Ram Prasad Verma passed away in 2002 but he left his principles and ideologies in his son, Kailash. ‘My father believed that a businessman with goodwill can definitely make a name for himself one day.’ With principles similar to his father, Kailash has been working hard ever since he joined the business. He keeps his eyes and ears wide open for technology and change.
With time, a lot of adaptations have been made in the menu but the recipe of the jalebi is still the same. It is something that will go on in the future too. The jovial Kailash manages to take part in cycling, marathon and other adventurous activities. He has many medals too under his name. ‘You should live your life every moment. Problems will come your way but you should not consider it to be a big issue.’ He is also a part of the Rotary Club through which they conduct a lot of social activities. He has also tried to initiate cleanliness routines in crowded parts of the city many a times. Besides running the confectionary, he is looking after Hotel Pegasus Crown, which they have started in 1994 and due to Shillong’s pathetic traffic situation they are also launching an outlet soon in Laitumkhrah, a popular and major locality of Shillong. ‘Our ways of working may change with time but our customers will always be our priority and we always try to reach out to them with the best.’
By Mrinal Paul
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast (March 2018) issue