Murano in Italy is famous for its glass work. Morena in India is famous for its gajak work. Time to return to a sweet indulgence of the year past.
Head to old Gurugram, and re-experience the taste of this crispy, crackling treat made of gur (jaggery) and til (seasame seed). The heat-inducing gajak is resurfacing for the winter. Several gajak shops and stalls are popping up in various markets. The banner legends on almost each of these establishments claim that they trace their origins to Morena, the MP district close to Chambal valley that was once famous for dacoits.
Fret not, gajaks can be sighted elsewhere too in the Delhi region. But most of those street vendors hawk cold discs of gajak mass-manufactured in the “factories” of Nand Nagri. They are okay, but nowhere close to the taste of their super-fresh super-fragrant Morena cousins.
A typical gajak cart in old Gurugram stocks the simple classic version. A more ostentatious enterprise might flaunt a smorgasbord of flavours—kaju gajak, soan gajak, chocolate gajak, badam gajak, moongphali gajak, roll gajak, karaka gajak and gulab gajak, which is fragrant of gulab, the rose. (Embedded with rose leaves, the strip is flavoured with rose syrup.)
Most of old Gurugram’s Morena wale gajak places are concentrated in the neighbouring bazars of Sadar Bazar and Jacobpura. In some of these shops, the specialised “karigar,” the workmen, prepare the gajak in full view of the street passersby. Sitting on their haunches, the masculine cooks beat the large hot gooey sheets of gajaks with a heavy wooden “balla” that makes a rhythmic thak-thak sound, like a dhobi beating the clothes by the village pond. The cooks eventually flatten the dough, make it crease-free, and then they fold it as carefully as an istree walla folds a shirt (see photo, snapped during a previous gajak season). The hot, semi-molten gajak base is sliced into smaller portions and left to harden.
By late January, gajak merchants of Morena start winding down their stalls. Some linger till Holi, which marks the arrival of the dreaded summer. Then the gajak vanishes.