23
September 2019 - 9:27 pm IST

Bhopal

Keeping tradition alive

Keeping tradition alive

Published:27 August 2019

In the crowded streets of Bhopal, a shop has stood tall for nearly two centuries which catches the eye of the average traveller. The "Bhopali Batua' and "Bhopali Gutkha' still has takers today.

Bhopal : In the crowded streets of Bhopal, a shop has stood tall for nearly two centuries which catches the eye of the average traveller. The "Bhopali Batua' and "Bhopali Gutkha' still has takers today.The 185-year-old shop 'Parekh Brothers' is being run by its 11th generation owner, Sunil Parekh and his son, Kanha Parekh. The father and son duo are happily carrying on their family legacy.

The 'Bhopali Batua' is a string purse traditionally prepared with Zardozi work, a technique involving heavy and elaborate embroidery on silk, satin or a fabric base. Moreover, precious stones, gold and silver threads and colourful beads also feature on the design.The legend has it that Qudsia Begum, the Nawab Begum of Bhopal in the early nineteenth century had given a Gujarati goldsmith, a piece of cloth and asked him to make something out of it.
The goldsmith, Mohan Parekh returned with a beautiful 'Batua' which was loved by the Empress who gave it the designation of 'Rajkiya Tohfa'.

Since then, the goldsmith's family has been mass-producing the string purses which were given to each guest of the Qadsia begum which now caters to traditional customers and occasional travellers.The genesis of Bhopali Gutkha also came about when the queen summoned Parekh again and asked him to come up with a mouth freshener and he returned with a homemade mixture consisting of dry fruits and herbal ingredients like cloves and Cardamom. The guests from there on were also gifted a handsome quantity of 'Bhopali Gutkha' along with the 'Batua'.

In the contemporary times as well, many esteemed guests, from Bollywood heroes like Dilip Kumar, Prithviraj Kapoor and Govinda to Novelists like Mahadevi Verma have enjoyed the delicacy. However, the tallest personality of Indian freedom struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, also graced the shop of Parekhs. Shop owner Sunil Parekh shares the anecdote enthusiastically, one which has been part of not just the family folklore but the city of Bhopal.
Parekh narrates, " In 1929, Mahatma Gandhi was crossing over from here during his visit and he visited us after finding out that a Gujarati family lived here. My grandfather, who was running the business back then, welcomed him and offered him refreshments. Gandhiji then, asked my grandmother that what would she do for the nation and in response, without hesitation, she gave away all her jewellery to the cause of India's freedom."

Even Gandhiji returned with Bhopali 'Gutkha' and 'Batua' from Parekh brothers.With all its glorious history, the shop has few but dedicated suitors these days."The Gutkha is only produced on-demand as only we make it. We do not have any workers. Anyway, today there are a lot of toffees and mouth fresheners to sweeten the taste buds. Same is the case with our purses, the quality of the material is lighter and precious stones and pearls also do not feature on designs anymore," Parekh said.Parekh cites reducing demand over the years as the reason for lighter quality. The Parekh brothers, however, are unfazed and are willing to struggle to keep their family legacy alive amid the diminishing demand.


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