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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sikkim’s oldest Bhatti bakery fades into oblivion



Gangtok: January 30, 2012

A yellow coloured, poorly lit, old, small, two story structure, in a decrepit state from outside to inside are the only words fit for the current state of the oldest bakery of Sikkim that stands there in Chandmari, Gangtok. The bakery once had the Royals of Sikkim as its customers but is now in a desperate need of maintenance. Nothing here looks like a bakery except for the chimney. A poorly made blue wooden gate greets and a glass case displaying a variety of baked stuffs…

“It has been ten years since this bakery shifted here. Earlier we were at Tibet Road, Gangtok at ‘Kumar Saab’s house”, says 60 year old Noor Mohammad (referring to the then prince as ‘Kumar Saab). Mohammad has been baking for last 25- 26 years since it was set up.

The oldest bakery of Sikkim had no branding but a popular local name ‘Bhatti’. Apart from the Royals of Sikkim, the nearly 30 year old bakery’s delicious stuffs has been tasted by lmost all the 1st and 2nd generations of Sikkimese post 70s.

Modern technology has not touched this bakery and old traditional methods are still applied. But Mohammed has a point to defend: “Preparing in machine is faster and easier but making it in the old way has its own flavour. Man made tastes better than machine made.”

Along with one help Mohammad bakes seven varieties of buns, cakes, biscuits, patties and rolls for ‘Baxawallas’ (vendors) who sell it in the town. The work starts at five in the morning till the day ends.

“At a time, four trays fit inside the oven and we are able to bake up to 1500-2000 biscuits, cake, patties etc.”, says Mohammad. But he mourns that the number of customers have dropped dramatically over the years. “Nowadays people prefer products from fancy bakeries. Still, people with real taste of baked goodies come for us.”

Of the many changes that have come to the bakery and its products, one is the smaller size of the cup cake ( called ‘Queen Cake’). “It’s all because of inflation. We need to compromise with size, but the quality is as good as ever. We charge just Rs 2.50 per queen cake. Do you think it’s costly?”

Branding and upgrading might have helped Mohammed to upgrade, serve more customers and remain as popular as ever but change doesn’t take everyone along.

source:Sikkim Mail

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