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  • Writer's pictureMallika Gupta

‘Pan’ful Patriarchy

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

In the city of Ahmadabad, ‘pan’ is the ‘aam aadmi’s’ daily pleasure. Rust coloured juice drips from the edges of the folded betel-nut leaf and once chomped upon, is passionately spat onto any surface visible. A sickly sweet smell wafts from the mouth of anyone who consumes it and their red-stained lips struggle to converse coherently through the chopping. And yet, the provider of this, ‘novel delicacy,’ is almost a local hero.

Tucked into many little corners of Ahmedabad are small pan parlours which function into the wee hours of the morning, providing pan, cigarettes and other pleasures to the city. These small shops are often divided into half along the length leaving a narrow corridor for the customers on one side.

The pan shops see many types of visitors; the regular males, walking in with confidence and making their presence known with loud greetings; they don’t need to tell their orders; ‘chottu’ is already on it. Others rush in for a quick smoke and leave. They’ll come back later at night with their friends, for that leisurely ‘pan’. The young college boys with excited smiles on their face, flaunting hookah flavours in one hand, while concealing the box of ‘manforce’ condoms that the shop keeper subtly snuck into their pockets. Then there are the girls, made uncomfortable by the stares of men questioning their presence in such a place. Some playing with their hair near nearby, waiting for the crowd to clear, others forced to come out with apologetic smiles for the unabashed uncles.

The pan parlour, is not just a shop, it is yet another conventional patriarch in India. Standing boisterously, irrespective of its actual form, on a crowded intersection, it looks down on any woman that may dare loiter and caters only to the men it recognises, satiating their every whim, and allowing them to spit and piss wherever they please.

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