3/1/2018 11:03:29 AM (GMT+3)

When Kallu served nihari and Vijayan's freekick!

When Kallu served nihari and Vijayan

DELHI’S biting cold in the 90s during the Durand Cups and DCM tournaments brought me close to some passionate Old Delhi football fans and their love for nihari -- stew consisting of slow-cooked meat mainly beef or lamb along with bone marrow, garnished to taste and occasionally served with cooked brain.

The heady mixture of nihari and football attracted me so much that I used to step out with my elderly friends from Ambedkar Stadium on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg on a lazy winter evening to reach late Mohammed Rafiquddin alias Kallu Mian’s shop at 180, Chattan Lal Mian behind Delite Cinema.

The delicate free-kicks by IM Vijayan or Chima Okorie’s bull-dozer shots often came up for discussions over a plate of hot and spicy nihari in the Capital's coldest months.

Most of his customers were from daily walks of life which also included officials from Old Delhi’s two famous football teams — City Club, Indian Nationals and Mughals.

Kya kar ria hai. Sahab logon ka jagah de (give space to the guests),” Kallu used to shout instructions in local dialect.

We used to squeeze into a tiny space inside, sitting at arm’s length to the tandoor (oven) and next to the bread-maker, whose forehead glistened with sweat, but the heat from the tandoor was a protective cover to the freezing January winter.

His wafer-thin physique guarded the oval-shaped degh (pot), and used to demonstrate his assistants on how to scoop the thickest portion from the pot.

Kallu smoked bidis, and very occasionally cigarettes. He would remove the lid from the huge copper degh at 5pm, but the stock would be over in flat one hour.

I had nihari at several pockets including Bada Hindu Rao, Quraishnagar and even at Karims, but none could beat the taste at Kallu’s.

The legendary nihari seller, who passed away in 2016, was also a football fan but I never had a chance to speak to him on his favourite club.

Thanks to football, I was introduced to the mouth-watering dish.