Located in the heart of Kabaddi Bazaar, Saddar is a small road-side kiosk which has remained popular among Rawalpindi’s foodies for the past 35 years.
It is believed that for those with a taste for tangy flavors, the lure of Sufi Abdul Hameed’s special mix of spicy grams is hard to resist.
“I top the grams with mango chutney, diced onions and chilies like any other vendor. But my secret ingredient is a 12-spice pickle, which has become my recipe’s specialty,” said the kiosk owner.
Hameed said that he started his business more than three decades ago, after learning the recipe from his mentor. “Back then, I would go around the city as a costermongers, pushing my handcart from one neighbourhood to another crying, Grams! Spicy Grams!” recalled the 65-year old. “I did that for many years, until I finally found a little corner in this busy market to station my cart. Now I don’t have to paddle from neighbourhood to neighbourhood anymore,” he added.
Harking back to his youth, Hameed said that much of his younger days were spent in extreme poverty; burdened by the responsibility of being his family’s sole bread-winner.
“I come from Dhok Matkial, one of the most densely populated areas of Rawalpindi. So when I discovered the trade, I knew it had potential. At least enough to lead a dignified life,” Hameed expressed.
The gram seller sets out on foot from his home in Dhok Matkial every day, as early as nine the morning. “It takes me about an hour and a half to reach Kabaddi Bazaar, and my stall is usually set up and ready to welcome customers by 11:00 am. However, it takes only a few hours for my stock to run out, for which I thank the Almighty for his blessings upon my little business.”
As a street vendor, a greater part of Sufi Abdul Hameed’s life has been spent braving the city’s market places, come rain or shine. There would be days when the sun would blister and days when the freezing air would cut like glass, but taking a break would be a luxury he could seldom afford.
“I started out selling a plate of grams for as little as 25 paisas, and today I sell a plate for Rs80. It’s not much and neither has it made me rich, but this journey has been long and arduous and I’m humbled by everything I’ve been able to achieve. I have two sons and three daughters, whom I have given an education and gotten married. That is perhaps, the dearest of my accomplishments.”
Abdul Haameed’s special gram dish draws foodies not just from Rawalpindi, but is also a favourite among people of Islamabad, Wah Cantt, Taxila, Rawat and Gujar Khan.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Rizwan Ijaz a local businessman and a regular customer of Hameed, said that the taste of his gram dish is unmatchable. “There is nothing paralleled to this, even in uptown hotels and restaurants. I think anyone who hasn’t tasted Sufi Abdul Hameed’s special gram recipe yet is missing out on something great,” he asserted.