The biscuit man who never smiles

I have taken it upon myself to advertise the places I love. I picked on this one because I’m sure that this place will never ever advertise.

It’s a place that sells biscuits. I choose to call them biscuits and not cookies, because I don’t want you to wrongly visualize a ‘Frazer Town Anglo Aunty in an apron, baking goodies’ and corrupt the simple imagery that this shop has.

It’s called ‘Shobha Baking Products’ or ‘Shobha Bakes’ or something similar to that. A tiny shop run by an average looking man wearing a checked bush shirt. It’s so unnoticeable that you’re bound to miss it.

Get to Jayanagar and take the road that leads Jain Temple to Ganesha Temple. You’ll surely reach Ganesha Temple because I told you… you are bound to miss it. It’s about 2 to 3 shops before Ganesha Temple, on your right. 

No fancy baskets in golden paper and red bows. No tins with retro graphics. No bright orange or yellow walls. Nothing that transports you to the Irish countryside. No experiential gimmicks. No nothing.

Just an uninviting shop with boring glass showcases styled like an Iyengar bakery, containing biscuits tightly wrapped in polythene packets. Each weighing 200 gms with a red and white sticker saying Rs. 30. 

As soon as you enter, you’ll be stared at by a middle aged poker faced man. All he does is gives you a nod, to acknowledge your presence. He just needs an assurance that you haven’t walked in to buy fake jewellery, verify some address or ask for the timings of the neighbouring shop. So, start the transaction by announcing the purpose of your visit.

“Biscuits”.

Once he is relieved that you are actually a prospective customer, he’ll promptly attend to your needs. But don’t be disillusioned. This man who never wastes his smiles, is probably the sweetest and the sincerest trader I’ve met in my life. 

He’ll now pull out a tray and place it in front of you. Then open the oven and start placing warm samples of his biscuits one by one, announcing the variety as he goes. “Sweet and Salt Wheat”, “Sweet and Salt Ragi”, “Masala Wheat”, “Butter”, “Ginger”, “Cashew”, “Coconut” and finally a biscuit that has a nickname “Melting Moments”. That’s his favourite part. He’ll wait for you to quiz him on the last one. “A variation of coconut” he’ll reply and walk away to the counter, leaving you undisturbed to do the tasting. 

I’ve been there many times, and by now he knows me by face. I have tasted all his biscuits. And still everytime, he religiously goes about placing all the samples for me to taste. Even after me telling him that I’ve tasted it before and don’t want to taste it again, he refuses to break the ritual. Only later did I realize that his intent is very noble. The biscuits he stocks belong to the current batch, and he wants me to taste the current sample before making up my mind. 

The biscuits are divine. It’s like they’ve been delicately held together only to crumble inside your mouth. They’re light and have the right amount of spice in them. My favorite is the sweet and salt. It’s almost like they’ve been programmed to release the taste of sweet, and the taste of salt, in alternate bites respectively. “Melting moments” is aptly named so and the ragi variations make you relook at the non-glamourous cereal in a new light. Reaffirming that he’s been the best student of the baking class he attended.

All the varieties are round and of the same size, slightly bigger than a two rupee coin.

Once you’ve made your choice, he’ll reappear. After you point out the preferred choice, he’ll pick the relevant packet and tell you one little detail that he’s proud of. That he uses no ‘vanaspathi’ in any of his biscuits. I have never seen him pushing down any rejections down my throat. He’ll only talk about the ones you’ve selected. A rehearsed 20 second speech on the biscuit you’re about to take home.

He also makes Nippat, Kodbale and Chakli in a few variations and sometimes he stocks bread. In case you enquire about the snacks, he’ll remind you that none of his snacks are fried but all baked. His bread is not as soft as bakery bread, which he explains “You should judge a bread by its taste and not its softness. Add more yeast and it’ll get softer but too much of yeast is fattening.” His bread is of an unconventional size, and I agree, it does taste better. It’s unbelievable that his snacks aren’t fried because they taste as good as the fried ones, if not better. 

I think he should be the benchmark to marketing men. He’s never intrusive, never smiles to add to the pressure and at the same time, extremely passionate about what he sells. If only our powerpoint addicted marketing maniacs learnt this simple lesson, they’d do far better. 

I don’t think he’s famous yet, and that’s precisely why I’m doing my bit.

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