If you’re one of the millions who get their kicks out of its street food in India, the tastelessness of this story is sure to piss you off.
A 59-year-old paani puri vendor in Naupada (near Thane, Bombay) was detained in April 2011 for - and no one could make this up - peeing into a small utensil that he otherwise used to serve his customers.
Rajdev Lakhan Chauhan, who has been serving chaat in Bhaskar Colony in Naupada for four years, was picked up by cops after a resident captured the rather disgusting act on camera from a nearby balcony.
Whistle-blower Ankita Rane, a 19-year-old student, was shocked when she first spotted Chauhan urinating into his lota. “His stall is right below our building. Though there were rumours of him being quite gross, his stall was always flooded with customers,” she said. “Since I had nothing to do after my exams, I started keeping an eye on him.
Every day, he’d pee into the utensil and then use the same to pour tangy water into the ragda or stir the paani puri mix. Some customers even used that lota to drink water once they had finished eating.”
When she told her family members and neighbours, however, they refused to believe her. When residents in the area saw the video she had recorded, they first beat up Chauhan before taking him to the police station.
“Residents of Bhaskar Colony came up with a video clip that showed Chauhan urinating in one of his utensils. We arrested him on Monday night and he confessed. His excuse was that he had nowhere else to pee as there was no urinal around,” Police Inspector Hemant Sawant said, adding that Chauhan said he felt uncomfortable peeing on the streets as Bhaskar Colony was a clean, residential area.
The police were, however, confused about what section to book Chauhan under. “In the end, all we could book him under was the Bombay Police act for urinating in public places,” Sawant said. Another resident, Dilip Rane said, “We found that he had a liquor bottle hidden under his stall. How do you belive any one now. We never really run hygiene checks on such stall owners when we feel like eating spicy chaat. Vada pav and paani puri are two things all of Mumbai is hooked on to. This incident might change things for me though.”
The Thane Municipal Corporation said they were trying to get vendors under an umbrella body so hygiene levels could be monitored.
“This is a shocking incident,” said B G Pawar, Deputy Commissioner (hawkers), TMC. “As far as this pani puri vendor is concerned, this case should be taken up by the health department.” The health department was unavailable for comment. Another resident, Dilip Rane said, “We found that he had a liquor bottle hidden under his stall. How do you belive any one now. We never really run hygiene checks on such stall owners when we feel like eating spicy chaat. Vada pav and paani puri are two things all of Mumbai is hooked on to. This incident might change things for me though.”