The Chowk still has remnants of the Nawab era of Oudh. It showcases the rich cultural heritage of Lucknow.
Lucknow: Ram Babu Rastogi, an octogenarian, who owns a chain of jewellery stores, begins his day by having a plateful of ghee-soaked kachoris and jalebis, all washed down with a glass of thandai.
His friend Tariq Siddiqui joins him for breakfast daily. He opts for ‘nihari’ (a stew cooked on slow fire) and kulcha from a nearby shop. He also adds a plate of kebabs to make his wholesome breakfast.
Chowk, a well known locality in the old city area, is a food hub for traditional vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. All dishes are prepared in desi ghee and relished by many. What's more, breakfast is rarely prepared in homes here. According to a rough estimates, more than 50,000 people from the new city areas travel to Chowk daily to relish the delicacies.
However, a study conducted by Geriatric Health department of King George’s Medical University in Chowk threw up rather disturbing results. Nearly 50 per cent of the elderly population is suffering from lifestyle disorders due to their gastronomic food habits.
Prof. S.C Tiwari, HOD, Geriatric Health, said, “We conducted a door-to-door survey of 1,627 families and carried out tests on as many as 357 senior citizens. To our dismay, we found 52.3 per cent of them suffering from diabetes, 56.8 per cent from hypertension and 58.2 per cent from abnormally high levels of lipids in the blood. The ongoing research, sponsored by the Indian Council of Medical Research, shows that across the country, diabetes is rampant among a large number of senior citizens in Chowk. As per available data, senior citizens suffering from similar disorders in Tamil Nadu is 36 per cent while in Maharashtra and Chandigarh the figure is below 15 per cent.
“The reason for these disorders is that people in Chowk consume unhealthy food and lack exercise. After breakfast, most of them either sit in their shops or go back home to sleep. Many of them are accustomed to having sweet dishes like 'makkhan malai’ and ‘rabri’ after dinner. These disorders are thanks to consumption of fried food and too little exercise,” Dr Tiwari said.
Radhey Lal, a local ‘halwai’ (sweetmeat shop owner) said, “More than one lakh people eat at the roadside eateries daily (including non-vegetarian eats). This is the biggest business in the area and fast food like burgers and pizzas have failed to give us any competition.”
But the senior citizens in the Chowk area, however, are the least perturbed by the study's findings. “I am 82 years old and have been eating this food all my life. My father lived up to 87 years and my grandfather died at the age of 91. Why should I change my food habits at this age? I will not live on till eternity if I switch to a healthier lifestyle, ” said Mr Rastogi.
His friend Priyam Srivastava, who gorges on kebabs regularly, echoed similar sentiments. “I agree my blood sugar levels are high and so is my blood pressure. I take medicines to keep them under control. When I have no problems, why should I give up this food?” he asked.Sudha, his wife, made a similar argument. “Many people come to the Chowk only to eat the food served at the roadside eateries. Don’t people who eat healthy food suffer from diabetes?” she asks.
Even the doctors do not seem to have an answer for such arguments.