Lucknow’s Paan Bowing Out As Paan Masala Takes Over
LUCKNOW, (IANS) – Yet another tradition, deeply rooted in the culture of the City of Nawabs- Lucknow, is on its deathbed. The tradition of chewing ‘paan’ after every meal, and even in between, is petering out.
“I am the fourth generation in my family selling paan, but the market trend has changed drastically now. People prefer paan masala over paan. My sales have gone down and I am selling more paan masala than paan,” says Alok Chaurasia, who owns a famous paan shop in the Chowk area.
He says that even his old customers now prefer the paan masala pouches over the meticulously prepared paan. “The reason for this is that it takes about three minutes to prepare a paan and a few seconds to buy a paan masala sachet. People are now running behind time and have no patience,” he says.
His father Kishori Chaurasia (82) says, “We knew exactly the kind of paan that our customers wanted. We knew which customers wanted less lime (‘Chuna’) and who wanted ‘Gulkand’ and grated coconut. People came and relished their paan and many even got some packed for home. Today, the market has changed, and everyone has the same paan masala.”
That paan masala has become a huge market is evident from the fact that Bollywood stars are endorsing these brands through surrogate advertising.
Medical experts claim that the consumption of paan has gone down since the first wave of Covid, because of increased health consciousness.
Paan sellers, however, argue that paan masala is more harmful than fresh paan, which has been seen as a digestive for years.
“The main reason is that consumers want a quick fix for everything like junk food. They prefer to carry sachets in dozens instead of spending a few minutes getting their Paan prepared,” says Ashfaq (75), who now has more paan masala sachets in his shop than fresh paan.
Recalling the glorious days of the past, he explains, “People in Lucknow usually have non-vegetarian meals and they would chew paan to help in digesting the food, Now the same people prefer paan masala which is much cheaper than paan.”
Explaining further, he says, “Selling a Pan amid soaring prices has become a less profitable proposition, as the cost of adding all the ingredients and then customizing it according to customer’s choices, such as adding more Kathha, Chuna, cardamom and clove has become much costlier and therefore the cost of a good paan has gone up from Rs 2 to 20. A paan masala sachet is available for just Rs 10.”