Lahori Lip-smacks: the Quaid, Takka tin and Takka tak

Azam Gill

Azam Gill

By Lt Azam Gill, France (2nd SSC)

Readers are cordially invited to correct any mistake on my part: it’s been a long time since I am out of Pakistan, folks!

The appropriation of Takka tin by Takka tak serves as an allegory of Pakistan’s conflicting and overlapping forces swirling to appropriate the Quaid’s legacy.

Taka tak phonetically imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it transcribes, making it a classic onomapoetia. It sets down the sound of two bits of metal clashing at a right angle, originating from two vertically held metal spatulas chopping lamb sweetbread, kidneys, and chops on a metal tray over high heat as the ingredients cook in spices, butter, tomatoes, ginger, onions and garlic. There is also a vegetable takka tak that is popular in India. Actually, Taka tak could equally well be called tana tun, taka tun, tuna tak, tun tun, tak tak. The possibilities are as endless as the possible names of Item Queen Malaika Arora Khan.

However, although Malaika might be Munni, Priyanka might be Bubbly, and Katrina might be Sheila with or without Jawani, Taka tak is now taka tak.

Yet, at one time, during my Aatish ki Jawani — not Sheila’s — Taka tak was known as Taka tin, baptized as such by Malik Javed Shaukat aka ganja, a scion of one of Lahore’s most distinguished families of noble Kakezais, under the hovering shadow of the Quaid.

My three bhaijans, Javed Shaukat, Muazzam Gill (my older brother) and Dildar Bhatti, the late and great stand-up comedian, were vibrant post graduate students in Lahore of the late 60’s. Two Muslims, and a Christian, with a clearly disproportionate minority representation!  A Kakezai, a Jatt and a Rajput!

Apart from being brilliant students, they were also dandi-patti qaim, tama’ash beens and shikras, valuable ingredients of fully rounded young men in a Pakistan struggling to realize its self-image. They dressed well, fought well, were popular with girls and in general were considered to have theek tha’ak teheka in Lahore. Their beat was bounded by Law College and Punjab University Old Campus at one end and Kinnaird and Lahore College for Women at the other! They considered the gourmet eateries within these parameters as extensions of their family dining rooms while pursuing out-of-area operations for cha’amps, siri payas and mujras in Heera Mandi. The fathers of all three were well known in the legal profession.



Javed Bhaijan was the son of Malik Shaukat Ali, Advocate, and the grandson of Malik Barkat Ali, Advocate, leader of the Pakistan Movement and close associate of the Quaid.  Their palatial mansion was on the Temple Road side of the Temple Road-Mozang Road crossing known as Safana’ala chownk, not far from the famous Jat Sweet corner, run by the notorious Pir Mohammed Jatta.

The Quaid had been a guest at Malik Shaukat Ali’s wedding, which still caused a buzz in Lahore when people went past their mansion. Desert for the wedding banquet had been ice cream. In those good old days right up to the seventies, this delicious dessert was made by churning the milk/cream and fruit mixture by hand.

Ice Cream Churner

Ice Cream Churner.

The space between the churner and the wooden bucket in which it rested was packed with ice, and the ice covered with rough kalmi shora saltpetre (potassium nitrate) to delay the melting process. If the lid on the churner was not tight enough, the salt-flavoured melting ice could seep into the ice cream.

Malik Barkat Ali

Malik Barkat Ali.

And that is what happened with one of the churners at Malik Shaukat Ali’s wedding. However, according to the legendary tale which, of course, changed its precision with each telling while maintaining the integrity of the anecdote, the Quaid smiled and complimented his host on the taste. At that point, Malik Barkat Ali, tasting his own cup, realized the blunder, tendered profuse apologies and obviously had the Quaid’s ice cream changed!

One of my bhaijans’ favourite eateries, which I ‘inherited’ when I started my own career in well-roundedness in their footsteps, was on Abbot Road, known as Lahore’s Broadway for its concentration of cinemas. Lakshmi chownk was at one end, behind which was Royal Park, where many of the production companies and financiers, themselves tama’ash beens by definition, had their offices.

Abbot Road, was also well known for its eateries. The original Bangali Murgh Cholay was located at one end, a chicken rotisserie and a khokha (kiosk) selling hunter beef slices fried in desi ghee with dudh patti cha’a at the other.

Between them were semi open-air establishments preparing a superb dish called, I believe, tikki-anda. The cost of the beef-offered-as-mutton tikkis used to be a takka (before decimalization, it was 16 annas to a rupee and half an anna was a takka or tagha) or its decimal equivalent which came to four tikkis per rupee.

The tikkis themselves were little meatballs of approximately half an inch diameter. You chose the number of eggs in proportion, and decided whether you wanted them cooked in butter or mutton fat. The butter tikkis cost half a rupee each. On a large tawa, the karigar added chopped tomates, onions, garlic, green chillies, ginger and spices to the melted butter, threw in the tikkis and eggs, and went tin tin rin tin tin on the tawa with a metal spatula making eye-dazzling vertical strikes, chopping and mixing.

Once the dish was cooked, the accompanying nans didn’t come hot out of a tandoor, but were wiped on the residual butter and masala on the tawa — ballé ballé  full chaska!

Takka tin

Takka tin.

Takka tin kaarigar

Takka tin kaarigar.

It was here, on that unrecorded and historic day, that the law student and son of the Lawyer at whose wedding the Quaid had shown his refined courtesy, argued that since each tikki was still referred to as costing a takka, and the sound of the spatula on the tawa was tin-tin, it was takka tin. Mushtaq Hashmi, aka T’hako, later a TV producer, singer and presenter, was also present. Between these four bhaijans and the tikki-anda karigars, the baptism spread like wildfire. The baptism having been administered by the renowned Malik Shaukat Ali’s son and Malik Barkat Ali’s grandson and many of the regular takka tin clients being film people from their Royal Park offices, led to exponential repetition of the name. The appellation spread like wildfire.

But then fate took a hand. The simmering cultural configurations that surfaced in the 80’s challenged Pakistan to its core. Winds of change swept much away, and the Quaid’s memory itself became a hotly contested terrain.  Hardly surprising that what the mouth of man had proclaimed to public acceptance became victim to the prevailing exigencies of political correctness. The mighty did not fall, but like old soldiers, faded away with dignity!

Related Pages:
Lahori Jokes
Nostalgic Articles about Lahore
Lahore Blog

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  1. Talat Ali says:

    Dear Azam Gill,
    I enjoyed your article on the grand old days of Lahore. I am glad you are not in Lahore to witness the present Lahore. I have sent your article to my younger brother Tariq Ali who is in USA.

  2. Malik Tariq Ali, says:

    Azam Gill,
    Thank you for such a good article in which you have mentioned about my cousin Late Malik Javed Shaukat and our family.
    Distorting history and making heroes out of zeros has become a national epidemic in Pakistan. Very few people in Pakistan would like to reproduce facts about political movement which lead to creation of Pakistan. Some of the bitter facts are intentionally being distorted. The incidence about salt in dessert served on occasion of my late uncles wedding attended by Quaid is factual. This was a country created by men of vision and integrity, who believed that in Pakistan all citizens should enjoy equal rights, freedom and opportunities without any discrimination as to faith, caste, creed or religion.
    Just one correction the picture you have published in your article is not of Malik Barkat Ali, but of me. My name is Malik Tariq Ali son of Late Malik Maratab Ali, the eldest son of Late Malik Barkat Ali. Every April I try to get published an article about my late grandfather and some newspapers who oblige print the author’s picture, in spite of my requesting them to publish my Late Grandfather Malik Barkat Ali’s picture. I will send his picture to you through email as an attachment.

    • Malik Jee,
      Thank you for your response and also for clarifying that although I made a mistake about the picture it is really the fault of our enthusiastic press! One of your cousins, also called Tariq whose brother was on the national cricket team was a good friend of mine at FC College, and another one of your cousins was in my class at Cathedral School. I look forward to seeing the picture of the legendary Malik Barkat Ali.

      • Malik Tariq Ali says:

        Dear Azam Gill,
        et me have your email address. My cousin Tariq, younger brother Talat Ali Malik, the test player is in USA.
        I remember your elder brother Muazam Gill and his friend Dildar Pervaiz Bhatti who frequently visited our house, 19 Temple Road, to see my cousin Jawaid Shaukat Malik. Both of them had a great sense of humour. I emailed your article to Jawaid’s wife and daughter and they were both so pleased.
        May God Almighty bless you and your family.

  3. Javaid Rahim Bakhsh says:

    Dear Azam,
    What fortunate luck I came across your write up via Facebook while reading on 25th Cavalry operations at Chawinda in 1965 Indo Pak War. In that Facebook Post, the link of this website (Native Pakistan) was given in a comment and found your article in Native Pakistan.
    I second every complimentary comment of your friends, you have definitely retained deep affiliation with your roots and culture. I hope you recall me from our family friendship days of the 1960’s. You write beautifully, you were a great story teller even as a ten year old. I am perplexed we never came across each other during our days in service with the Army.

    • Azam Gill, France says:

      Thank you Javed, for remembering and your kind words. I have also left a message for you on Facebook. How could I forget Uncle and Aunty Rahim Bakhsh, their love and affection, and that of dear Farouk, Lucky and yourself.
      About not crossing each other’s paths during our Army service: maybe because my stay was rather brief! Your battalion officer, Major Munir, a gentleman through and through, spoke very highly of you. Hope to keep in touch with you. Take care and God bless!

  4. Col (R) Qaisar Rashid says:

    Gill Badshah,
    Your Picture painting is superb. Since I am on Zeloric I decided to go for Tawa Fish from Gari Shahoo instead of Takka Tak. Will go together when you are around.

    • Azam Gill, France says:

      Sadqé méré Shahanshah!
      I don’t remember eating fish in Garhi Shahu, but I do remember a paya – cholé wala who had two degs on the pavement. He was the brother of Joora Rath, who had withstood 90 cane strokes in Kote Lakhpat Jail without a sound, and then was murdured. Anybody who mentioned his brother to this pehelwan got something extra. Many Christian boxers employed by the Railway lived in Garhi Shahu. When I visited them, they got me these paya cholas and served them in their dining rooms with home made parathas – crisp, desi ghee and partaan walas!

  5. Lt Col Naeem Ahmed Khan ( Retd ), 2nd SSC says:

    No part of your article hints at your absence from this culture for such a long time. To me it looks as if you have always been around us and not left for France. This speaks of your deep affiliation with your roots and culture. Please keep writing, we enjoy reading it. God be with you, Gill

    • Azam Gill says:

      Thank you, my gracious friend. This is one of the nicest things anybody’s said to me. I am a namak halal, adopted son of France but I have never forgotten my roots, often communicating with my past through cooking! I can make pretty good anda tikki myself, though without the dazzling visuals of a real kaarigar!

  6. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa (6 OTS Course) says:

    Dear Gill,
    What a fantastic peep into days gone by. Late Malik Shaukat Ali, a thorough gentleman was a friend of my late father, late Dildar Bhatti’s family were neighbors of my in-laws in Gujranwala and he was a friend of my late brother-in-law; in mid- fifties, at least once a week, I along with my friends would enjoy Tawaey da qeema-aanda on Abbott Road; you mentioned Law College —-which tolerated me for one and a half years before I plunged into the Army. You took me on a tour replete with fond memories. Thank you.
    I tend to agree with Zubair that a bit of Salees English would help many of your readers enjoy fully the contents of your wonderful writings.

    • Azam Gill says:

      Salam Aleikum, Sir!
      Thank you, as always, for your encouraging and judicious observations. I stand corrected on the issue of salees angrezi, but I think my pen was trying to respect the presence of the Quaid in the piece.
      Also, that’s it, it was Tawaey da qeema-aanda and not tikki anda!
      I am delighted to learn of your family connections with Gujranwala. Our ancestral home was in Civil Lines, on Gill Road (patch between zila katchery and the sua) named after my grandfather, a chota zamindar, but who had contributed to citrus grafting and production in District Gujranwala.
      Dildar Bhaijan was actually my Hoppy Bhaijan, nicknamed as such by my brother. His father, before becoming a lawyer, had been in the police with my uncle. These Bhattis were known for their own unusual cooking like piddéyaan (male sparrows!) da pulao, and a very special firni, keemae wal parathas and such. As the gora sang, sir: “those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end, we’d sing and dance forever and a day”!

  7. Maj (R) Rehmat Elahi (2nd SSC) says:

    We are grateful to our worthy Azam Gill for narrating a master piece in a beautiful manner. Well done, just keep it up!!

  8. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd), 2nd SSC says:

    Dear Gill, thanks for writing such an informative article for all of us. It is a pleasure always to read you write ups. Dildar Bhatti was a great entertainer, so sad that he left us so early. May GOD bless his soul.
    Your article reminded me of Quetta. One day after a party in Corps Mess, I was told by my CO to take over as Mess Secretary of the Corps Mess immediately, as the unit running the Mess was ordered to hand over to our unit within 24 hours.
    Reason? In last night’s party where Corps Commander was chief guest the flavour of ice cream was saltish, due to the problem in the bucket of ice cream machine and no one tasted it before serving. Regards.

    • Azam Gill says:

      Masood Jee,
      I feel privileged to have known such a great artist intimately, and to have someone like you as my course
      mate. Thanks.

  9. Major (R) Munir Ahmed (2nd SSC) says:

    Dear Gill Jee,
    A masterpiece & magnificent article from all the angles. Your narration seems to be at its apex. This standard of narration can only be done by Gill the Great. Description of so difficult things with so much of ease & comfort appears to be your hobby. Your vocabulary undoubtedly is tremendous. Thank you so much for an amusing & mouth watering article.

    • Azam Gill says:

      Munir Jee,
      As always, you make me bow my head with your kind words. If you’re still in Lahore, and the traffic doesn’t overwhelm you, go to Nemat Kadah one of these days, order maash ki daal, enjoy it, and think of me!

  10. Lt Col (R) Zubair Ahmed (2nd SSC), Canada says:

    To be honest it flew couple of thousand feet above my bald head. Do you have a ‘SALEES ANGRAIZEE” version of this piece of literature, I mean for ‘Dummies’ like me ?


    • Azam Gill says:

      Your modesty is overwhelming, though misplaced!
      Zubair, thanks to Col Zafar Mustafa, I stand corrected on the issue: I got carried away due to the presence of the Quaid in the piece ( and it’s not a cop out!)

  11. Lt Col (R) Qadeer Ahmad Ch (2nd SSC) says:

    Simply fantastic. Really enjoyed your article. Gill, keep it up. Regards.

  12. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah (2nd SSC) says:

    You are a master story teller, you made us feel proud . I had been a fan of DPB (Dildar Pervez Bhatti), you are lucky to be with him and having seen him closely. Your narration is simply outstanding. A very good read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Azam Gill says:

      Shah Jee, thanks for your comment. I do, indeed feel privileged that starting from my last year at school, I was able to sit in the company of such a great artist and trade jughatan’an with him. When he and Muazam bhaijan were preparing for their MA in English exam, almost every evening he was at our house for dinner. He was from Gujranwala, and a hostel student in Lahore. Our families too, knew each other very well. When he became a famous artist, he gave our family national fame on his TV show. We were a family of 5, and he said 6. The prompter said ‘not 5? Who’s the 6th?’ Dildar bhaijan said ‘Jumble Gill’. The prompter said ‘what? who’s he?’ Dildar Bhaijan said ‘He’s the dog. He speaks English too! Phar -phar!’

  13. Shaheda Rizvi, Canada says:

    Dear Lt Azam Gill,

    Fabulous and fascinating piece!! So much info packed in a few paragraphs. Your human story telling led me to an inner landscape of my own, of great souls, great scents, great sounds & great service. Marvelous rendition that made the mundane appear magical.

    Lahori Hunter Beef…Is there anything that comes close to it? Not at all. North American Roast Beef just does not make the cut no matter how you slice it.

    • Azam Gill says:

      Thank you, Shaheda Rizvi, with palms joined. Just throw in qeema, onions, tomatoes, sliced ginger and garlic, spices, salt, and eggs in hot oil in a wok, keep stirring it and tossing it around with the back of spatula till you think it’s getting sticky. Without putting a lid on it, let it settle down for five minutes, then go for it with nans, rotis, pita bread or whatever takes your fancy! Finish it off with a sliced orange (for good digestion) followed by a piece of black chocolate 77% cocao. Drink sparkling water with it. Turn on radio meethi mirchi on the internet for free Bollywood music!
      As far as Hunter Beef is concerned, I’m clueless. It stays in dreamland.

  14. Gill, as usual it is a literary piece. Keep it up!!!

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