Jai Hind’s owner Bhoopendar Singh says he finds it hard to let go of the shop despite the competition and rising rentals.
Looking for a long-lost Punjabi friend? Chances are you will find him at the Jai Hind restaurant in Jalan Melayu, a popular meeting place for the community since the 95s. RINA DE SILVA speaks to some regulars in between mouthfuls of the restaurant’s famous chappati and tea with cow’s milk
|Paguman Singh’s favourite drink at Jai Hind is the cow’s milk.|
And it was not just the scrumptious chappati, the refreshing cup of tea with fresh cow’s milk, or the finely-made barfi (a sweet delicacy) which has kept the customers going back for more.
The authentic Punjabi cuisine, which in those days was a plate of chappati, a vegetable dish and dhall for 30 sen, brought the community together.
Jai Hind soon became a well-known meeting place for the Punjabis and though the chappati costs RM1.20 today, it is still teeming with regulars who have been frequenting it for decades.
Another regular, consultant Pa- guman Singh, 58, fondly recalled how during his university days, he would have his dinner at Jai Hind before rushing to catch the latest Hindi movie at Coliseum cinema.
Lawyer Harcharanjit Singh, 41, was another satisfied customer who had been patronising the restaurant for 20 years.
Although the clientele now includes migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar, there are still many familiar faces there, including businessmen with their clients and Punjabi parents handing out their children’s wedding invitation cards.
Even the tradesmen hang out here, peddling bottles of fresh cow’s milk.
The present owner of Jai Hind, Bhoopendar Singh, 56, said it was not uncommon to bump into old friends at the restaurant.
Bhoopendar’s father and his friends had bought the place from the previous owner in 1946.
Immigrants of different religions from Punjab state in India would congregate at the restaurant and find solace in its home-cooked food.
Bhoopendar said he was only 11 when his father, Dalip Singh, made him the restaurant’s cashier.
Although there was much to see and learn in the busy restaurant, young Bhoopendar yearned to be at the football field with his friends.
His fondest memory was during Deepavali when he and his sister, Jasbir, would serve sweets laid out on pretty trays to their customers.
When their father died in 1970, Bhoopendar’s younger siblings ran the restaurant. However, in 1983, Bhoopendar gave up his job as a chemical engineer and took over the running of the restaurant.
Jai Hind was originally located at 15, Jalan Melayu. In 2001, Bhoopendar expanded the restaurant. The original shoplot is now the restaurant’s candy-making store.
Bhoopendar’s initial reluctance to take over the restaurant has turned into a labour of love. He said it would be hard to give up the business now despite the stiff competition and rising rental.