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Mumbai’s Star Paanwalas

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One has a website and the other holds a Guinness record for his bell collection

He is probably the only paanwala with a website, but it is in the real world that Jaishankar Tiwari aka Muchhad Paanwala has a following. The Muchchad Paan Shop on Warden Road is a landmark in south Mumbai. His customers range from film actors to businessmen to your ordinary paan eater.

Jaishankar hails from Tiwaripur in Uttar Pradesh, and the sobriquet Muchchad comes from his thick moustache, which runs from ear to ear. It is said that the moustache, which stays regally stiff throughout the day, was as responsible for his stardom as his paan itself. Ram Shankar Tiwari, Muchchad’s son, says, “My grandfather started this shop decades ago. My father took over the business in 1977. In recent times, our popularity has soared.”

Mucchad’s website (muchhadpaan.com) traces the history of the Moghul delicacy and explains the exotic ingredients that go into the making of various varieties of paan. There is a section that teaches you how to make your own paan, but those who have tasted the Muchhad paan will probably ignore it.

Muchchad is not the only celebrity paanwala in Mumbai. Vinod Kumar Tiwari, 44, owner of Ghanta Wala Pan Mandir in Borivali, has made his way into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest collection of bells, one of which he rings each time he hands out a paan to a client. He specialises in 125 varieties of paan, including a Chocolate and Chappan Bhog Paan.

Tiwari is as finicky about the packaging as he is about the “right cut for the paan leaves”. He packs his paan in an attractive box that has his name, contact and tagline: ‘The Real Taste of Life,’ a la Cadbury.

“My grandfather set up a shop in Pune in 1933. He followed the practice of keeping and ringing bells, as a pandit had told him that Lord Shiva would shower him with blessings,” says Tiwari. His father, who started the Borivali shop in 1972, continued the tradition that he now follows.

He owns 450 bells from 169 countries. The first was gifted by a regular customer, Ashok Aggarwal, who had brought it from France. Some were even hung in his shop by customers who ask Lord Shiva for a mannat (wish).