Yesterday, my father excitedly walked up to the trolley bag he takes with himself on flights and asked me, “guess what did I bring for you last night?” I played the guessing game for a few seconds and he smiled back at me with each one of my incorrect answers. “It’s something you’ve loved since you were a child,” he gave me my final clue. Now, I was more clueless than before. Finally breaking the suspense, he took out a cloth bag form inside his trolley and handed it to me. I took out the contents of the cloth bag like an child opens his presents after birthday parties. “Karachi Fruit Biscuits!” I screamed.
My family’s love affair with Hyderabad’s Karachi Bakery’s Fruit Biscuits is older than I am. Every story of my father and his friends’ stop over around the area which always led them to these biscuits has been told and retold more number of times than I can recall. Its one of those stories I grew up hearing. Anyone coming from or via Hyderabad always brought at least a dozen boxes to distribute among friends. Children and adults alike, these biscuits were everyone’s favourite. “But where did you get these from?” lovestruck, I asked. “They’ve opened a branch at the airport” he replied. Taking a bite, I smiled as the soft biscuit melted in my mouth, “ahh. just as I remember it.”
After that sweet start to my day, I took some time to look up Karachi Bakery on the Internet and its story warmed up my heart some more (if that was even possible). During the Partition riots, Khanchand Ramnani migrated to Hyderabad, India, with his family from Sindh, Pakistan. In 1952, he then opened the first branch of this bakery near Moazzam Jahi Market. While some sources on the Internet claim that Ramnani named his venture Karachi Bakery to pass down the connection he held with Karachi to his sons and their families, other interviews of one of his grandsons suggest that one cannot be sure how Ramnani named this bakery. A 65 years old delicate recipe with the perfect balance of goodness too has a connection with the independence and division of the subcontinent.
The sweetness of these biscuits and the warmth of the story compelled me to share this tale with my friends. I knew this would catch the attention of my friends from Karachi in particular. But what I did not know was that they would all have something for me in return too. They told me that in the Pakistani town of Hyderabad there is a very famous Bombay Bakery which is especially loved for its coffee cake. Emotions welled up in my chest, I was happy and curious at the same time. Karachi Bakery in India and Bombay Bakery in Pakistan. I have not been able to stop thinking of these stories of migration and displacement, and the remains of a decision made long ago.