In March 2017, menus in many traditional restaurants in Lucknow had to undergo a major change after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath banned all illegal slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh. The worst affected were food outlets serving buffalo meat, including Lucknow's iconic 'Tunday Kababi'. But that will not stop Abu Bakar, who runs the restaurant in Chowk, from voting for the BJP again.
"Rajnath Singh has been the chief minister in the past, I will vote for him. He never differentiated among people," Bakar tells indianexpress.com. Singh, the Union Home Minister and former UP chief minister, is expecting to be reelected from the state capital. Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency will vote on May 6.
Tunday Kababi used buffalo meat as the base of its signature dish. After March 23, 2017, ban, buffalo meat was replaced with the costlier chicken and mutton for a while. "It did affect our business. We sold chicken and mutton kebabs during that time, but within 10 to 15 days, customers started to flow in and the business was back on track," explains Tunday franchise owner Mohammad Usman. It took two months for the outlet to restart their signature buffalo meat galouti kebab.
At the imposing Akbari gate, a symbol of Awadhi architecture, it's not hard to miss the aroma of kebabs and biryanis. Not with every alternate street shop being a food outlet with huge cauldrons and griddles simmering away up front. But at Tunday's there is another significant addition to the facade: a pamphlet reads, /"Buffalo ke ghost ke kebab aur parantha only/ (Only buffalo meat kebab and parantha are sold here)".
"A while ago, someone spread a rumour that Tunday is selling cow meat kebabs. For the past 100 years, since when our grandfather was alive, we have been selling buffalo meat kebabs. We provided clarity for that," Bakar says attending to customers.
Konkana Mukherjee, a 23-year-old customer at Tunday, is not that happy with what has happened. "Beef should not be banned at Tunday. It is one of the oldest outlets in Lucknow. This is one of the issues for us."
Ankur Kumar, a law student in Lucknow having a meal at Tunday, says when the slaughterhouses were shut, Tunday used to close down earlier than usual. Tunday was shut for at least a day when the ban was imposed.
"I have nothing to say about the government and politics, but because of schemes like Goods and Services Tax (GST) there's a silence in the restaurant," says Bakar. Despite the new tax, Tunday has held the price of the signature buffalo meat galouti kebab at Rs 44 for a plate of four pieces. The chicken and the mutton kebabs are twice as expensive as the buffalo ones.
Now it seems like business has returned and at least on weekdays, the restaurant at Aminabad was filled to capacity with customers placing orders from all directions.
"We do not care which government comes to power, we will work with what God has given us," says Usman, adding that whichever side wins should think about "uniting Hindus and Muslims".