The kati kebab has rolled out of its original home. Nizam’s, which gave Calcutta the kati kebab roll, has been reduced to a cubby-hole counter on its door-front pavement following labour trouble. But die-hard Nizam’s fans can take heart in the fact that the management remains keen to take its kebab counters far beyond its Hogg Street hearth, from Salt Lake to either side of the Atlantic.
The vintage kebab-paratha outlet set up by Sheikh Hassan Raza in 1932 and named after his son Sheikh Nizamuddin, was shut down on August 11, when a section of employees owing allegiance to the Forward Bloc struck work following a “two-day delay” in disbursement of wages.
The Nizam’s management, which had sought an extra couple of days to garner pay packets for 16 of the 86 permanent staff citing “lax business”, has termed the sudden strike “completely illegal”. An attempt at a negotiated settlement allegedly led to “threats” from the agitating workers.
The owners have sought and obtained Section 144 so that “ingress and egress to the premises are not blocked”. But the striking staff opened up a roll counter right at the restaurant entrance on Wednesday, following which the management has decided to move court again.
The Citu faction, which has seen its ranks swell of late, has dissociated itself from the wildcat strike. “The restaurant was our sole sustenance in this city and we are worried sleepless about the future,” says 65-year-old Mohammed Nayeem, who has been rustling up rolls at Nizam’s since 1952.
The management, despite losing upwards of Rs 50,000 a day during this peak pre-Puja shopping season, would like the giant tavas to simmer again only after a legally ratified assurance of cooperation from the striking employees. Closure has led to default on dues to statutory bodies as well, but not on the growth plans.
“We have already branched out into catering, and will roll out at least 10 franchisee outlets in the city within the next two months, starting with Salt Lake. Our Delhi and Darjeeling restaurants are doing very well and plans to take the Nizam’s brand of kati kebab rolls abroad (proposals from the UK, US, Germany and Russia are on the table) remain a priority area,” says 29-year-old Mehboob ‘Bobby' Irshad, great grandson of Raza.