From a dishwasher in Amritsar, to owner of best ‘dhaba’ in Adelaide, Australia
‘Australian Idol’— Guy Sebastian – (Indian-Malaysia –first Australian Idol ) wrote: the food came closest to his mother’s cooking’
By Rashmi Talwar
For someone who washed dishes for 14-years on a pushcart as a tiny 7-year old, to eke out a living in the Jallianwala Bagh area of Amritsar, it was a relentless struggle that ultimately brought him sweet success in faraway Australia.
A mere 5th standard pass, orphaned early, Parkash Chand Sharma (48) is now the proud owner of the best ‘dhaba’ in Adelaide, Australia by the name of ‘Indian Temptations’.
Sharma shyly lowers his kohled eyes (he wears ‘kohl’ as men used to do in Northern India) when an Indian describes him how he is respectfully addressed as ‘Sharma Ji’ and the resturant more as ‘Sharma ji’s Dhaba’ among South Asians and ‘Sharman’s Daba’ among natives and European-Americans. The entire city, including Australians call on him, love his food, his shyness and even his inability to speak English and often sit in or outside his humble ‘dhaba’ to enjoy his –‘Hot from the Tandoor’- kababs, Naans and Kulchas.
His best moment came when “Guy Sebastian–An Indian Malaysian/ singer-songwriter and the first winner of famous ‘Australian Idol’ TV Reality Show in 2003, having many top albums and singles to his credit- who wrote- “ Nothing as good as Mum’s Curry but u guys come the closest” – a collage on Sabastian with his note proudly hangs in his dhaba . The ‘Quality Training Company’ supports his eatery for ‘Government Funded Traineeship Scheme’ and the Gujarati community has showered him with appreciations for his contributions to the ‘Navratri’ festival- writing on the certificate of Appreciation-‘You Rock Sharmaji !’
Ask him the meaning of ‘Temptations’ and he flays his hands “I don’t know ; I just carried the name from a from 5-star hotel restaurant named ‘Tandoori Temptations,” Sharma admits humbly.
Queried over his early life, he relates, “I studied till class 5th and having no father and a mother who remained indisposed, I was passed from relative to relative. Later I was taken by my Nani (maternal grandmother) who put me in a school, soon it started to pinch their budget and I was passed to my Mama (maternal uncle) who put me to work. I took refuge in ‘Tota Ram Dharmashala’ in the Amritsar, to be on my own. Washed dishes for 14 years, as a call boy at “Anantram Pakore Walla’s rehri” that was stationed just opposite the Jallianwala Bagh near Golden Temple till late 70s. There I learned how to make the best Pakoras and chutney with grated radish and carrots.”
While Collecting order slips in his Australian busy ‘dhaba’ along with his wife Neelam who is also a class-5 drop-out, he recalls –“I got a chance to work at the famous Novelty Sweets in Amritsar as helper. Then someone took me to Delhi to work at another sweet shop in Karol bagh, I learned to make boondi used in ladoos, rasgoolahs, milkcake, kalakand and other sweets.
One day, through someone I met a travel agent in Hoshiarpur who offered a job in Dubai worth Rs 8000/ a month. Having no passport, I lost the chance but held on to a dream to explore chances abroad. Meantime, I worked as ‘cook’ in various restaurants in Delhi – Moti Mahal, ‘Tandoori Club’, till one day while working at ‘Holiday Inn’ someone came from Singapore- ‘the head chef and I both presented him our sample dishes and I was chosen’.
Thereon, I started working in ‘Royal Bengal Restaurant’ in the Boat Quay area of Singapore then ‘Khazana’ where someone recommended me to Australia at “Beyond India’ restaurant. The Australian restaurant owner sponsored my Permanent Residency status and I opened my own restaurant in the Millennium year 2000”.
Sharma’s tandoori fare, curried Punjabi and Mughlai dishes – butter chicken, tarka dal, afghani rann, methi masala and stuffed and crisp rotis are amongst the hot favorites and is a sure shot hit for Indians in foreign lands. Till now Sharma has not placed a credit card swishing device and takes only good old cash. Along with the main course the couple prepares a sweet dish everyday. Ask him and he says –“when I get up at 4 am, I first prepare a sweet for my ‘Data’ (The Almighty) as thanksgiving.
Sharma who has been working for 10-years slogging to ‘tempt’ his clients in Australia earns a princely figure with a daily earning of Aus $ 2500/ (Aus $:INR 1:45 ) and has seven Indians as his employees.
He has put both his son and daughter in “Gurukul” a well known boarding school in Panchkula (Chandigarh). His contention is that his children must learn Indian culture before stepping into schools in Australia