Oldest Plaza In the City
“A man who goes into a restaurant and blatantly disrespects the servers, shows a strong discontent with his own being. Deep down he knows that restaurant service is the closest thing he will ever experience to be served like a king.”- Criss Jami
DIMAPUR, JANNUARY 11
Plaza is arguably the oldest bakery in Dimapur, now expanded to a chain of outlets such as the Plaza Bakery, Plaza Ice Cream and Plaza Restaurant.
The business which began 44 years ago continues to flourish. Plaza is managed by Rajender Sharma (popularly called Rajen ‘Uncle’), is from Punjab. He first came to Nagaland to help his cousin brother, a contractor in food supplies in the northeastern states.Rajen’s foray into food business was inspired by Deluxe Resturant near the Rail gate. Rajen setup his shop in the late ‘70s with bakery products which was a new concept in Dimapur as seen in the sole Naga Bakery in the town.
Rajen recalled how initially no one was interested in snacks or bakery products. ‘The population was also very thin with few shops and houses’ he reminisced. Going down memory lane, remembered how he would stand outside his shop day after day, and hoping for a few footfalls, but the passersby would not even turn to have a look. He says his shop was the only one among three buildings on Church road, where it still stands today.
His first snack was Chholay -Bhutura (an oil dip Indian bread-like accompanied with a pulse curry). At first the restaurant only served vegetarian but inquiries for demand made him include non vegetarian items. Business was no bed of roses and he failed to pay the Rs. 300 monthly rent for the space. But having earned trust of the owner of the building he convinced the landlord to reduce the rent to Rs 200/-.What is remarkable is that Rajen was the lone cook, waiter and cleaner.
Rajne seems to think his breakthrough came with orders from the Late Nyamo Lotha and Mhalie Peseyie for ready-made cakes in December for Christmas. The patronage boosted their confidence to expand. Soon the news of the ‘new taste’spread amongst the people by word of mouth. Slowly and steadily without spending a pie on glitzy advertisements the oldest form of communication “speech”by new converts to Rajen’s food increased the footfalls and orders.
So much so that when the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Dimapur in the late 1980’s it was Rajen’s plaza that organizers turned to, in the absence of other restaurants in the town. It’s a moment of history that still manages to light up Rajen’s face.
Speaking Eastern Mirror, he says “People of Nagaland are more honest than any other place as far as I know. Even if the people forget to pay, they come back the next day and make the payment.That’s how my business has been continuing. People of Nagaland have a clean heart, are friendly and not pretentious”.
He underlines “I love Nagaland and will be here till I die” My wife’s last wish was to visit Nagaland and die here. I too want to live the rest of my life here among the people of Nagaland who respect me and address me as ‘Uncle’ with love. I feel deeply honored”, says Rajen.
Good quality and tasty food, good staff and the right rates, are key issues in the restaurant business. Till now ‘Plaza’ has been able to maintain the balance and hold on to its position as one of the most favorite food joints in Dimapur, helped with a sprinkle of love from faithful customers.