Patna Ka Superhero

Patna ka Superhero, was performed at the Stein Auditorium and featured Ghanshyam Lalsa. The solo act was hilarious and dramatic- Ghanshyam, had the audience eating out of the palm of his hands. It was like watching a trapeze act, waiting with baited breath for the artist to trip but the acting was engrossing, the accent was on point and the comedy timing, impeccable!
Written and Directed by Nihal Parashar, the play was about Pintu Bhaiya a childhood hero of the narrator’s. It entwines the journeys of both the characters through, the hero’s pursuit of love. Though, one visited Patna, for the first time only in my thirties, the story had a familiarity. Pintu was a small town boy but those of us who grew up in colonies where there were a lot of teenage boys, would be familiar with characters, such as his.
Masjid Moth, a colony in South Delhi, where one grew up could have passed off as Patna, believe you me!instead of Nisha Sweets, there was Anupam sweets where the boys would hang out and occasionally, get into fights. There was the local hero, ‘gunda’ everyone was afraid off, like our hero, scary and admirable…boys would be standing outside girl’s homes with their friends, for hours at a time waiting to catch one glimpse of their object of affection. This was way before Tinder, Messanger and Insta, so instead of swipes and sliding into Dms, friend’s would act as the the mailmen passing letters and messages, back and forth. Everyone would claim the girls they desired were theirs without even showing any interest to the actual girls, themselves. Everything about the play had a familiar tone to it, that had one reminiscing. On the onset Patna Ka Superhero, is about a local gang leader, regaled to the status of Karl Max and Bhagat Singh, by the adoring eyes of the narrator. But it’s really about the trials of an uneducated, village boy, who is eventually beaten down by life and the narrator’s need to hold on to his sense of identity and familiarity with his roots.

Habba Khatoon

Habba Khatoon at Rosetta House. The play was about the love story of Zoon (her name was later changed by her lover) and Yusuf Shah Chak, who married the woman he fell in love with a woman he found in the woods.
‘Habba Khatoon’ Written by Kajal Suri was staged by Rubaru Theatre Delhi.
Though Zoon was married earlier, her husband despised her spending time writing poetry. This became his grounds for leaving her.
Yusuf Shah Chak was played by Rajeev Sharma and Zoonie by Chandrani Mukherjee. Akbar wanted to conquer Kashmir, so Chak went to Delhi and was
arrested there. He never returned to his beloved.
Habba spent the rest of her life healing others and composing poems of separation and loss. Like all great love stories, this too ended tragically!

Jaskiran Chopra played the part of the terrible Mother-in-law.
Rahul Malhotra Aziz Jan , Khatoon’s first Husband

In the Light- Swiss Art Night

Swiss Art Night at the Embassy of Switzerland in India and Bhutan.
Gerry Hofstetter, the Swiss artist who crafts pieces of art with light made his Indian debut at this event. He creates light art performances for various cultural partners.
The incredible art pieces, which were created in the garden and facade were breathtaking. This event was part of the Swiss It! initiative.
Dr Ralf Heckner, the Ambassador of Switzerland, organised the event to celebrate 75 years of India’s independence and the diplomatic relations between India and Switzerland.
Contemporary Indian Choreographer and dancer Diya Naidu, with the Citizens of Stage Co Lab enchanted us with a brilliant performance, which was both painful and seductive.
Diya Naidu has been a member of Attakkalari, India’s pioneer contemporary dance company. Citizens of Stage Co lab is a collective of independent contemporary dancers, who share their passion with whoever is interested in learning
We all gathered around in the garden, where sumptuous food and drinks were being served and watched the performance.
The Indian and Swiss team behind the performance.
Simon Sevan Schafer, Head of Culture Embassy of Switzerland was one of the main organisers of the event
The special surprise for the evening was when the Di played Bollywood songs. Everyone came together on the dance floor to turn it into a night to remember.

Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan

Kathak Dancer-Manjari Chaturvedi

Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan
Courtesan Project

Spartacus

Spartacus, Hindi Play.
Directed by Tarique Hameed
Written by Badal Sircar
India Habitat Centre

Haveli Dharampura

Kathak Performance at Haveli Dharampura
Lakhori – Haveli Dharampura
The Chef’s Tasting Menu

On a pleasant Sunday evening, my companion and I head out to this Haveli in Chandni Chowk which has been restored by Vijay Goel- a Rajya Sabha member who is in the process of restoring another mansion, close to Haveli Dharampura, which took him around six years to restore. We walked in tiny meandering lanes, close to Jama Masjid’s gate number three, where the rains had turned the ground into quagmires and in Gali Gulian found this wonderful 19th century mansion, which will transport you back in time. The entrance isn’t overbearing, it has a quintessential Dilli 6 feel to it, with a narrow lane and a huge door, which you could miss if you’re not on the look out for the board. But as soon as you make it past the concierge, it magically reveals itself.

The courtyard that lies behind that door, is akin to all the old mansions one has visited. So many of the Indian homes, down South, thankfully retain that sort of architectural style-courtyard in the middle and all the individual rooms open into it. But in the times of builder made flats, having a house and that too with a courtyard is a luxury, restoring and owning a mansion seems princely.

Chandni Chowk built by Shah Jahan, is a a foodie’s paradise. Some of the chefs in this area, are actual descendants of those who worked in the Royal kitchen. So, if you are a vegetarian, you can find the best chaats, paranthas, kachoris, dahi bhallas in CC, closer to the Temple. If you love meat, like me, you can find the oldest, most iconic restaurants near the Masjid. So, a delectable meal isn’t what you should visit the restaurant, Lakhori (at the Haveli Dharampura) for. It’s for the entire experience, which is what is unique.

On arrival you are given a welcome drink-Kanjee, which is a zesty probiotic. This is followed by Palak Patta Chaat (yummy), Broken Wheat Kachori (which is heavy as an appetizer), Aloo Mint Kabab followed by Murg ke Parchey. By the time one finished eating the appetizers, one was full to the brim. Right on cue, the servers guided us upstairs for the Kathak performance. In that setup, it’s ethereal, though it only lasts for ten minutes. We came downstairs and were served Tamatar Ka Shorba. Since, one couldn’t get another morsel in, the server suggested we take it up to the terrace.

Up we went, by ourselves and I was so glad I wasn’t on a solo date but with someone who is usually game for some fun and frolic. From a particular spot we could see the dome of the Jama Masjid. On a couple of terraces, young lads tarried and dawdled as we sipped our soup. After a while, we made it back to Lakhori to finish our meal. The food like I mentioned wasn’t my favourite part, as the non veg dishes surprisingly paled in comparison to the vegetarian ones. All the potatoes fill you up, so you don’t really notice that the variety and quantity of the non vegetarian dishes is meagre. The Biryani is vegetarian and you’re given a single piece of Roshan Josh and a couple of pieces of Butter Chicken, neither of which you would want to write home about.

But you wouldn’t want to miss eating all these specialities laid out on copper and ceramic plates, in a beautiful environment with a courteous and friendly staff. I would suggest getting the vegetarian meal and visiting on a Sunday, when the performance takes place and it’s easier to park and walk in CC. From Tuesday to Friday, they serve Ala Carte and on Saturdays and Sundays, when there’s the Kathak performance you can only order the Chef’s menu. To tum bhi ‘ aao kabhi haveli pe’ to get reminded of a bygone era.

Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Sheikh Imaduddin Firdausi

Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Sheikh Imaduddin Firdausi
This is like a sanctuary. One of the nicest places to do the zikr, to weep or just to hide.
Throwback image. The only time I took mum to a Dargah.
Surat Al Bayyana

A Day in Mehrauli

Qawals
At the Dargah
Jumme Raat at the Dargah

Post birthday celebrations continued with friends, this week. The culmination of it was today. What a euphoric day! Spent the afternoon with a friend at Bo Tai, then went to the park to lie in the sun. Got dirty looks from the lovers, who hated the intrusion. Made my way to the Dargah. Spent a few hours there till I could feel the depressive thoughts of the past few months, leaving my body. Mujhe aap ne bulaya yeh karam nahin to kyaa he?

Museum of Illusions

‘Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.’ This famous quote by Albert Einstein can be found on the walls of the newest museum in town- The Museum Of Illusions. Situated in the heart of Delhi- Connaught Place, right above the iconic Wenger’s.

The concept is highly unusual-to teach you more about your brain. About how we perceive things, and how easy it is to miss the tiniest details. From Visual Illusions, that play with your retinal sensitivity, to size illusions, to Kaleidoscopes, to 3 D images, to Upside down rooms, the tricks will leave you bewildered. The 50 illusions that are part of the exhibit have been studied by some notable physicists and psychologists like Ehrenstein and Jastrow. Hence, they would be of great interest to anybody with an inclination towards science or the arts. For six hundred and ninety rupees, you get an hour of brain twisters and fabulous imagery.

Since, one navigates the city, primarily by oneself, as soon as I entered the space, for a fraction of a second I regretted going alone. But the staff was so attentive, that they immediately figured out I would need some assistance, as selfies don’t work with the tricks. So, all my pictures were taken by the crew: mostly by Neeraj who accompanied and took pictures of me, while giving me a guided tour. Since, the cases are spiking, the museum is very strict about COVID protocols and the only time people are allowed to remove their masks is when pictures are being taken. So take your kids, a date or just yourself without hesitation.

The museum in Delhi, is the first of its kind in India. The backgrounds used here, have local references- from a picture of Gandhi to a backdrop of CP. Initially, it opened up in Zagreb, Croatia in the year 2015 and now there are around thirty such museums around the world in – Athens, New York , Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Riyadh etc. I hear, Bangalore and Bombay, too, will be getting their very own Museums of Illusions.

The Devil’s Advocate

Tractor parade starting from the Ghazipur side.

I thought at length about what to write. The young man, who lost his life: Navneet Singh, just returned from Australia, where his young wife awaited his arrival. Seeing him on the ground, left me shell shocked. The events of the day, were going to led to some disaster, that was obvious.

Rajdeep, is bearing the brunt of reporting, what the farmers told us- that Navneet had been shot. In fact, when I got the news, from one of the young farmers, I was told, that three boys had been shot in the head. It was not a rally but a protest, the kind, I have never witnessed and I have witnessed many, in the past decade. Let’s just say it was akin to the people taking to the street when Ram Rahim, was arrested. Plus, there was a caravan, a flight of tractors, stuck in a jam, leaderless, with lots of gossip mongering and alot of violence, from both ends. Now, if I say, the initial screw ups began from the side of the farmers in Ghazipur, I was there when they started to remove all the barricades and damage buses, in the morning, I will look like a right wing supporter and if I lie, I will not be able to live with it.

Men who tied the barrier to their tractor and dragged it for half km, till someone yelled at them.
Rejoicing
There’s mayhem, all over.
A young man attacks the truck, that they have pushed to one side, while another tries to stop the mayhem.
Ghazipur
Tear Gas Shells, are used early on, to deter the farmers. Most of the tractors as well as my driver take a U Turn, within minutes. Suddenly, there’s complete chaos, we get saved from being run over, by the tractors heading towards us, frantically looking for cover.
After the tear gas shelling
The farmers have no fear of COVID. But after the
mace is used, everybody has to cover their faces.
Enroute
Stuck in a jam.
My car is stuck in a jam, with the farmers. At approximately, this time, Navneet Singh is loosing his life.

If I was a politician, a follower of the religion under attack, a leftist, a feminist, an activist, a student leader, a photo journalist with a full time job, I would pick a side and stick to it. Right, wrong, evidence, no evidence, common sense, I would just flush all of it down the toilet and defend my own. I would write and argue till my face went blue about the right to protest any which way, about how religious flags are used inappropriately all the time, about how wonderful the Sikhs are and so and so forth. But, alas! one is unable to do so. Nevertheless, one is in complete solidarity with the farmers, so as a sign of respect to the most important movement, any of us will ever witness, I take a bow. I decided today, after much contemplation, that a truth that does more harm than good is not worth dwelling on and sharing.

Having said that, I just want to add, as a person born into a Sikh family, never have I ever felt ashamed of the community or any of its actions. In fact, one has always claimed, that if I ever did feel the need to follow a religion, it would be this, just for how courageous and generous, it encourages its followers to be. But for the first time, witnessing the utter disregard for human life, made me squirm and I would personally apologise on behalf of all those present at the Ghazipur border (out of which the percentage of Sikhs would not be over 20%, on the upside) for all that took place.

I said this to a young lad, initially, who I shot with the Nishan Sahab. The flag was on the tractor and he said to his friend that the reason I am taking a picture of him is because , ‘ Madam, humme Khalistani dikhana cha rahee he!’ I flared up, of course. My reply to him was, ‘ You are a cut surd, my father is a turbaned Sikh living in Delhi, who was going to be attacked in ‘84. Whatever you people do and say, be careful that you don’t risk the lives of the Sikhs living here because you all will flee and they will pay the price for it!’ I still maintain that stance. I still feel the need and the responsibility to apologise for the violence, not because I am a coward, but because due to it, we didn’t even rush our own to the hospital, we didn’t even pick up his body from the ground, instead we used him for media bytes. Two wrongs aren’t going to make a right and if I have to share images of the destruction of Babri Masjid, as a defence for the hyper masculinity flexing its muscles, shame on us!

A religion that was formed to stand up for the oppressed ( even if that oppressed person is a policeman) the visual of that religion, the turban and the Nishan Sahib, can’t be be seen on a tractor trying to drive over a policeman or attacking a policeman with a stick or a sword, that was put their in those hands to protect. It’s sava lakh nal ek ladava, not the other way round. This is a farmer’s issue, that across the board affects all farmers but in the end if something goes wrong and incase of violence, like we saw, only the turban will be held responsible and also bear the brunt of it! Never forget what the optics look like to a the man of the street. It is the Nishan Sahib, that will be used to derail theentire movement. The Sikhs are a martial race and there are rules, even in war. Let’s not forget that. This one we will win but let’s just try to win it, the right way.

P.S- This is an appeal to the Akal Takht, from factions of the Sikh community, to disallow people from using the religious flag- the Nishan Sahib for anything other than a religious procession. For it to not be hoisted on vehicles and to not carry it while running. Though, the Jathedar of the Akal Takht, Giani Harpreet Singh, has said, ‘ Violence by farmers or police at Red Fort can’t be justified. But controversy over hoisted Nishan Sahib over vacant flag pole at Red Fort is a non-issue.’

A farmer loses his life at the Tractor Parade

I’ll write about the day I had, witnessing the madness, as soon as I can get over this moment. Running, into the crowd and finding a man on the ground, a tiranga on his body, to cover his deadness. The voyeurism of us all, staring me right in my face. Rajdeep interviewing, his cameramen telling me ‘madam, don’t say anything live he!’. The farmers gathering around, the politics over a dead body. ‘Pick him up from the ground, you creeps!’ I want to yell. But the drama, is at play. He’s no more a human, just a dead body. The mob is getting agitated. I elbow, a few men, yell at a few more, I’m so sickened by the sight, I have to leave. ‘Let’s go before the circus begins’, I tell my Dad’s driver, who is so relieved. He’s spent the past few hours, trying to convince me of the same.

I come home, gulp down a few drinks but I can’t get the scene out of my mind. Somewhere, a mother will be weeping the loss of her child, a sister would have lost her best friend…somewhere, someone will be as sickened by this world, as I am sometimes.

Bahubali Thali At Ardor 2.1

Bahubali Thali at Ardor 2.1

I have been reading about this thali, on various platforms. So, last night my friends and I head out to try the Bahubali thali at Ardor 2.1. We ordered the non veg one but the three of us couldn’t finish it. Not because it was delectable but due to the number of dishes, which included, Butter chicken, Tandoori chicken, Malai tikka, Dal makhani, Kadhi, Palak, Paneer, Korma, Rohan Josh, Biryani etc.

It’s definitely not for four people, as the number of dishes are a lot but the helpings are tiny. At three grand, you would expect the food to be more appetising but one found the thali overrated. If you are vegetarian, you might enjoy the food. But for just the experience and the fact that the restraunt donates food to an ngo, people should put it on a bucket list.

Sair- E- Dilli

Qudsia Bagh, Heritage Walk.
Syed Yusuf Shahab, in Nizammudin
The Lost Sufis of Delhi by Syed Yusuf Shahab

Just received my copy of The Lost Sufis of Delhi, Syed Yusuf’s book, about the saints buried in Delhi, which is an abode of Sufism. Yusuf who is graduate in Political Science and has a Post Graduate’s degree in Tourism and Travel from Jamia, has dedicated the book to Late Eshan Alam.

I spent the weekend, walking around Delhi with this direct descendant of a Sufi Saint, belonging to the Chishti order. Of course, his knowledge of Sufism, was on point but that only an expert can verify. With my limited understanding of the topic, my occasional flirtation with the Sufi way of life, I found the walks to Qudsia Bagh and Nizamuddin quite interesting.The bagh and the cemetery, one had never visited neither had I been to the Chilla and Patti Sahab’s Dargah but Chausath Kambha, the Nizammudin Dargah, Ghalib’s tomb and Sunder Nursery, I took my students to last year. On a Sunday afternoon, these were packed so I refused to walk towards the Dargah, during this pandemic, hence I left early.

Each heritage walk leader, has his own distinct style. Syed Yusuf, began by saying, ‘ I’m more a storyteller than a historian‘. That just means, you have to discount them factual discrepancies, if there are any. Though, he spoke in Hindustani, his language was more casual and his mannerism a bit stern. But the information seemed on point, plus there were a number of team members, who kept an eye on everyone, to make sure no one got lost in the crowd. What I did like though was, they seem quite driven and organised. The walks are conducted quite frequently (which considering they only have six months a year to have these events, should be the case) and in various parts of Delhi. If money is a constraint, they are lighter on the pocket. I would recommend Sair- e- Dilli’s walks on or about Sufism. Somebody should start doing a fifteen minute zikr session before or after the walks ( but unfortunately men and women aren’t encouraged to do so together. They are made to sit separately, therefore, only non Muslims, I find, organise the mixed sessions) I would definitely go for all of those.

Poisonous Air

As the air becomes poisonous, schools to remain closed till the 5th of Nov.

The Air Quality Index remained in the ‘severe’ category.

Air quality index above 400 is considered severe, whereas, above 500 falls into the ‘severe plus’ range.

Doctors claim that the masks aren’t particularly effective.

The government has advised people to remain indoors. 37 flights were cancelled due to poor visibility.

The Odd/Even scheme which is supposed to begin from tomorrow, may bring some respite. Though the BJP is vehemently opposing it!

Two wheelers are exempted from Odd/ Even, as are women drivers and any vehicles with children in uniform.

As it becomes impossible to breathe, the streets are less crowded. Eat carrots, drink water, consume vitamin C, remain indoors and pray for better days, is what the experts advice. This while the Centre and the State play the blame game!

Dilli Ki Diwali

Growing up, irrespective of how sick my mum was festivals, were huge. My brother’s passing has sucked the fun out of everything. Once in a while, we make a half hearted attempt to celebrate a festival and yet we seem to be stuck in limbo. ‘ If you would just get married or make some babies, it would change everything!’ I am told. ‘Char din ki chandni aur phir andheri raat!’ is my view. Thanks but no thanks!

The festival of light maybe a celebration of light over darkness but for some it can be a lonely experience. I wouldn’t be surprised, if in a few decades we begin to hear how the festivities have triggered depression and suicide amongst people, like Christmas does in the West.

With more and more people choosing to work away from their families, or choosing to remain single, how do you celebrate when everybody is busy with their loved ones? That’s what you have friends for and now you also have something else to do- go for Delhi Ki Diwali!

For the past five years (ever since…) one doesn’t know what to do with oneself and my Sufi group is kind enough to celebrate the evening with me. So while most people I know are busy doing Puja and playing cards, we roam around the streets of Delhi, looking for something to do. Khali sadke napte he aur kuch khaane ke liye dhondte he.

It’s damn difficult to find a restraunt that is open on Diwali, FYI. We head to any eatery which has a Muslim name and hog away to glory. To have them by my side is a blessing. As is the fabulous programme organised by AAP. Four days of festivities, where you can listen to fabulous music, watch a laser show in the middle of CP and that too free of cost!

For the first time, the celebrations were beyond anything I have experienced on Diwali. Thousands of people, came together to celebrate a festival not all of them, would normally. Foreigners were dressed up in Indian attire, women in hijabs roamed excitedly around with their families, while students from north east sat on the grass grooving to the music. The fabulousness of this country was on display, on the streets of Delhi that night and even if you were alone in that one moment, you would feel as if you belonged!