Rock Garden Chandigarh
Backpacker’s Cafe, Chandigarh
For a pre holi date I stop over at Chandigarh to reminisce one of my favourite dates-which was sneaking away from our friends in the middle of a wedding and coming to check out Nek Chand’s creation. The place is packed as it’s a Sunday. I wander around, trigger happy and slightly nostalgic.
To cheer myself up I head to Backpackers Cafe in Sector 9. I avoid malls like they are the plague, so I skip the one at Elante. I expect it to be less ‘happening’ and more chilled out. There are couples everywhere. The food is prompt to arrive but is half cooked and then there’s a crazy chaos, as some big shot is about to arrive and all his cronies are too disturbing for hang around with. I get my food packed and split.
State Museum of Tribal and Folk Art, Khajuraho.
The Museum itself seems minuscule compared to the enormity of the temples and the vast expanse of the Archeological Museum. There is no power, so scramming around in the dark, I do manage to see a few items-made of terracotta and metal belonging to the tribes of Madhya Pradesh, as well as the Gond Art Paintings made by local artists. What makes the visit worthwhile though, is the artists I meet in and around the vicinity, creating works for the festival.
Panna at the Lalit Temple View Hotel, Khajuraho
One of the reviews stated that the Lalit Temple view Hotel, ‘exudes a certain arrogance’, which was what piqued my curiosity. I dropped in after my visit to the Archeological Museum, which adjoins the hotel. After visiting the temples, the museum doesn’t remain a novelty. Plus, the renovations, the noise and a person who follows me around to ensure I don’t take any photographs, makes me want to flee. So, I do- to bask in the sun at Panna.
When I think Lalit, imagery of the the one in Srinagar comes to mind. Of course, the grandeour of it isn’t replicated in Khajuraho. But it does have its own charm. The salad isn’t unappetising, yet it’s not as fresh as delish as one would have wanted. The service is good, the ambience great and the place bustles with foreign tourists.
Raja Cafe, Khajuraho
Bang opposite the Western Group of Temples, close to Bamboori Treats lies this unassuming restaurant. The signage is tiny and the exterior is unimpressive. But the place bursts with energy, as travellers from all over the World enjoy a delectable meal and bask in the sun.
The owner- the grandson of one of the Swedish cofounders, who bought the cafe from the Maharaja keeps a watchful eye on the staff and politely smiles at the guests.
Through the trip, it becomes one of my favourite hangouts in Khajuraho. I’m not the only one who returns repeatedly, the noisy women traveller’s group who was there in the afternoon is also there in the evening. So are some solo trippers, enjoying cold beers and breezers. A must visit on your next trip to the land of the erotic.
Solo Date #21-Bamboori Treat
Between getting my media pass and attending the programme in the evening, I have some free time to while away.
Bamboori Treat, a small eatery close to the Western Group of Temples, is fairly deserted. The location is great, the staff friendly, the bamboo furniture gives the place a homely, rustic feel to the place. But the cold coffee is nothing to write home about. A cup of tea would have been better to enjoy the view.
Solo dates in Khajuraho
Of all the places you want to go alone, I wouldn’t suggest going to this one by yourself. It’s beautiful, safe and the people are hospitable but it’s so incredibly erotic, it’s a pity not having someone by your side, while the guide points towards the most erotic of postures and talks about passion.
Maybe you’re Mount of Venus isn’t as protruding so you’ll be fine but whether the women are French, American or Korean they all giggle like school girls, when their guides talk about Blow jobs and threesomes. The Indian tourists are given a subtler version. I wonder why though, since it is there for all and sundry to see, including the 5-6 year olds running around the vicinity.’Look at how the woman is pulling the man’s beard! Iss liye aaj kal admi dardi nahin rakhte!’, they tell the Indian tourists, who are so amused -the men more than the women. All the while skipping to mention that she’s pulling other parts of his body, too.As I leave, I pick up the souveniors- a copy of the Kamasutra and Kamasutra playing cards. Don’t get excited, I have no one to use them with. If I knew someone this interesting, I would have been dating!
Valentine’s day date in Delhi
Though one is footloose and fancy free, V day is a good day to give one’s self some loving. I head to Surajkund for the famous Mela. Though, the whole world and it’s mummy (it seems) is there, I wander around by myself, window shopping and trigger happy.
A couple of hours- a bottle of wine, gulab jamun and some chick flicks later, I am all set to call it a night. I re-read the messages from the day and wonder what and why the hell was I fretting so much about love a few years ago. ‘The power in a relationship lies with the one who cares, less! As long as you don’t care,you’ll be fine!’, I remind myself. Oh, I’m not a cynic, I am a realist!
Sri Pratap Singh Museum, Srinagar
There are a number of activities one can enjoy in Srinagar- go for a shikara ride, paragliding, take a bus ride on the hop on-hop off, visit the floating post office but the winter, especially the chilian kalan-forty days of the cold, put a damper on everything. Since most of the locals leave for the summer capital of Jammu and there are hardly any tourists around, everything kind of comes to a halt. But the museum is open-sort of.
Though the new wing is yet to be inaugurated and the old building is closed to the public, one is pleasantly surprised. A few years ago I had sent an article to GK (which was never printed), about how mismanaged the museum was, with broken cases and bukharis being used close to national treasures.
The staff remains primarily the same so it still not like a nice, quiet, well organised place but it’s a great initiative, a must see for the different kinds of galleries. On the ground floor are the Archeology gallery, Numismatics Gallery and the museum shop. On the first floor are the Culture and Society, Jewellery, Arms and Armory and Decorative Arts Galleries. On the second floor which is at the moment non functional, are the Textile and Painting galleries.
Pakeeza Restaurant, Rajbagh.
Though there are a number of fancy restaurants in Srinagar that serve the wazwan- kashmiri cuisine, which consists of various non vegetarian dishes like seekh kabab, rista, gushtaba, tabak-maaz,waze kokur, kashmir methi etc, eating at a local dhaba has it’s own charm.
The best rista I’ve ever had, is at a local nameless dhaba close to Ganderbal. The Pakeeza restaurant in Rajbagh, which comes a close second also serves the juiciest gushtabas and the lahabi kabab is to die for. The two young waiters from neighbouring villages, always have the tele on, so one can enjoy a meal, while watching some old bollywood flick.
Makai Point Srinagar
The Makai Point is a favoured haunt of the locals as the delectable, local, mutton barbecued dish-tuji is served by a number of vendors at this spot. I wouldn’t suggest going there late in the evening by yourself, since it has a notorious reputation.
Though tuji isn’t my favourite local dish, I would rather have harisa downtown or the trami at Grand, or even a mirchi korma at Ahdoos, at 4.30 in evening one seekh, with a lavasa (bread) and radish and curd chutney, is enough to fill up my tummy. Plus, I can catch up with my buddy.
So off I go, on the Boulevard road, towards the Nishat/Harwan side. I can’t find my favourite tuji walla-J. One quick phone call and he appears in five minutes. ‘Chal ghar chal, chai pee!’. I decline the offer, promising to drop in next time. Since, he’s not working, I ask him to sit in the car and have a tuji. All the other vendors are very amused as we enjoy the meal and chat about the haalat.
In one corner a man washes utensils. J points towards him and tells me that once upon a time, people were terrified of this particular person as he was a militant. He was caught -imprisoned but by the time he was released he had lost a bit of his mind. ‘Itna accha aadmi he, kissi ko kuch nahin bolta he, ‘ he tells me, feeling bad for M.
I hang around for a while and then bid him farewell. ‘Mummy ko salaam bolna aur kehna agli dafa milne aongee.’ He sulks a little, ‘marzi he!’, but I know his mum will fuss over me, like she usually does and it’s an inconvenient hour to drop in. ‘Next time’, I promise him as I speed away.
Chai Jaai, Srinagar
My darling Sara, the part time help comes to visit. After numerous hugs, kisses and blessings, she starts to fuss over how much weight I’ve lost (haven’t, it’s just love). She yells at the Sugar man, ‘are you feeding her only vegetables? Give her some mutton.’ ‘Yeh sabzi khatti nahin he, isliye itni garmi he khoon aur dimaag me!’, argues my vegetarian cook.
I bid them adieu, as I have a lunch date with my ex assistant’s parents. I hog the delectable meal and chat about the ongoing encounter in Ganderbal,of course I am dissuaded from going. T, my photo journalist friend calls up. ‘ There’s an encounter taking place close to Eidgah! Do you want to go?’ I excuse myself and leave in haste.
By the time we meet, he’s figured out it’s a false alarm. A quick coffee at Books and Bricks later, we go our seperate ways. It’s been snowing since morning and I don’t want to spend the evening, freezing in my apartment.
So I head to Chai Jaai, a tea room on the Bund, with a fantastic view of the Jhelum and the snow. It reminds me of the afternoon I spent last year in Darjeeling holed up in a tea room/ shop with my friends sipping white tea, while it poured outside. At Chai Jaai, a variety of those teas are available and so are eight different types of Kashmiri teas like-Noon Chai and Dam Tout . I order a classic cup of Kehwa with a shirmal (a local bread).
It’s a romantic evening spent by myself, listening to Adele and some Kashmiri songs , playing softly in the background, while sipping tea and admiring the paper machie wall. If you’re not a big tea drinker , drop in to Chai Jaai only for the wall and the photographs that adorn the corridors.
Gulshan Books, Srinagar
After a day spent in Gulmarg, I’m feverish and all I want to do is spend a day in bed with a book. So I head to the best place in Srinagar to find one.
Gulshan Books is a quaint bookstore on Residency Road. It’s the place to find practically, any book that has been written about the Valley. I was heartbroken when it got damaged during the floods but it’s revamped version is even better.
Though, now there’s a cafe on the Boulevard too, I prefer the familarity of this one. Plus, with my ADD( it’s an assumption), I find it difficult to concentrate on a book, in public spaces. I buy a copy of Rahul Pandita’s, ‘Our moon has blood clots’.On the 19th of January, the Kashmiri Pandit community marked their 27th year in exile, from the Valley and Pandita’s book narrates the pain ofthat displacement.I head back to my apartment for an afternoon of reading.
Books and Bricks, Srinagar
After a morning spent making pictures in different parts of Srinagar, I head to a quiet cafe in the afternoon. I’m on a mission! I need to figure out if Srinagar, is still safe for female travellers.
Though, there are a number of places to hang around-Cafe Arabica at the Broadway, Chinar-the coffee shop at the Lalit and the coffee shop at the Taj, I want to sit somewhere, which is bursting at the seams. So, Books and Bricks it is!
Nestled in Gogji Bagh, the cafe looks like someone’s personal library, what with all the books stacked up. With only around eight to ten tables, this American diner has a perfectly cozy feel to it. I warm myself up with a coffee and some waffles.
Though, there isn’t a single couple around, the place is swarming with young girls, chatting over burgers and coffee. I’m glad no one is bothered by my existence.The service is prompt, the food delicious and the conversations, I accidentally eve’s drop on ( the tables are too close to each other) are highly entertaining.
As we get ready to usher in 2017, I head out for a pre new year celebration. My plans for a solo date at The Piano Man have been altered. The Bengali Babu will be joining me, now. So before the craziness of the night begins, I go over to Inox to catch Dangal.
As another year comes to a close and one finds ones self wishing for a few ‘mask -free’, days. I head out for a quiet evening to Sakley’s in Greater Kailash-1. The staff is polite…the food fabulous and no disturbs me, as I sip on my Sangria. Well, other than my phone which buzzes every few minutes, with different people wanting to have various conversations. Next time, no phone on solo dates!
Found this treasure on the table- ‘ My solitude is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them-and that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just in my own.It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone they are not ‘they’ but my own self. There are no strangers.- Thomas Merton.
Crafts Museum, Delhi.
It’s the birthday month and one is just looking to spend more and more time with oneself. Although, there are fewer cars on the road than usual, there’s a lot of hustle bustle at the Crafts Museum. A few years ago, the institution that was set up by a freedom fighter to preserve Indian arts and crafts, would be quite deserted even on weekends. But Cafe Lota, that is nestled inside the Museum has managed to increase the footfall. I’m not there to enjoy the ambience of the completely packed restaurant but to check out the Folk Craft Festival Of Gujarat. I interact with craftsmen, pick up a few tit bits and enjoy the performance (although the music is playing on a phone and isn’t audible). The only thing that hasn’t changed about the place is the mismanagement.
Address-Pragati Maidan, Bhairon Marg.
Nearest Metro Station-Pragati Maidan
Closed On Mondays
National Rail Museum
The heat is slowly getting to my head, reducing my capacity to be around other people. I long for a few hours alone, so I head to the National Rail Museum, assuming its going to be deserted. But that’s not the case. Even in the sweltering heat, there are numerous enthusiastic children, accompanied by their parents. The toy train is going to return in five minutes so I make my way to the indoor exhibit.
The photographs of an era gone by, to static models of trains, signaling equipments, to the beautiful antique furniture, make the exhibit interesting for someone who is not a ferroequinologist. “Stand here, we need a picture for your homework,” yells excitedly, a father at his six-year-old. One of the most well-kept museums in the city, the majority of the visitors here are below the age of twelve.
I head towards the toy train, pay Rs 20 for the ride and wait. Six minutes later the train arrives. I hop on board and wait. The compartments fill up as the Aunty behind me, tells her companion how unfair it is that as a married teacher, she isn’t allowed to take her child on a school trip. The train starts at last and we ride through the acres of land- the outdoor exhibit of locomotives and through the tunnel. Six minutes later, we get dropped off at the station. I quickly buy a souvenior- a key chain and a fridge magnet and go back to work.
Address- Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi-21.
Nearest Metro Station- Race Course.
Entry-9.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m
Closed on Monday.
Alas!I’m in love.
Since I’m a terrible creature of habit, driving a new vehicle is disturbing for me. I bitch about how it’s no match on the previous one, irrespective of how good or bad the former has been. It takes me an average of six months to get used to new cars and new people. A trip during this period is highly advisable. So I head to Pushkar, just me and my white horse ( I am now my own Prince Charming!).
It’s the day after Diwali and National Highway 8 is fairly deserted even at half eight in the morning. Off we go zooming towards familiar terrain. ” Have you left? Where have you reached?”, the boy is at it from half seven. “They’re always nicest when they don’t have you”, I think to myself. ” Do you know my car starts to beep when it hits a particular speed?”, I yell excitedly into the handsfree. I’ve tried all my experiments on an isolated road. The lecture begins…
The desolate road- the dearth of cars and humans, makes me hungry. I reach over for my supply of snacks and beverages. Dig into the bag of banana chips and suddenly Mr Akhtar’s voice resounds through the vehicle. ” Woh Shakl pigli to har shai mein dhal gai aise. Ajeeb baat hui he usko bhulane mein.” As each chip makes it’s way into my mouth each moment of what shouldn’t be recalled plays through my mind. “Should I call the wahmbulance?”, I imagine Lily( from the Modern Family) asking me instead of her queer Dad. “One more tear and I will whack your face!”, screams my parent ego state.
A sip of Mango Frooti, fresh and juicy later… Tom Petty and Queen manage to uplift my mood. My companion and I are now in for the ride of our lives. Many wonderful tunes and a few toll booths later, I arrive at my destination already in love with my companion- the white horse.
At the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets
My favourite place in the world, other than my favourite flyover has to be my washroom. My toilet seat is light green with yellow fish on it and the ceiling of the loo, has stars. My washroom and car say more about me, than my clothes or shoes ever will! People share toothbrushes (disgusting!) and I dread the idea of marrying someone and sharing my precious commode! The perfect place for a solo date was the Toilet museum, though I wish it was as large as Nek Chand’s Rock garden in Chandigarh. What fun that would have been! This one was just a wee bit too tiny.
Last year, The Time ranked Sulabh International Museum of Toilets as the third weirdest museum in the World. The one that topped this illustrious list was the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which houses penises belonging to, you guessed it, (not!) Iceland’s land and sea mammals and the one that barely grazed the list was- The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum (the name says it all).
This particular Toilet museum is dedicated to the history of toilets and has been founded by Dr Pathak who has worked tirelessly for the upliftment of untouchables in India. The toilets are from various periods- Ancient, Medieval and Modern and though it may seem weird to many, Toto has followed suit this year and has opened it’s own Toilet Museum in Japan.
Address- Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave, Palam Dabri Marg.
Uttam Nagar, New Delhi-45
Shankar’s International Doll Museum
Haven’t been getting any “me” time these days, what with all the stuff that I’ve been procrastinating. However, here’s a throwback to a couple of solo dates I have totally enjoyed.
The Shankar’s International Doll Museum or just the Delhi Doll Museum as it’s popularly referred to, is a fabulous hangout for little girls who love dolls or men who love horror films, na, just kidding, almost anyone who wants to know about the cultures of the world- what with a collection of some 6500 odd dolls, from over 85 countries. The dolls from Europe, Thailand, U.S.A are beautiful but the Samurai dolls from Japan, the Flamenco dancers from Spain, the Kathakali dancers and Mozart are a must see.
Shankar K Pillai, the founder of the museum was not only a great plangonologist but a well reputed cartoonist. But many of the dolls are gifts from various dignitaries and Indian Prime Ministers. For some reason, I find most museums in India eerily secluded and after a few hours alone, I’m thinking Chucky is just going to jump out of one of the display cases!
Where- Nehru House, 4 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. Nearest Metro Station Pragiti Maidan.
Solo Dating- Dance
Dancing is a fabulous form of active meditation and my idea of a perfect date constitutes at least a little of it. Suren Kumar an acclaimed Zumba instructor has just started classes at my local gym. He’s a fabulous dancer and a very energetic, yet patient instructor.
Date No 1-Face Your Fear.
I got burnt when I was in Grade 2…for many weeks after that I couldn’t go to school and a faint scar is still visible on my thigh. I’ve got it into my head ever since, that I don’t even want to be cremated. That I’m terribly afraid of being burnt is an understatement. So I decided it’s time to fight my demeons. Fire walking at Zorba was quite interesting. The session began with the instructor- Tathagat Roy, telling us about the Power of the mind and then demonstrating hypnosis. But ofcourse, eventually we walked on burning coal.
Growing up I had two aspirations- Dying before I turned 18 or if God forbid that didn’t happen, making lots of babies. Don’t ask me the logic of my childhood goals, my view of the World was even more skewed and tainted, then. Anyway, in a few day I will turn all of 36 years old and would have miserably failed at achieving my goals. Ordinarily, each year a couple of weeks before or after the D-day triggers many melodramatic episodes but I seem unusually calm this year. I even feel a little celebratory, in fact. For the first time in my life I have gone without dating anyone, for this long. For anyone who takes that lightly let me enlighten you, here. People who spend an awful lot of time alone, usually have co dependent sometimes even obsessive relationships. They also have unrealistic expectations from these relationships and that leads to much disappointment. My theory is that though they may have a clear understanding of the functioning of the society, the coping mechanism is not in place. I have no scientific basis for this assumption, other than reading about studies on introverts or from various encounters with people such as myself.
Anyhow, don’t try to burst my bubble with your quizzical look, wondering how it’s even a big deal. It is to me. Do you want to hear what my new goals are? I want to live up to 100. I figured if I ain’t going to die young at least I should live long enough. It’s a great goal though, you should try setting it for yourself. Irrespective, of how old you may be, how terrible your life may have been, you will feel younger and more positive. Whatever, happens around me these days, I think to myself, ‘You have all the bloody time in the world, don’t fret!’ That’s why I am in no hurry to date anyone, new. Breathe in. Breathe out. Chiiill. Dil ko behlane ke liye Ghalib ye khayaal accha he.
But it would be such a pity to not date anyone at all. My other goal is to get myself to date myself. Solo dating. After my much publicized romance with my bed last year, I want to have a fabulous time, now. So, last evening I took myself out on my first date and first dates should be oh so special. Mine was-Fire walking with Tathagat Roy at Zorba the Buddha. But I don’t want to get into it at four in the morning. So later peeps.