Solo Date #43- Udaipur

Natraj Restaurant, Udaipur.

If you land up in Udaipur, don’t leave without visiting the Natraj Restaurant. The Rajasthani/ Gujrati Thali is delectable and of course I love playing dress up…I never miss a chance to pose for the local photographers.

Solo Date-Amritsar 

This should have been date no 36 or 37 but it skipped my mind. A day in Amritsar can be spent visiting the Golden Temple and the Jallianwala bagh and eating at the famous- Beera Chicken and then visiting the Wagah border- which I skipped. Instead, I spent a couple of hours taking respite from the heat at the Subway, in the vicinity of the temple.

Solo Date #35-Paonta Sahib

Paonta Sahib, which is at a distance of over 200 kms away from Delhi is a town in Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh. The Gurudwara in this town, has historic significance for Sikhs, as the Dasam Granth was written by their tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, here.

The Dasam Granth, is a controversial text, as many historians claim that only part of it has been compiled by the Guru and the rest by the 52 poets who were part of the durbar at Anandpur Sahib.

During my stay, I visited the Gurudwara and headed to the Riversong Restaurant for dinner.

Solo Date #34- Ming Wah International Convention Centre, Shenzhen.

Ming Wah Convention Centre, Shekhou,Shenzhen.

Solo Date # 34 in Shenzhen, China.

Being on an unusual trip (for me that is), which is a mix of business, shopping and hardly any photography (due to the rain and a time constraint) I need to unwind after my return from Guangzhou.

By the time I reach Shenzhen and check into the new property-Ming Wah, it’s already past lunch time. I head towards the electronics market to check out the latest drones and car dash cameras. The difference in price, if you pick up a single piece is so miniscule, that it doesn’t seem worth the effort and the risk to me. 

By five in the evening, I am famished, so I walk into the first eatery I see- a KFC. An Indian man ( seems to be), is standing next to me, trying to explain to his Chinese companion what he wants. It makes me smile. He notices that and starts to chat. He is from Pakistan and is there to make some purchases. We chat for a bit about photography, batteries and lot containers and then I head back towards Ming Wah.

I’m exhausted, so I stop at the 7-Eleven, opposite the centre, to grab some food for dinner and the next morning’s breakfast. The bus ride that the hotel provides for is at 7.20 a.m, which means I got to turn in early, to bed. I draw myself a bubble bath, put on -‘I got you under my skin’ and ‘My baby just cares for me’, on repeat and get back to the book I picked up from the airport-‘ Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows’. 

What a riot, it is! It is my brand of feminism-  subtle, layered, funny, non judgemental and about the sisterhood. The characters are relatable not just for anyone who comes from a Punjabi family, the women could be our sisters or mothers, irrespective of what kind of background we come from or where in the world we are based.

 The characters are well etched but I absolutely love Arvinder’s story. The curbing of women’s passion to control them is not written about, enough. When I was still just a child, I  realised that the way men subjugated women was not just through aggression and violence, it was also through sex. Not just the kind that you think, not just rape. It was through the withholding of sex and that too was a form of dominance, an act of controlling a woman, men who suffered from inferiority complexes usually used manipulation.

 In Arvinder’s case, she’s much taller than the man she’s married to and when she asks for sex, he threatens to leave her. She goes ahead and has an affair, something that her daughter finds out about, during Nikki’s storytelling  classes. ‘I’m going to get my freaking to-be-husband, to sign a prenuptial agreement. Irregular sex is going to be a ground for divorce’, I promise myself. ‘It’s also the choice women make’, I continue to ponder, ‘trading in passion for financial security, societal approval and the word that all married women use to make themselves feel better-companionship.’ 

‘It’s good you like your own company, Diyuu Singh!’, I think to myself as I fall asleep. 

Solo Date #30-Shenzhen, China 

Solo Dates in China

Solo dates in Shenzhen

What do you do, on a rainy day in a strange city? Drink tea, of course!

I don’t pay heed to the words of my young friend – Andy, who insists ‘if I am not careful someone will kidnap me and sell me off! It happens, you know?’, he asks, as he drops me off at the hotel. I just nod, as I usually do when I am not going to listen to the concerned party but respect their opinion enough, to not argue.

So off I go, walking in the rain on Nan Shan Boulevard, on a fine Saturday afternoon. The first place that catches my fancy is Ten Fu’s tea boutique. I spend the rest of the day, learning how to make tea correctly ( all this time I have been preparing it the wrong way ) and hopping from one store to another adding to my collection of white teas.

After all the tea sipping and walking around, I step into a local restaurant for lunch. A number of women are sitting around, hiding from the rain, fiddling with their phones and eating big bowls of soupy noodles. I order my own big bowl, of what will get me into trouble with ‘gav rakshaks’ and just stare into a disconnected world of gadgetry!

Solo Date #26-Taste of India

On the Leh-Manali road, stands a freshly painted yellow restaurant-a favourite of the tourists. The interiors aren’t that great-the plastic furniture looks a bit tacky but the Bollywood wall manages to balance that.

I prefer eating outside, since the place has a great view. The food is well prepared but is a bit bland for my taste. Nevertheless, it’s a nice pit stop with clean toilets.

Solo Dates in Manali- Date # 25. 

After driving the entire day yesterday, I spent the day lazing around. Wandered around the mall road, trying to get a feel of a place, I am unfamiliar with. 

Grabbed brunch before work at the Tanishq Haveli, a noisy food court where the food was delicious. Bought some fruit barfi and rose tea, to gift from the Nature’s basket and ended the evening with a fish curry at the B Cafe. 

Solo Date # 26-Cafe Nomad

Cafe Nomad, Chandigarh

Cafe Nomad, Chandigarh

On the way back from the ‘Virasat-e Khalsa’, I stopped over at Cafe Nomad. Unlike, the Backpacker’s Cafe which was too crowded and the food was undercooked, this restaurant was perfect for someone who likes to avoid the crowd.

The Saaj and the Baklava with icecream were to die for. I lazed around for an hour and half, savouring the food and procrastinating my drive back to Delhi. 

Solo Date # 25-Rock Garden

Nek Chand's Rock Garden

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.

Solo date #24-State Museum of Tribal and Folk Art

State Museum of Tribal and Folk Art, Khajuraho.

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.

Solo Date #23- Lalit Khajuraho

Panna, at the Lalit Khajuraho

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.

 

Solo Date #22-Raja Cafe

Raja Cafe, Madhya Pradesh

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

Bamboori Treat

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 

Solo Dates In Khajuraho

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!

Solo date #19-Valentine’s  Day

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!

Solo Date #18-SPS Museum

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. 

Solo Date # 17- Wazwan at Pakeeza

Pakeeza Restaurant, Srinagar

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. 

Solo Date #16- Tuji at Makai Point

tuji at makai point

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.