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.
Due to Covid, it was impossible to meet all the friends together so the birthday celebrations got extended. To a part of me, honestly, It has seemed like a slight vulgarity. In the middle of a pandemic to party, I realize is insensitive. But one is struggling with something these days and someday when one has overcome it, one will write about it. But for now, that kind of sharing has been deemed unadvisable.
For a person who hated her birthday and has invariably wept on each one, I’m really going at celebrating it, with a vengeance after a certain age. Anyhow, last night, was the last one. It was an eventful evening, to say the least. The ambience lovely, the food not so much. But a friend made a very valid observation about my existence. In the middle of a conversation about something else, she said, ‘you can’t lead the life that you lead and then feel bad when people gossip about it. Either don’t care or if it bothers you make different choices!’ Wise words.
This is the second time in a week and probably more than a dozen time in one’s life, that one has heard some version of this sentence. But to me, though well meaning, it sounds like I don’t have much of an option. It’s like, If you’re not going to follow society’s rules, the repercussion of that is going to be, that anyone can turn around and accuse you of anything, that you haven’t done, at any point, just because they have a mouth and you haven’t bothered to be a hypocrite to brush your choices under the carpet or you don’t have a man to hide behind. Henceforth, don’t throw a fit, just bite the bullet, don’t be unreasonable by confronting it. I guess, my silence is supposed to be the payment one has to make for one’s life choices- not being married, choosing a certain profession, having a lifestyle- which seems all fun and frolic, being open about my relationships- having been in more relationships than a good Indian girl, would probably be in three lifetimes and a naughty Indian boy, in a couple of years. Sorry for the deets, I’m just putting things in perspective. It’s good advice- gracious, definitely, practical of course, reasonable and it will make one slightly likeable ( here’s hoping) I guess.
But hearing that ‘you’re starving your father’ or ‘ eloping’ ‘having an affair with a different man’ every few days, honestly pisses the hell out of me. I wish I could be calm about it or even take my Dad’s advice,’ concentrate on your work and stop worrying about people who only want to steer trouble in our house. You have better things to do in life!’ Or even take the advice of my male friends, ‘ just take out your anger on us! Don’t say anything, to anybody else!’ Am I being too sensitive, too touchy, too unreasonable? I’m sure, I am! Do I wish, I could laugh it away? Hell, yeah! Not be reactive and give people another round of bullshit to spread through the grapevine? Of course! What are the chances of it happening? Unfortunately, at the moment, seems highly improbable.