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.
‘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.
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.
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!
Jashn-e-Rekhta, the celebration of Urdu, is an event that has been marked on the calendar of the culturally inclined Dilliwallah. The fifth edition of Rekhta, saw the usual mushairas and qawalis, the renditions and recitations in each corner, that one now associates with a Rekhta event. Some of it is passe while most of it divine.
Eid ul Fitr- the feast of breaking the fast, is celebrated with great fervour by the Muslim community all over the world. The culmination or the grand finale to the fasting in the Holy month of Ramadan, is the festival of Eid Ul Fitr.
With over 1.5 billion adherents across the globe each country has it’s own traditions in which the festival is celebrated, after all there are over 50 Muslim majority countries in the world.
But wherever a Muslim is from, whichever sect he belongs to and whatever traditions he follows after the Eid Namaaz, irrespective of all that the men are required to pray together, in a Jamaat ( congregation) on Eid. In India, the men wear brand new kurta pyjamas, which are usually white, put on some Itar plus the skull cap and head to the Masjid. Eidi is distributed amongst the children and Seviyaan is relished by one and all and of course a Salman Khan film releases and becomes a super duper hit ( considering how mediocre Race 3 is, I have my doubts about this one).
On what may or may not be the Jumat-Ul-Vida, the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan ( in Kashmir it officially is), people collected at the Peer Baba ki Mazar to seek blessings.
Syed Badruddin Samarqandi, was from Samarkand and is said to be a murid of Nizamuddin Auliya. Nestled in the middle of a colony, it isn’t easy to find. A few locals directed me to the Dargah. Walls of the fort can be seen from the place, where the devotees pray. The caretaker was nice enough to give me a special spot from where I could make my pictures.
“Since, I’ve grown up Eid doesn’t hold the same significance for me,” Saif says, as he bites into his Magnum Classic. It’s 11.p.m, we are sitting on one of the pavements at India Gate watching the traffic and eating ice cream. A few young Muslim boys have just parked next to us and are noisily excited about Eid. “You know, when we were younger we would get Rs 5-10 as Eidi and it meant the world to us. But I guess with age the excitement has worn off.”
”You know when I was younger, there was complete chaos at home but a couple of days in a year the house felt ‘normal’ and it felt like a family. Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Rakhi were huge and irrespective of how sick Mom was or who had recently expired, we still looked forward to those days. Happy days! I miss knowing that there will be a few normal days.” I say looking at the passing vehicles.
I come back home absolutely thrilled with the evening I’ve had. Bike ride to Old Delhi, hogging everywhere and then landing up at India Gate. Wow what fun!
I pissed off my instructor the other day when I said I’m bunking the gym on Eid. He looked at me rather suspiciously, thinking I was just making an excuse and asked,’Aap ki kaunsi Eid hoti he?” But Eid is almost as special as Diwali, now. When I’m in Kashmir, I’m invited to my assistant’s house which has more family members than I can count. Everyone gathers around the dastarkhan and we eat the yummiest food that my assistant’s mother prepares, while they joke about this that or the other. There are children running around noisily through the house and it seems like a big happy family and for one day in a year, I feel not so lost.
This will be another happy memory, I hope my forgetful brain doesn’t erase it.