Diggin Cafe, Connaught Place

Diggin, Connaught Place.
Selfies
Delhi at Night

I’m told I should get my act together and start doing things, that make me ‘feel like myself’. So, one has yet again, started going through the motions-solo dates, driving needlessly while blasting music to literally, deafen myself and of course smoking bidis, occasionally! For five minutes, they teleport me to a sand dune in Pushkar. Works but that can’t be a solution.

The newly opened Diggin cafe, in Connaught Place, is a pleasant beanery to spend an evening alone. Next to the Museum of illusions in A block, this is the third outlet of the Diggin chain. The ambience is just as pleasant and the food is as palatable. Though, there’s no outdoor seating available but the bar will make up for that I guess, as none of the other outlets serve alcohol.

For an evening out by yourself, it’s safe and friendly. Anyone who likes to hang out by themselves, in this city will tell you how people always raise their eyebrows, seeing a person enjoy their own company- that’s a given. When you’re alone, you’re given the worst seating and ‘is anyone joining you?’ is asked, in a rather condescending tone, sometimes. Not at Diggin. The staff was very friendly and the service, fabulous. So, drop in- alone, with a lover, with your family, whatever pleases you.

In Solidarity With Afghanistan

Activist Shabnam Hashmi (ANHAD)
Afghan Refugee

Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA)
Afghan student
A very passionate Afghan student broke down while talking about the state of affairs in Afghanistan.

Stand with Afghan People in their Struggle for Freedom and Democracy- A number of activists from NFIW, AIPWA and ANHAD came together today, at Mandi House with Afghan students and refugees to demand that the people of Afghanistan must get an opportunity to elect a new government. Early elections should be held under UN supervision, so that the Taliban doesn’t force itself as the new regime. They also appealed to the Indian government to not only bring back Indian citizens from the tumultuous land but to also make an effort to bring Afghan students, who have enrolled into Indian universities back to Indian soil.

The Afghan women at the protest were terribly shook up, due to the chaos and the fear that has been caused by the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. As it is in all conflict areas, the women pay the highest price, with not just their lives but also by the nullification of their liberties. Their bodies and souls are traded and forced into a subservience, that is closer to death, than any of us can imagine. All we can give them right now is refuge, cooperation and support.

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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?

23.5.21- Lockdown Extended

Dilip is from U.P and works at a dhaba. ‘ Madam, dar lagta he lekin roti khani he!’
While everyone stays home, things gets fixed.
A rag picker (didn’t want to disclose his name) in Sarojini Nagar
Prashant, an employee of the (in) famous Khan Chacha.
A lone guard sitting outside a store in CP
A lone man walking to work in CP

Igloo Cafe- Gulmarg

The Igloo, in Gulmarg isn’t an abode for Eskimos and hunters, rather it’s a cafe for travellers, an attraction for anyone who likes the snow or kahwa to bear the chilly winters of the Vale. My solo trip to Gulmarg, wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the newest, trendiest cafe in Kashmir.

Syed Waseem Shah, the owner/ creator/ artist, of the Igloo Cafe, is the brain behind this innovative space. I didn’t get to meet him nor did I meet many people there, as I went too early. The tourists were busy skiing, so they would saunter in much later, told me the manager. He was kind enough to keep me entertained, by providing information and taking pictures of me.

If like me, you’re strolling around Gulmarg and can’t figure out where it is, look for the Kolhai Hotel. Pay the nominal entry fee and step into an approximately fifteen feet high, cave like structure made of snow, which can accommodate maximum sixteen people at a time. As of now, there are limited items on the menu, since there’s always the fear of the snow structure melting, with the heat of the food and beverages, I was told. I didn’t care. Give me any kind of tea, anywhere, anytime and I’m sold.

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.’

❤️

Aaj Subah, subah paigam aaya, Rajasthan se-‘Kyaa Na Didi aao, aapka ghar khula he!’ Jawaab mein humne, ek dil ka emoticon bhej diya. Ghar! Kahaan hota he, khanabadoshon ka ghar? Barf ki pahadiyon mein, ye Rajasthan ki raet mein?

Ghar to humme bataya jata he, Dilli mein he. Kehte he yeh shehar, dillwallon ka he. Magar Dilli aur uss ke logo ka fauladi seena, bhata nahin he, humme. Humari zabaan to sambhal leti he iss jagah ko, darra ke, dhamka ke, magar dil kamzor pad jaata he. Woh ghabrata hein. Ajeeb si khamoshi he yahaan, iss imarat mein jisse ghar kehte he, sanata, jahan fir kabhi na bhai ka pyaar milega, na Ma ka aanchal. Seediya hi seediya, khalli kamre jaahan, mare hue logo ka saman aise sambhal rakha he humne, jaise woh laut ke maangne wale he. Ajeeb si bay tawajhi he, iss shahar aur iss ke logo mein, jo hum jaiso ko kahaan samjhenge-jo ek hi pal mein nafrat bhi kar lete he, aur ek hi lamhe mein ishq.

To ghar kahaan he humara? Wahan jahan humari pedaish he, ya wahan ja marne ki khwaish he? Ya, uss jagah jahan taro ke neeche, ek chatt par, rat bhar humne kissi se baate kari! Raat guzri aur uss shaks ne humme bhi badal diya. Woh akhri mulakatoon mein se ek thi. Kuch logo se, jism nahin, ruh milti he, woh paath pada jate he, zindagi jeene ka. Ussi jagah, se paigam aata he, humme yaad dilane ke liye, taare aapka intezar kar rahe he. Magar ab hum badalne layaak nahin rahe.

Himmat judti nahin he, iss kashmakash mein wahan jaane ki. Uss kamre mein apne aap ko wapis band karneki, jahan hum sare dil ki narazgiya le jaate the. Umrr bhi kam thi, tajurba bhi, Kashmir ne humare dilo, dimaag pe kabu paaya nahin tha. Kuch umeede baaki thi, zindagi se, ishq se aur shayad kuch apne aap se. Ab iss banaumeedi ko dho kar, uss kamre ko kaise bepaak kare?