Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan

Kathak Dancer-Manjari Chaturvedi

Mirza Ghalib and Nawab Jaan
Courtesan Project

Diggin Cafe, Connaught Place

Diggin, Connaught Place.
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.

Solo Date- N Block Market

Full Circle, Greater Kailash
Breads And More

Since one is adamant to not take the medication, that is being repeatedly recommended by the professionals, one has to come up with other ways to try to keep oneself (relatively) sane. The verdict it turns out, is that one’s a bit loony ( someday when one is in a better space, one will share more). Well, if you’ve ever read any of my posts, I bet you already knew that!

Par, janemans humme dava ki nahi, dua ki zaroorat he aur kitabo ki. Since it was raining one couldn’t go to the Dargah today, so the next best alternative was a bookstore. Gurudwaras are just too crowded for one’s anxious heart. I wish the paijis sang kirtan like Harshdeep Kaur or Jagjit Singh, I would sit near the Sarovar and listen to it but they don’t. There’s no crescendo, most of it just makes me sleepy.

As it poured, one found solace in a familiar space- The Full Circle Bookstore, in N block market. Books have a way of finding us at the right time and the first few I chanced upon were – Healing is the new high and Failosophy. Though, one is having a hard time concentrating, so one invariably only reads poetry these days but they seem like interesting reads. Let’s see if they help.

Calmed my tumultuous mind with a cup of coffee at Breads and More, with the books and the rain keeping me company. Gobbled up a lemon tart, that reminded me so much of my mum. Whenever she would get angry with me, she would recount what a good kid I was and how painful I’d become as an adult. She told me, apparently that when I was younger I was low maintenance and quite a content child. I would never ask for anything, when we went out to shop, other than lemon tarts. I have no recollection of it but lemon tarts will forever remind me of Ma.

When it stopped, I parked myself on a bench in the garden for a bit. The luscious greenery would have normally pleased me to bits but ……….It will get better, I’ll make it better, somehow.

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.

Solo Travels Srinagar

Came to Srinagar yesterday, armed with all that SB comes with-bitchiness, arrogance, anger, resentment and as soon as the plane touched the runaway of Srinagar Airport, SC was back in all her glory. I’ve been told by many, any place outside of Delhi, I’m nicer. They get to see the other one, I guess.

One’s recently becoming more and more aware of one’s privileges. To be fair, when you live a life, that your relatives term, ‘living under poverty line’, your view of reality and your privileges is quite skewed and mine despite all my travels and having friends from different strati of society, still is. Read an article before coming here, about how these three boys travelled to Kashmir and used public transport to go from one place to other and I realized twelve years down the line and that is something, I’ve barely done. I have no idea, what it’s like to catch a bus from the airport. So yesterday, I did. It cost 70 bucks and I met interesting characters, on the way. A girl from Ladakh who was coming from Delhi but staying in Srinagar, a man who was returning from hibernation and so and so forth. But if you are pressed for time, you’ll be waiting for forty minutes on the bus, as passengers fill the seats, slowly.

Hats off to those young lads, who managed going from one destination to other by local transport because to find a local bus, in the winter, to take you to Pahalgam or Gulmarg is impossible. I tried and even the local passenger taxis don’t take you to Pahalgam, straight. They drop you at Anantnag and from there you have to catch another one cab to Pahalgam. Since, one is here for work and not for budget travelling, I chucked the idea of doing that. Lugging my overweight bag around, in the winter, by myself, waiting for local taxis, isn’t a feasible option for me. The anonymity that it grants you, though, is quite enticing. Some other time, for now, Farookh Uncle (my cab guy) and I remain steadfast companions.

Solo Date #68- Downtown Srinagar

Solo date at Kathi Junction, downtown.
Downtown Srinagar

The 4g may not work, till the Jio fibre isn’t installed in every house in Kashmir. But don’t think, that stops the grapevine and the rapid flow of information. Last night I received a call from the ex assistant. ‘ You went to shoot the Sunday market?’ he asked. ‘You read it on my blog, na?’ I answered. ‘No! I received a photograph of you!’ he replied to my disbelief. He sent me a photo, that had been taken from a distance and from behind a few people. So, I can be seen in the corner of the frame. I had removed my mask for a bit, as I was getting a runny nose and someone actually shot me, sent it to someone else and then it reached my Mother hen, who is not even in Kashmir. ‘Aap ko kitni bar bola he, nazar rakhte he yahaan log. Dekh kar chalo!’ He seemed damn annoyed.

Anyway, as you must have figured one doesn’t pay heed to other people’s advice. So, I walked to downtown. First, I went to Pir Dastagir Sahib, chatted with the locals there. Then, I bounced to Naqahband Sahib. The degree of friendliness, rapidly reduced as I walked towards Nawhatta. Before I entered the Dargah, a man approached me and started pestering me about my camera. ‘I’m warning you, the boys don’t like all this!’ he tried to scare me. ‘Well, the boys over here don’t do anything to anyone and they will not do anything to me! I know!’ I matched his rudeness word by word.

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Solo Date #67- Mehrauli

One has fallen in love, with where the Stones Speak. On Saturdays I don’t work before 9 p.m and since one has to catch an early morning flight tomorrow, it was nice to spend the day lazying around in Mehrauli.

In the afternoon, I caught the poetry walk organised by Ramit and Prerakh, a semi bathak of sorts discussing the various Urdu poets, in the park. Nicely done, though, one would have wanted to hear a few more anecdotes about the poet’s lives. I guess, when you’re moving from one place to the other, it’s distracting. Plus, one isn’t a fan of the herd, one likes things to move at snails pace. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable afternoon, the facilitators friendly and easy going.

But, miye ki daud masjid tak and one is a creature of habit. So, off I headed to the Dargah, where I sat for probably fifteen minutes as the qawali came to an end and got invited to the Qawal’s son’s wedding. Which I regretfully, had to decline due to the travel plans. I love this part of my job, getting undeserved access into other people’s lives. While walking back, I just stopped for a quick bite, picked up a kathi roll, sat on the steps of Bhool Bhulaiya, which has become my favourite spot in the city after my flyover and eat. Just when I was thinking, this would be a nice spot, for a date- Qutub minar on one side, a monkey climbing the board infront of me, sensing this, a stray dog came and sat next to me.

We had a few moments of what I think dates should be like, with plenty of non verbal communication -looking into each other’s eyes and eating. His stomach full, he went off to sleep near my foot, as I listened to Ahista, ahista and watched the shabe roz ka tamasha, mere aage, the hustle bustle of a street in Delhi. After what seemed like time moving in fast forward, I got up and started to walk towards my car. Tomorrow, it’s going to be a different place but one will remain, bheed me tanha.



Might sound like a cliche’ but sometimes all you need is God. Received a forward from the Gaddi Nasheen, of the Dargah, informing me that the Urs is taking place, from tomorrow and all the provisions are in place, the guidelines related to the ongoing pandemic are being followed. I may be impulsive enough to go for the shoot but I’m not silly enough, to not check how safe it will be.

So, of course I went to check out the place today, to prepare for tomorrow. As I was leaving, my help Bhaskarji, looked at me very suspiciously. ‘ Didi, aap jahan jaa rahee ho wah par woh ladka hoga? ‘ ‘ Kaunsa ladka?’ I asked him impatiently, as I was getting late. ‘ Jisko itni bari hum raat ko TV pe dekhte hein!’ My face turned crimson. So the ladka in question, is this boy I’ve had a crush on, for a year, now. Someone you just see on a YouTube video and find fascinating na, like I have a gigantic crush on Ravish Kumar, something like that. I never realised Bhaskarji, will put two and two together just because he heard me asking my father the other day, ‘isn’t he so cute?’ and make it forty. He tells me so the person in question, is Muslim and you’re going to going to a Dargah, that’s why I thought. I should learn to keep my gab shut. As if travelling, to Kashmir and Pushkar was not bad enough, with people wondering who I’m meeting there. Anyhow, it’s when the love life, is non existent, there are plenty of stories that do the round.

So back to God- to get anyone to wear a mask is difficult. But to get kids to wear them, I realised today, impossible. Plus, since I have become this round ball, children because of my height and size, assume I’m their age. So they like to come near me, pull my cheeks, hug me. For the first time, I realised today, It’s so difficult to shoot a kid and not let them touch you. I don’t think shooting is going to be very easy or safe or smart on my part. But like my favourite lines go, ‘apne aage na peeche, na koi uppar neeche….’ or like dad says, ‘ Sheikh apni, apni dekh!’ I think, I’ll just distribute the masks I’ve bought to give away, there only.

Anyhow, if you are hurting, lost or like me scattered in the brain and the heart, listening to some live qawwali at this particular Dargah, of Khwaja Kaki, might give you some relief. It felt like an out of body experience, so overwhelming, a stream of tears just flowing into my mask, while I was clapping and singing with the qawwals. Since, there were hardly any people there, it felt like sitting at home, in Ibadat and unlike the Nizammudin Dargah, which sends a shiver down my spine, each time I visit, which is only and always for work, this one has a brilliant energy. I think I’ll get some sleep today. But for now, if you have people who care about your well being, I would advice you to stay away.

Solo Date 64- Wok The Walk

Sometimes I don’t realize that this blog, is not my private diary but a platform, that is followed by my friends. The minute I posted last night, I started getting messages and calls from concerned friends. This year has been especially good at sieving the good from the unimportant.

Went to grab a meal to clear my head. On the Boulevard, there’s Wok The Walk. A quaint little place with an open kitchen and decent chinese food. The food is alright, the view and the service good. It seemed like the kind of place, which is frequented by students. Check it out.

Solo Date- New Year’s Eve

As no one is a celebratory mood this year, after the death of so many people, one’s working on New Year Eve. So this year New Year’s Eve is on the road with the one’s who want change!

Solo Date # 64-Hunger Club

On an afternoon in March, when I had a couple of hours between two appointments, I went to Hunger Club. The previous night, I had eaten at my favourite haunt in Kashmir-a small dhaba called Paakezah and opposite that is this newly opened, swanky restaurant in Rajbagh.

Post lunch it was fairly deserted- too late for the locals to eat and no tourists in town. The chicken was delicious, but it was the company that was quite interesting. No, I didn’t go with someone, it was while I was there, by myself, enjoying my meal, that I met the owner. I was just going about my routine, eating, chatting with the waiter, in this case making a few suggestion about the place, when the owner overheard the conversation and asked if he could join me. Anywhere else in India, I will look a man up and down, think ‘what the hell does this one want?’ and utter something quite obnoxious to make the man split. In Kashmir, I’m someone else, quite chatty, unlike my usual porcupinal ways.

The conversation of course remained about Kashmir, we were joined by a friend of the person who sat opposite me. Before I knew it a couple of hours had passed and though I was asked very subtly, if I was a Khalistan sympathiser (which is the the rudest thing I have ever been asked. I didn’t want to stay in Hemkunt Colony and I definitely would never move to Punjab…so I don’t need a Khalistan, thank you very much) it was a fairly engaging, well spent afternoon.

Solo Date #63- -Daawat, Srinagar

After one of my evening strolls, I dropped in for dinner at the Welcome Hotel. The meal was decent, of course for Mughlai food, Shamyana is a better option. But it was a nice change from the usual, the ambience better, the place quieter and the staff was extremely courteous.

Solo Date #62- Peerzoo Island Restaurant, Srinagar

A photographer’s life is full of adventure. But it’s physically trying and a lot of the times, risky. On this particular day it was cake walk, as it was the launch of Jammu Kashmir People’s Movement. It’s nice to bump into all the photographers, who one usually only meets under more strenuous circumstances. But hanging around fraternising isn’t my cup of tea!

So after the launch I took a stroll on the Bund and eat at the island restaurant. There’s seating on the deck but there were a group of boys busy taking pictures of themselves…I didn’t want to spoil their frame. So I sat inside, which was quite interesting. I ordered some noodles and watched couple after couple, walking in. Part of the room had demarcations between tables made with cane which were like small cubicles, that give the utmost privacy to young adults who don’t want the entire city to know, who they are hanging out with. It reminded me of my first solo, horrific trip to Srinagar. So some fellow (like I always say, if you don’t want trouble stray clear of the wealthy men in Kashmir) who had apparently visited the Osho Ashram, was taking me around town. After a trip to Shalimar, we went to some restaurant to eat. Of course it had this kind of privacy and of course the meal and conversation was meant to flatter me but they didn’t.

Surrounded by water, the landing for speed boats makes it accessible from various parts of the city. I should have been on one of them, rather than strolling through the busy Sunday market and then walking up towards the Jhelum.

Solo Date #61- Safa sweets and Veg Restaurant

Nestled inside the Akbar Residency in Sonwar, is Safa, a vegetarian restaurant, which I chanced upon on one of my walks. At eight in the evening, one would expect more people but unfortunately there were hardly any tourists in Srinagar.

If you’re vegetarian and want to skip the overcrowded Krishna Dhaba, this is a decent option. The ambience is better, the service too, as for the food, it’s quite decent.

Solo Date #59- Hyderabad

A visit to Hyderabad, is incomplete without visiting the old city. The famous Charminar a monument and mosque, stands tall in Laad Bazaar. There are various accounts of why, the Minar was built, some mention that when Cholera was eradicated, the spot where the Minar stands is where Qutb Shah prayed for the end of plague. According to folklore it was built on the spot where he glanced at his future wife- Bhagmati.

Whatever the reasons for the construction, the security personnel came under scrutiny in 2016 , when they tried to stop a single female traveller from entering the terrace. Apparently, they said it was for her own safety as a woman had committed suicide from there in the past. With my camera bag and all, I usually don’t have to prove that I’m a tourist, unless one is in Kashmir, that’s where I’m going around pointing at my Dad’s Sikh name on my Id, to prove it! But in Hyderabad, I face no issues.

I make my way to the Makkah Masjid, which is one of the largest in India; break some bread at Nigeen Naan, which makes me nostalgic about cold winter mornings in Kashmir and then head to Bawarchi for the famous Hyderabadi biryani. Nothing about the city, makes me uneasy.

Solo Date #57-Gorakhpur

Since I will be updating all the solo dates from the past years travels on the website, I am skipping the chronology. Anyway, having arrived at Gorakhpur at a reasonably decent hour, I stepped out for dinner.

It would have been better if I had stayed in my room. As it is the beautiful pimple on my lip, no it’s not a sore, I checked, is making me very uncomfortable. To top not only was the food bad…even the beverage was!

Solo Date #56-Tirupati

Though Tirupati left a bad taste in my mouth due to the intolerance, the food at Fortune was fab.

Solo Date #53-Rameswaram

Solo Date #51- Kochi

After Kashmir, if there is any other place where I can see myself settling down, it is in Kochi (if I miss Kashmir, there are lots of Kashmiris to chat with especially around the Fort area). Quaint, with the right mix of traditional and modern, I absolutely fall in love with the vibe and the people.

Solo Date #50- Backwaters

I am too damn claustrophobic and paranoid to stay in a houseboat. Spend the night in a cheap motel and take a shikara ride the next day. I’m short on time, so I don’t do the whole nine yards. A bite and a few photographs at Tasty land later, I make my way to the next destination. Alleppey, goes on the ‘to do with a lover’ list. Though, I have yet to find one whose company, I enjoy more than my own.

Solo Date #49-Kanyakumari

After a month of meandering through the countryside, I feel relieved at reaching Kanyakumari. After a day of lazing around, I start to look around. A walk along the seashore, a meal and a refreshing juice later, I make my way to the Gandhi memorial.

Solo Date #48-Om beach

Over a hundred kilometres away from the hustle bustle of Goa, in the state of Karnataka lies the temple town of Gokarna. I spend the day, wandering around the Om beach.

Solo Date #47 -Goa

Drenched after a shoot, I head towards a charming little coffee shop-Black Vanilla, to dry up and indulge in a cup of magic beans, that I rarely drink and a piece of sin that I rarely say no to. A few hours later, I make my way to a place with bittersweet memories. Since, I spent my birthday driving from Ahmedabad to Goa, a meal at Fisherman’s Wharf is my celebratory dinner. The last birthday I spent in Goa, was a freaking disaster, so to erase the memory of that I’m going an extra mile to make this visit, extra special.

Solo Date #46- Prem’s Restaurant Pune

I take a quick detour towards the Osho Ashram, which took my breath away (I managed to step in to take a leak…perks of being a bibliophile). After a lovely meeting with the Ma at the bookstore and promising myself and her that I will return, I head to a cafe for breakfast and some reading.

Solo Date #45- Le 15 Cafe Colaba, Mumbai

Since I have practically as many extended family members living in Mumbai as I have in Delhi, there are plenty of childhood memories of the city but none of the Gateway of India. I decide to wander around and then drop in for a bite at a quaint little cafe.

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 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 #15- Chai Jaai

Tea Rooms in Kashmir, Chai Jaai

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.

Solo Date#11-Sakley’s Mountain Cafe.

Sakley's Mountain Cafe

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.

Solo Date #7-Crafts Museum.

Crafts Museum, Delhi.

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

Solo Dating Throwback- Sulabh International Museum Of Toilets

Saadiya Kochar at the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets

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


Entry Fee-Free

Solo Dating Throwback-Doll Museum


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.

Timings 10am-6pm

Mondays closed


Untitled-1It has been a hectic week and I have been dying to get away for some me time. Sundays are fun days! I drag myself out of bed for Solo date No 4. A walk with Delhi By Foot is just what the doctor ordered for recuperating. The lovely masala chai coupled with the chum chum and the sandesh brighten up the morning.Na, that’s not all that we were given to eat- Puris with aloo sabzi are on the menu but it’s too early for me. I’m the only nocturnal one who finds 8.30 a.m  on a Sunday morning a wee bit early but everyone else is chirpy and perky.



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.

Beat the Blues

saadiya kochar

At the Voice and Music Meditation worshop.

So, the birthday went off quite undramatically and rather peacefully. That makes it a first. Made me realize- controlling and fine tuning your own mind is absolutely vital, especially for those of us who have more melancholic days than cheerful ones. People keep harping on ‘being positive’, well for some of us it doesn’t come naturally.

These are ten ways that help me to beat the blues, when I’m down in the dumps.

Know Thy Self– Different things depress different people. My Mother grew up, in a huge house in Jammu. She was surrounded by siblings, parents, cousins and domestic help. She met my Father in Delhi, fell in love and fought with her entire family to marry a man, who they didn’t approve off. When she moved into her Husband’s house, other than her doting Mother-in-law, no one really welcomed her. Within a couple of years of her marriage, my Father and Mother were asked to move out of the Family house in Bali Nagar to Masjid Moth and my Mom suddenly found herself alone, most of the time. I don’t know if that triggered off the depression but after all these years of observing my Mother, I know she hates being alone.

I on the other hand, have the opposite problem. While my Mom was loosing her mind, her family was also bearing the brunt of it. There are to many unpleasant memories from my childhood  that I’ve grown to accept as a part of life but I’m still amazed at the conversations the adults chose to have in front of us children. The way I dealt with them was by shunning most people away.  When I look back now, I know many of  my signature traits came from my mom’s illness, including my legendary defense mechanism and my ability to bounce back. Most of all, my limited need for human contact.

‘The game’, depresses the crap out of me, not because I can’t play it but because  I resent when I do . When I have to outsmart someone just to make them behave themselves, it truly saddens me. Being alone depresses my Mother. My Father feels blue without his friends. Maybe the fear of the future depresses you or  the fear of death. I’m sure marriage depresses the crap out of  people…just kidding. But whatever it may be, when you’re feeling blue avoid doing something that will trigger you off.

Be with people in whose best interest your mental well being is– Remember one thing, your family and friends don’t have your best interest at heart, they have theirs. The same goes for you. That’s why people confide in psychologists because they are not a part of their everyday lives. If you don’t believe me read ‘The games people play’.

We are all selfish creatures, we do everything that makes us feel good about ourselves! Each time I say this to someone, people think I’m too damn cynical. But look around you. You will see a doting mother who will spoil her children so that they remain dependent on her. You will find a wife who will put up with her husband’s bs so that she can play the victim, ‘the nice one’. The thing is that most of the time we don’t even know what we are doing. We play our parts very unconsciously.

Think..analyze your past, identify people who have had a positive affect on your life and be around them, especially when you are feeling low.  Without my teachers, mentors, assistants, friends who are not a part of my immediate social circle, I would have either been a crack head or in an asylum, by now.

Have a cheerleader in your life–  Some people are just born with a positive outlook. For the longest time my Father was like that. He believed that everything turns out well. Before Shahrukh Khan mouthed off, ‘Kismat badi kutti cheez he, saali kabi bhi palat jati hai’, my Daddy had been saying this to me for years (without the profanity).

You may be a cynic or an atheist yourself but it’s nice to have- the spiritually inclined, the God fearing , the Fatalist friend or relative to give you another twist on things.

 Love your body- One of the most important things in life, is to take care of your body. That’s your temple, your friend, that’s what keeps you going. Exercise it, nourish it, listen to it and respect it. Do yoga, join the gym or just dance. Don’t do it  to fit into the society’s preconceived notions of beauty. But for yourself.

Most of my family members are as white as milk, so the colour of my skin was a bit controversial when I was a little girl. Many quips were made about it. But by the time I reached adolescence, with Anu Kapoor and Noynika hitting the modeling scene my wheatish complexion and curly hair was considered attractive. I’m told I looked the best at that age but I was a masochist who abused her own body. With time, it wore off considerably. But I put on around 20 kgs and the hair is neither straight nor curly, anymore. Despite, that I never really  seriously wanted to alter my body at any point, up until last year.

Only at my lowest ebb last year, I wanted to change the way I looked. Not because I was bored but because I was so depressed- I just wanted to straighten my hair and  my crooked nose.  Thank God better sense prevailed. If you ever feel like that, don’t make any decision in haste. Wait a while, you’ll probably feel differently in a few days. Don’t take remarks about your physical appearance to heart. I know it’s easier said than done. I still can’t get over someone saying to me, If I was better looking my ex would have married me. I look almost the same as I did two years ago. I have no dearth of men, in my life at the moment. Trust me there is someone out there who will love you just the way you are. But first you have to love yourself.

Lower your expectations- The less we expect from others the happier and more grateful, we will feel. While on my previous birthday, I was really hurt. This year, I expected nothing so I was really touched by a common friend calling me up early in the morning. It was just a five minute conversation about his trip to Ladakh but when you don’t expect it, you’re grateful for the gesture.

Though, I wished that my ex  who had been my best friend for over a decade would  have sent me a message this year, I knew there was no point having such unrealistic expectations. After a while, we have to know that everyone has their own lives, relationships and priorities and some of our own expectations are silly. My new mantra in life is-‘Jo mil gaya usi ko mukadar samajh liya, jo kho gaya usi ko bhulata chala gaya. Mein zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya.’


Listen To Music- Music is considered one of the best therapies for people with mental illnesses. Some say it aligns your chakras. Studies suggest that the sound created by certain instruments like the flute, the sarod, the santur and the harp have calming effects on the mind.

I spent my birthday weekend at a voice and music meditation workshop by Tritha. Though, I can’t sing to save my life. Tritha’s enchanting, sultry, Bengali voice juxtaposed with the sound of the Tanpura, left me calmer than usual. Music helps the moody.

Enjoy Nature- Take a walk in the park, go on a trek or just sit and stare at the greenery. It’s great for your eyes as well as your mind. The voice workshop at Zorba was conducted in Tritha’s first floor room. The view was so spectacular that I couldn’t stop staring at the trees that waltzed slowly with the wind.

Solo Dating- Enjoy your own company. No one knows you better than yourself. Watch a movie, take a class, spend some time alone… you are your own best friend.

 Don’t be pressurized by the idea of time- I’m a big believer in ‘live as if today’s your last day’ but I’m slowly starting to realize that there has to be a balance between that and ‘you may live for a really long time’. I’m impulsive, I do things without thinking them through-travel, date, work… everything is driven by my gut. You may be the opposite. You may need to take the next train to nowhere just like I don’t have to date someone right this very moment.

Dance the blues away– Many forms of active meditation, help to release the stress from the body and mind. The perfect end to my birthday weekend was when The Delhi Drum Circle jammed and the participants from  the workshop danced away to glory. When I returned home, I slept like a child.

I Am Dating Someone-Myself!

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.