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.
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.
Sohail Hashmi, the most eminent heritage walk leader, in Delhi, took us around Connaught Place, last Sunday. What draws me to his walks, is not just an admiration for his knowledge about the city, per se, but his persona in totality. There’s a gentleness and an intensity, about his demeanour, that draws throngs of people to his walks.
This was the first time, Mr Hashmi conducted a walk in the heart of Delhi- Connaught Place and though he said it required a bit of tweaking, all the participants, really enjoyed walking around, listening to historical facts juxtaposed with his personal anecdotes.
Connaught Place, steers many childhood memories. This hub of New Delhi, is practically where one grew up. Convent of Jesus and Mary, my alma mater which is opposite the Gole Dhak Khana- the octagonal, New Delhi General Post Office Building, is a stone throw away from where all the business and partying take place. Many a birthday parties, dates, class bunks and mishaps have happened in CP. Even now, since one detests malls, many a weekends are spent, enjoying a live concert within these iconic corridors.
Check out Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi, on FB, to remain updated on the schedule.
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!
I took the flight day before yesterday, hoping the journey would be less frightening than last times. More than a month ago, I got on an Indigo flight to Srinagar. Due to turbulence, the journey was so uncomfortable, that the thirty people who were returning from Umrah, started chanting Allah’s name, a woman started vomiting and I too was left feeling sick to my stomach. Due to my general absentmindedness, I told my Dad I was flying Go and throughout the misadventure, I kept thinking that if the plane crashes, my parents wouldn’t even know I was on this particular flight. But this was better, we landed ahead of time. Comfortably? Nothing about flying makes me feel comfortable, in the first place!
The lamba chauda Jat ( reminded me of the ex) who I met at the hotel last time, had sent me photographs of the tulips from his official, weekend trip. Assuming, I too would be able to find some, I dropped my bags and rushed out. I got on a shared cab, which took twenty bucks from me and dropped me, close to the garden. I walked, bouncing away to glory, as I usually do, listening to something cheesy, while the uniformed men, eyed me suspiciously. The sign at the door said, ‘closed to general public’. Since, I don’t understand signs, I end up pulling where it says push and pushing where it says pulls, invariably I’ve headed right into the men’s loo more times than you can imagine (absolutely sober,fyi) I just pushed the door and walked in. Once, I walked in, then they couldn’t throw me out. I searched for tulips and found a few, which had withered. Two older gentlemen working there, then took me to the official area, where I found the last tulips of the season. As I was walking out, there were a lot more men at the gate, who looked at me curiously. One tried stopping me, ‘aap aayee kaise, andar madam?’. ‘ Jadu, se sir, aur ab jadu sai ja rahee hu!’ Off I ran.
In the evening, I went for the Urs of Batmaloo Sahib. My experience with the boys of the area, hasn’t been pleasant. That’s the only place in Kashmir, where the stone pelters have hurled abuses at me and I genuinely feel scared of them. Not having any of the boys, who have worked with me earlier, doesn’t help. I no longer have a mediator. My main man, is sitting in a far away land, trying to earn money for his entire family and should hopefully, be back on vacation, before my next trip.
As soon as I walked towards where the Ferris wheels were, I wanted to crawl underground. There were so many young boys there, some who I recognised and most who recognised me. They stood there, pointing towards me, all their heads turned in my direction. ‘Mar gayee, aaj to tu mar gayee’, I hummed to myself. Tried to make some photographs but the constant surveillance, hassled me, too much. I called one of them over to clear things, ‘kyaa hua?’, I asked. ‘Kuch nahin, hum aap ko jante he!’ replied the eighteen year old. ‘I’m not here to take pictures of any of you, I’m not looking for trouble, I’m just here for the fair!’ I said, feigning a sternness, only SB can pretend to have. He nodded, smiled and then went to inform the rest. I took some pictures, went to the Dargah, to which I was followed but by then I knew, they weren’t going to do anything, for now. Made some more pictures, walked out of there, knowing I was being tailed, caught an auto and stopped at the Boulevard, went to a restaurant to eat (hide) and then came back to my hotel.
You would assume, this would stop me from going back but a girl’s got to do, what a girl’s got to do! So, last evening I went back. The rain kept most people away and the boy from my hotel reception, came to check on me. He took me around, showed me his family graveyard and then we stood in one corner, in plain sight, chatting as it rained. Once enough people saw me with a Kashmiri man, I knew I was safer. As soon as it stopped raining, he went away and I went back to my business. Made a live video, distributed my card, by the time I return today, hopefully, they will be rest assured, I am not an Indian spy!
One is travelling for leisure, for a change. Three days without the camera, away from home ( In Mumbai too but over there it was a family emergency) is a first. Ofcourse it lies in the room with the many books that lie on my bed. I don’t sleep alone, you see.
As I wandered around aimlessly through the market place, picking up gifts, I heard the sound of the Nagara coming from the ghats. It pulled me towards itself as my body moved with the rhythm. A group of foreigners played the nagara with two Indian drummers. I was invited to join them. So there I sat with drum sticks after ages, playing away with the rest of them as the sun set infront of me. Jamming with Nathulal Solanki’s boys on the ghats of Pushkar, is a first. Starting the year with that priceless.