Museum of Illusions

‘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.

Delhi Through Their Eyes- Aman Tomer

What can you do during a pandemic? Explore the city with wonderful company.
Aman Tomer, is the co founder of Sair e Dilli
Anang Pal II, built the strongly fortified town of Lal Kot.

This Sunday, I left a couple hours early from work to participate in a heritage walk, led by Aman Tomer. Since one has taken a break from oneself, there are no solo dates, I take myself on, these days. Though, technically, hanging out with strangers, could be considered solo dating. Anyhow, what do you do when you’re working like everything is hunky dory and most of your friends are still not venturing out? Explore the city.

Aman Tomer

Aman, who led the walk, is the co- founder of Sair e Dilli and a graduate from the prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia. He lead us through the lush green plantations of Sanjay Van, towards the walls of Lal Kot/ Qila Rai Pithora to the Dargah of Khwaja Shihabiddin (which we only saw from the outside). He spoke in Hindi and very casually interspersed into the historical fables, stories about Chudails and Snakes, that run rampant in this area. His manner was easy going and friendly, something that was much appreciated, trekking up and down the rocky terrain.

Since, it was a Sunday, one saw couples and families everywhere, soaking up the sun. The participants seemed to enjoy the experience, as did I. Don’t know about the kid in the pictures below, though, who kept telling her dad, ‘ yeh bacho ke liye jagah nahi he!’ and he kept trying to convince her, that she’s not a kid anymore. Of course, that led to clinging to the mother. Aren’t mum’s so comforting? I would have paid money, just to see that very cute father, daughter banter. Not to take away from the fabulousness of the walk and the leader, at all.

Delhi Through Sohail Hashmi’s Eyes

Sohail Hashmi, is a history buff, heritage walk leader, filmmaker and the keeper of Delhi’s heritage.
Sohail, studied Geography but became interested in history, thanks to his father. Over here, he can be can seen on one of his walks, following the COVID protocols.

Who would not like to spend a morning with an academician, historian and filmmaker, exploring Hazrat-e-Dilli? Sohail Hashmi, is all that and more. Went for one of his walks, yesterday. The walk itself was not just about our lost heritage, the forgotten city- Tuqhlaqabad but also about botany and Roman architecture juxtaposed with his political views. For those of us whose political views are centric, his comments on the current government, his family ( he’s the brother of Safdar Hashmi and Shabnam Hashmi) and his views on women’s rights make his walks, something you got to wake up for on a Sunday morning.

In the company of remarkable men- Sohail Hashmi

I’m not a big fan of man made structures but people fascinate me. The one thing I like are all the lovers, hanging around, these spots. While we were there, I saw a man lying on his lover’s lap, whispering sweet nothings to her, while she, very unromantically fiddled with her phone. Love in 2020. Though, one loves traversing the country by oneself but this ongoing pandemic, is making one long for company. So, to combat that, one wants to explore Delhi, through the eyes of the people who view it differently from me- historians, storytellers, poets, a few broken people and hopefully some crazy chicks. Dilli walleh, jo humme Dilli dikha sakhe, people who consider it home. For I don’t know where my home is, here (Delhi), there ( Kashmir/Pushkar) or nowhere!

When you attend his walks, you get many points of view and the most interesting are his, which are embroiled in logic, rather than hearsay.

Sohail, tells the group about the Dhatua plant, shows us the mason’s markings, takes us to the Baoli, the Hamam and the Mausoleum. What fascinates me, is the relationship between the father and the daughter ( Sania Hashmi) his energy ( we walked for 4 hours and he barely sat, while the rest of us were panting) and his sense of humour. One can not wait to go back for more. His walks begin from mid September and go on till the beginning of March. Considering the ongoing pandemic, has made our lives a bit dull, soak in the the sun, walk a bit and see the city through Sohail’s eyes!

At the Kund
With his daughter

Check Out- Delhi Heritage Walks By Sohail Hashmi, on Fb, to book a slot.

Dilli Ki Diwali

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 2018

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.

Diwali

Diwali went of as soundlessly as it does. With my father’s brother passing away a few months ago, the house was dark and quiet. But Death put a damper on Diwali, twelve years ago. Occasionally, we try to make the effort to celebrate it the way we used to, a few parties here and there. The mad fervour with which we celebrated everything is of course, missing.

The Mother and I head off to our customary celebration. Our mutual ‘manlessness’ makes our bond closer, me all footloose and fancy free, she with her absentee husband, makes both of us rely more and more on each other to make festivities count. We put on our matching attires, ate to our hearts content and posed for the camera. Someday she’ll be gone and these photographs are all I will be left with.

When God closes a door he opens a window! The very year I was ostracised, was the year I went to Zorba for a Sufi workshop. That’s where there was an instantaneous gravitation of four individuals who belonged to different age groups and mindsets towards each other. I suspect we all go through our lives trying to fill a void. What we assume is a void which has been created by the loss of loved ones, friends, even youth and time is nothing but the void created through the separation from the creator. Of course all these are theories, who the hell knows what it is! Whether the rest of them were drawn towards me because of that I don’t know but one has since adolescence been most comfortable with male friends and older female friends. The individuals who have played the parts have changed over time, the roles have been constant. All three just fit in perfectly into my existence.

Needless to say, we’ve all become a part of celebrations- From birthdays to Diwali and New Year, we just look for an excuse to make merry. And so we did! Roamed around aimlessly looking for a place to eat. From Greater Kailash to Kailash Colony to G.K-2 to CP, the only options open were coffee shops and of course Saleem’s and Relax. In CP, there were just the Pure Veg Options, Rajasthali, Rajdhani and Swarana Bhawan. The trip to Cp wasn’t entirely futile. People were lighting Chinese lanterns and of course one managed to burn a finger in the process. A quick bite at Karim’s (Nizamuddin) later, the evening ended on the most nostalgic note when I was gifted a crystal with a photograph of me and who will remain the love of my life. Tere Bina Zindagi Se Shikava To Nahin….

Zakir Nagar

If you are looking to open ( break) your fast ( Roza khulta he) in South Delhi you can head to Zakir Nagar, Batla house or Jamia Nagar. Since it was a Sunday, I decided to make my way towards unchartered territory for Iftar.

Since, the Muslims friends I called recommended the usual places everyone heads to Jama Masjid and Ferozeshah Kotla for shooting the month of Ramazan, I wasn’t prepared for the how’s and where’s. The result can be seen in the forth image.

After the Jamia Millia Islamia metro station, I was diverted towards Jamia Nagar by the cop who told me I would find parking there. I found a spot right behind a truck which was parked opposite Waffle hustle. I parked and then came the after thought, that it was too close and somehow despite the camera, managed to reverse the car, in such a skilful manner, that it got stuck. Hum vaise he car itni lajawaab parking karte he, Mashallah!

Anyway, right at that moment I realised I forgot to carry my wallet. Asked the people outside Waffle Hustle for help and they immediately came to the rescue of the damsel. Around twenty minutes later, I went back towards the Metro Station and parked my car by the side of the road and ran out as I heard the Azaan.

It was like Purani Dilli minus the congested streets. Though, I don’t cover my head in CC, I loved walking the streets with my head covered ( my idea of liberation has absolutely nothing to do with garments) wearing my sneakers, camera around my neck, chatting with all and sundry as the evening turned to night.

Though, I didn’t eat a bite, everything looked sumptuous. I will be visiting really soon sans the camera and with my wallet of course. So should you!

Solo Date #10- Nehru Planetarium

Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi

Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi

I’m sure I must have visited the Nehru Planetarium as a child, on the usual school trip but I don’t recollect it.  Have I found the second most romantic place in Delhi, after my flyover? Hell Yeah! It’s also the perfect place to take yourself out on a Sunday afternoon before you head out for the evening. That’s exactly what I did.

 

Caught the 3 p.m show at the planetarium, that was once the official residence of Jawaharlal Nehru. Forty minutes in a darkened auditorium, looking at projections of galaxies merging into one- one devouring the other, the planets and their moons-juxtaposed with the screeches of little children. If you don’t want the disturbance, visit on a weekday.

 

The place was packed… in fact the 250 seating capacity was full to the brim, for the four p.m show. The exhibition area, the bookstore and the souvenir shop are soon to be upgraded.

Address– Teen Murti House,

                   Teen Murti Marg

                    New Delhi

 Nearest Metro– Race course (Yellow Line)

Show Timings– English-11.30 a.m and 3 p.m

                                Hindi- 1.30 p.m and 4.00 p.m

 

Solo Date #9-Raj Ghat

Raj Ghat on Independence Day

Raj Ghat on Independence Day

It’s a long weekend and one is fortunately compelled to stay in Delhi. I spend Saturday with the mother and the Sunday being pampered by one of my favourite girl friends. It’s a post birthday celebration and I wake up feeling slightly hung over ( after only two pints of beer) on Independence day.

 

After catching glimpses of Karma on the tele, I head off to Raj Ghat, the place where the Father of the Nation- Mahatma Gandhi, was cremated. It’s a large expanse of land and I am surprised to see the number of visitors. Foreign tourists with their guides, little children with their kites and the couples hiding from prying eyes…all seem to be enjoying the sunny afternoon.

 

 I hand over my sandals to the men who are there to take care of them and tip toe my way to the black marble that marks the spot where Bappu was cremated in January 1948. The burning flame reminds me of his words, ‘ truth and non-violence are as old as the hills.’ The solemn moment is invaded by the perpetual insistence of the photographer, to get a picture taken. Right next to Gandhi’s memorial is the Epson picture mate, from which the print promptly appears.

 

Address- Mahatma Gandhi Marg, Ring Road. New Delhi-110006.

No Entry Fee

Timings-6a.m-6 p.m

Solo Dating Throwback-Doll Museum

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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

#3-Dance

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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.

#1-Fire Walk

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Date No 1-Face Your Fear.

I got burnt when I was in Grade 2…for many weeks after that I couldn’t go to school and a faint scar is still visible on my thigh. I’ve got it into my head ever since, that I don’t even want to be cremated. That I’m terribly afraid of being burnt is an understatement. So I  decided it’s time to fight my demeons. Fire walking at Zorba was quite interesting. The session began with the instructor- Tathagat Roy, telling us about the Power of the mind and then demonstrating hypnosis. But ofcourse, eventually we walked on burning  coal.