Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Streetfood fest@ Sitaram Bazaar

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I just love October…the soft chill in the air, festivity, colors, sparkle, joy, excitement, shopping and my favorite…food! Delhites need an excuse to satiate their taste buds with the yummiest treats the city has to offer. Since I am not much into fasting, navratras for me are nine days of sheer gastronomical paradise. I get to savor the best of vrat (hindi word for fasting) and non vrat food. From the bhog at Durga Puja pandals to the specially designed navratra thalis at restaurants, it’s my yearly ritual to have them all. 

One event I really look forward to every year is the baadaa at Sitaram Bazaar, Old Delhi. Sitaram bazaar is Old Delhi’s chaat capital and when they come up with something special, it’s a must have. I first went there 4 years ago and since then there has been no looking back.

Baadaa is a midnight food festival (mela) organized during navratras and goes on till Dussehra. Nine days of festivities, late night melas and lot of joy. Sitaram Bazar, during the day is swarming with people. However, for the baadaa, shops close early and makeshift food counters are setup. 

The moment I stepped out of the Chawri Bazzar, the glitter, lights and the aroma of delhi’s delicacies surrounded me. Wow! I couldn’t wait to get started!

Chawri Bazar Metro Station


In front of Sitaram Bazar







The lights!

Making our way through the crowded lane and the umpteen rickshaws, we first reached New Ashoka sweets. An otherwise famous shop of Sitaram Bazaar, they serve special delicaies for navratras. All shops serve 100% vegetarian food and most will also dole out dishes you can have while fasting. In fact, I was surprised to see every second counter serving vegetarian seekh kebabs.  The shop was crowded as if it was serving food for free. The 20 min wait for my order was a torture as I could see (and worse, smell the amazing aroma) the delicacies people enjoyed and my mouth watered and watered. But the wait was worth it. Kebabs made of cottage cheese, served in spicy gravy, served with onion lacchha (salad) and rumaali rotis, made to perfection. I was amazed how, despite the mad rush, the order taker made no mistakes in delivery while the rumali roti guy dished out roti after roti within minutes. 


People waiting for their order

Veg Kathi kebabs

The rumali roti expert


Rumali Roti

Veg Kathi Kebab with Rumali roti & onion lachha

Next in line was aloo paneer tikki…flattened balls of potato and cottage cheese, spiced up and shallow fried till crispy. Tikkis have to be cooked on the right flame for the right time else the result gets messed up. Maybe thats why, people didnt seem that patient to wait and the stall was relatively less crowded. But patience pays.The guy served the tikkis with generous helpings of tamarind and mint chutney and … My mouth still waters as I write. Crispy, hot, spiced up, with dash of chutneys, I loved the tikkis.

Aloo tikki and chaat

I had heard so much about Kanji vadas from my mother in law, so the moment I spotted the cart selling them; I was after my hubby to try them out. Kanji vadas are pakodas (fritters) served soaked in spicy water (kanji) and is a must try whenever u come to Delhi. The pakodas could have been softer and fresh but the spicy water made up up for them.

Kanji vada

Once a week, I have a date with Chhole Kulchey, but the ones I had here were very different than the others. In a hurry, the guy, just sprinkled lots of masala on the chholey and sprinkled lemon juice without bothering to mix it up. But, voila, what a treat it was! Every bite a super spicy affair! My eyes were watery (tears of gastronomical joy!) and I was loving it.

Chhole Kulche

I also tried the moong dal chilla, pancakes made of moong dal, stuffed with coriander, cottage cheese and served with chutney. Didn’t find much difference between them and the usual stuff I get to eat at every second wedding.

Moong dal chilla











People waiting for their chilla

Right next to the chilla counter stood Om prakash Kulfi waala. The ice creams at Sitaram Bazzar are prepared in unique manually operated ice cream makers in front of your eyes, from real fruits, no added flavors. You won’t get this stuff anywhere else. A must try. I tried the mango and pomegranate ice cream and they just melted in my mouth! One of the best ice creams I ever had.

Kulfi cart

Manual ice cream machine


Mango ice cream











Pomegranate ice cream

I was about to leave when I spotted this cart with nankhatai. At Rs 20 for 100g, I got the freshest, warmest and softest nankhatais that only Old delhi can offer. I quickly gobbled few and got some packed for my tid bit treats at home.


Nankhatais

It was time to leave. The crowd was growing every minute and I was told this would be so till 1-2 at night. The liveliness was infectious and I didn’t want to leave. I filled the aroma one last time and hurried to grab the metro…

Some more pics from the fest...


Balloon seller

Masks popular with kids during Dussehra


Masks, bow and arrows 


Servers in traditional attire

Rickshaw carrying water jugs back from shops

   










Chuski shop

The joy of eating


Outside New Delhi Railway Station


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Perfection in imperfection



Who doesn't desire a normal life! The entire rat race we run throughout our lives is to reach normality in everything. Right from the child in the womb to the delivery to the education, marriage, career, we want everything good, normal. If we take a sneak peak in the hearts of people praying to God, almost all would be praying for normality and good in their lives, often striking deals with God. Any deviation from normal brings fear of the negative and we perennially strive to make things normal, better, perfect.

Aren’t we focusing too much on the destination without enjoying the journey? Not everything ought to be perfect, normal or beautiful. There’s also beauty in imperfection, novelty in abnormalities and beauty in no beauty. It’s just about taking time to explore every element instead of quickly heading for the next option.

Recently, while watching Barfi, it struck me that things don’t have to be perfect to make us happy. Even imperfections can give us immense joy provided we accept them with a warm heart.  A deaf and dumb Ranbir Kapoor is dumped by a perfect Ileana D’Cruz as going for him would have been a deviation from normal. An autistic Priyanka Chopra, considered abnormal by everybody becomes the source of true love for Ranbir Kapoor. And that’s not because she woos him by her charm, in fact, she is unaware of it! She just feels the affection and reciprocates without thinking of anything. As simple as that. I wondered then that is the stress around us because we understand so much, know much more and strive for the most. What if we just enjoyed each aspect of life, without wondering, analyzing the way we do. Wouldn’t it be fun if we just accept whatever comes our way and choose what we like, not what is technically good, or normal, or perfect! Maybe that’s why we cherish childhood memories the most. We are to naive then, not knowing the right or wrong and just follow what we feel like.

Sitting in my office in the heart of Delhi, I wonder if this would be feasible given the lives we lead. But then if we strive so much for perfect, good and normal, then a step towards following our heart wouldn’t be a long one!




Friday, 12 October 2012

Wonderful blunderzzzzzz



Mr. Husband has a penchant for ordering everything online. Be it his SLR camera, gogs (yes, without trying), camping tents, books (lots of them), music system, phone, deos and what not. While on some occasions, the deals ended up total disasters (the awesome looking, awful smelling deodorant that was passed on to a cousin, or the goggles that looked suave but felt like the ones sold by gubbareywaala and are parked somewhere in the closet). The camera and books have so far been the best deals. Of course, u don’t wear them, and guys usually do fit in T-shirts (it doesn’t matter to them if it’s a bit loose here and there). But for women, it’s a different ball game, fitting being the top priority. And so no matter how tempting that lingerie looks or the throwaway price that kurta is for, except books I always refrain from shopping online.

It was Eve who inspired Adam to eat the forbidden fruit but in my case, It’s my Adam who has done so. Since the bug of fitness bit me, I had been craving for a chic pair of lowers. A week ago, Mr. Adam shortlisted this amazing looking pair for me. My mind warned me against shopping online, but the girl inside said “when your hubby gifts you something, never refuse.” Being a girl, I couldn’t ignore her and I said yes.

In the middle of a perfect Friday at work, I received a call from the seller. The person on the other side, a wise old guy inquired if I was happy with the order. I should have received the message. But I was already seeing myself running the half marathon in my new track suit. I told him I would revert without bothering to ask his name.

Dreaming of the slimmer, beautiful me flaunting my new avatar, I couldn't wait to get home. Once home, I quickly ripped through the shining packaging, the lowers looked as amazing as online, same colour, good cloth! Wow! I was so proud of me having for once, listened to my husband. But all my excitement vanished in thin air when the track pant felt tight on the thighs and the T-shirt on the chest! Uff, and I thought I had lost weight! Why on earth do people start exaggerating the moment u lose a bit (and only A bit) weight.

To be honest, more than the above reason, I was bugged at the thought of my husband saying “I told u buy a bigger size”. He said it, though the tears rolling down my cheeks immediately turned the tables as he said “u just need to reduce a bit (uff, a BIT again) to fit into this!” The girl inside me had still won!

Despite the triumph, I have learnt few very important things today –
Lalach buree balaa hai!
Listen to the mind, not the heart
Girls can be super impulsive
And finally…
Never to shop online for clothes!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Pinefull of Kasauli!





People usually have bachelor parties before getting hitched…but me being me, things have to be different…so a month before my wedding, I went for a bachelor’s trip! And to a destination that is usually a honeymooner’s paradise! Kasauli! My last trip before my wedding and last trip with buddy…but considering the beauty of this place, I will stick to the trip as everything about the place was just fabulous!

My niece had been recently packed off to a boarding in Kasauli & in her summer break my sister & I decided to surprise her…we packed our bags and boarded the Delhi Kalka Shatabdi. Airlines give you magazines to pass time while our good Shatabdis stuff you with food, food and more food! In a span of 4 hrs…the only thing consistent was the yelling of the bachha party in our coach and the constant stuffing…first welcome drink, then tea, then breakfast and all this while didi & I discussed everything from the pests in her office to my wedding trousseau to her worries about what hostel life would have done to her innocent kid…she kept talking her heart out while I saw Tare Zamin Pe reloaded! And so, gorging and talking, we reached Kalka….within 4 hours we were away from the heat and dust of Delhi to the lush green, cold & hilly Kalka…and buddy who waited at Kalka to take us to Kasauli said this was just the trailer…the scene was to get more magnificent as we drive uphill to Kasauli!

 We were still enroute Kasauli, and the route itself took my heart away! Every now and then, the toy train route gave us a hit and miss…as if playing hide and seek. It was the first time I had seen a toy train & suggested lets take the train instead to Kasauli…however, I was told that toy train would take double the time than the car so the choice was open…considering the fact I had been eating all the while & abstained from using the Oh so clean Shatabdi loos, I preferred the quicker option!

Going round and round and up and up, we saw some amazing houses of Army personnel who have settled there post retirement. Kasauli, with its laidback life is a post retirement haven! I also saw  the famous train tunnel built by the British. At a height of 5,900 ft, Kasauli was established in 1842 by the British colonial rulers as a hill station. No wonder, the British have the taste for the good things in life! As the TV tower on the hill came close, we knew we were there! The place has such a colonial feel to it, with its British architecture. We reached the Army mess and quickly refreshed ourselves. After all, my niece was desperately waiting to be picked up & any delay would meet her ire!

In less than an hour, we were at Pinegrove school, Dharampur…a place surrounded by the fragrance of Pine trees, that’s why the name PineGrove…my niece least expecting me, jumped in excitement and hugged me! It was my 1st visit to a boarding school & it was fun exploring the dorms, playground, all so well planned in such a hilly terrain…all this while, my niece kept flaunting me to her friends & teachers…also telling everyone that I was getting married in a month! Kids…phew!

Back to our mess, we gorged on whatever the buffet offered and decided to take a nap so that we can walk to the mall in evening…walking is the preferred mode out there as that’s the only way you can relish the beauty of that place. We took a leisurely walk to the mall road in evening…the Tibetan market is a must visit and offer some really cool tees & hats. There are small tea shops with wooden benches where people are seen chit chatting in the evening over a cup of chai. On our way back, we also spotted the Baptist Church, built in 1923. Made of wood and brick in true colonial style, it takes you back in time. Back to the mess, tired and hungry, a quick dinner & we dozed off.

An early start for me next morning as I took buddy’s amazing fauji binoculars and explored everything from the nearby window to the road on the hill far away. Would have loved to spend more time with the binoculars but we had to leave for Monkey Point.

Monkey Point, the highest point in Kasauli is also a high security area and one has to furnish identity proof at the checkpoint. Unfortunately, I have no pics to show you a camera and mobiles are not allowed in premises. The place takes your breath away, literally! I had never been on a trek before so my lungs were in pain & it almost seemed they would come out of my mouth! My niece and I felt like ponies being dragged to the top and every 100 steps meant a 10 min break to catch our breath! But once on the top, the hardwork was worth it! Monkey point offers breathtaking view of Chandigarh. There is an Airforce helipad & a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. It is believed that when Lord Hanuman was returning with Sanjivni herb, his foot touched the hill which gives the top of the hill a foot shape. We re-energized ourselves with the Prasad at temple & maggi at the local eatery. Niece & I prayed to Lord Hanuman to enable us to fly the way back as we were fatigued by the climb uphill. But Lord gave us strength and the way down was much easier.

Kasauli, being a honeymoon destination has its sunset point, sunrise point & the lover’s point. But I feel that in a place like Kasauli, there is a lover’s point everywhere where you can hold hands and enjoy the love and fragrance in the air!
We also visited a haunted house! A property of the Army now, its wooden flooring and the basement refreshed all my memories of horror movies I have ever seen & niece & I insisted we get out.

Also caught a glimpse of the house of Rahul Bose from a distance but my wish to meet Ruskin Bond remained unfulfilled. “Better luck next time”, I said to myself.
When your host is a fauji posted at Kasauli, the best deal you can get is access to the Kasauli club. With its wooden bar, royal dining hall, and the colonial d├ęcor, the place is perfect for evening get together and we saw many club members and faujis enjoying their drinks discussing everything from politics to golf!

I bid adeau to Kasauli next morning & promised my host I would be back for a romantic getaway post my wedding!

Next on our itenary was a stopover at Timbertrail, Parvanoo. Surrounded by beautiful Shivalik hills, a cable car connects 2 hills. The cable car experience is an experience beyond words. The thought of a cable car hanging on a rope initially scared niece & I, but assured by the staff, we finally got on the car. I was reminded of old hindi movies songs shot on cable cars as we approached the adjacent hill. On the other side is the timber trail resort. Cable cars don’t run after sunset, so usually people take a night halt in the resort & return next morning. But we had to catch our evening Shatabdi & could only afford a lunch at the resort. We quickly checked out the tennis court & hurried for our next destination.

Last on our agenda was Pinjore garden & considering we had a train to catch in evening, we had to make it fast. Originally built during Aurangzeb’s reign, it was lyng a ruined jungle till the rulers of the Patiala dynasty restored it. The gardens built in terrace form with its seven terraces is a unique blend of Rajasthani & Mughal arcgitecture. Every terrace has a palace – 1st terrace has a palace of glass, 2nd a rang mahal, 3rd a jal mahal & the lowermost terrace has an open air theatre. Trees lined up on the sides welcome you to each terrace and the fountain (sans the water) gave it a very mughal feel. I felt like a mughal princess taking a stroll in the gardens…just that my prince was in Delhi. I wish we could have spent more time, but that would have meant missing the Shatabdi. So, we had a quick lunch at the nearby restaurant & rushed to Kalka, just in time to catch our train. The good old Shatabdi showered its culinary love on us & stuffed with juice, tea & a heavy dinner, we hit the New Delhi Rlwy stn at 10:30. Outside the station, there were auto & taxiwallas in action…who swarmed around like bees…We managed a prepaid auto & got home.

Its been 3 years since I have been married, my niece is now back from her boarding & I didn’t get a chance to return to Kasauli but my spinster's trip will always be special in my memories & any mention of Kasauli still brings a twinkle in my eyes!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The great marathon…is it worth the burnout?



Life is a big never ending marathon. Whether we are a great marathoner like Paula Jane Radcliffe Or a common man/woman, within ourselves, we are nothing short of the trophy wining marathoners. The training begins early, as sperms it is a marathon to be the 1st one to hit the bull’s eye. And then, the ordeal begins. As kids, the run to grab that seat in the best school, the race against alarm clock, behind school bus, behind marks, against mothers the day results arrive. The almost futile chase for that 1st crush, the best college, the best subjects, marks, that plush job, promotion, (not to miss the run away from that bad boss and that overfriendly slimy colleague), we just keep running!

Then comes a different marathon of life altogether, the running behind that man of our dreams, his mother’s expectations, his family, his mood swings, his likes and dislikes, his attention, his love, his affection, your own family’s expectations, and then comes kids and their marathon becomes yours. 
But if we sit back and think, is it worth it? All through our lives, we try to make everyone happy, caring for the smallest of things, weaving hopes of reciprocation, the “happy ever after” life, that never happens. At every milestone we push our likings behind, to make others happy, trying to make their happiness our own. Thinking, one day things will change. They never do. How can we expect happiness when we spoil the very foundation of it by suppressing our desires? Who do we sacrifice our dreams, our opinions, our preferences, our moods for? Do these relationships really care? Almost all relationships in life are thankless. Till the time you run for them, they will cheer you like cheerleaders, to do more for them. The day you choose your own path which differs from theirs, the cheering turns into a cacophony.

The question then is, when we know that almost all relations are thankless, why do we run after them? Why do we adopt their choices as ours? Man is a social animal, and as per our great Mr. Maslow, affiliation needs drive us towards this marathon. Who doesn’t want to be loved, cared for, appreciated, trusted and supported? And we run after these throughout our lives, trying to make everyone happy and expecting happiness in return. If only we take things a bit easy and realize that happiness lies within us, not in any relationship, and that expectations should be limited to exceptions, life will be much smoother and maybe the marathon might just then be a jog, one would enjoy. True, man is a social animal, but it’s the man who builds the society and not the other way round. So, man/woman comes first, not society. Happiness lies within us, as we are the only permanent thing we have…

Sounds good…and I am writing this blog coz I am pissed off with my husband’s mood swings. But the moment he will take me in his arms and weave dreams of a beautiful life together, I will jump to run after his dreams and you all will say “practice what you preach”!