Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Foreordained Submission...

Before coming to Delhi in May last year, I only had faint memories of this ancient metropolis (is it an oxymoron?) from my visits years ago. However, the resplendently orange elephant at Appu Ghar, the rasping male voice emanating from a loud speaker at the Red Fort light & sound show and the Ice Cream vendors at India Gate were all well entrenched in my cerebral alleys even as I tried hard to recall the other details of the city.

Although I got to know a lot about Delhi’s people and culture during that visit, thanks to soaring temperatures, I couldn’t muster enough courage to explore much of the city. The visit in November, however, was quite different. While mornings saw me drawing inspiration at the Supreme Court, evenings witnessed Delhi holding my gaze.

So as I moved about the city this time around, the nonchalance with which I found myself dealing with the Auto-Rickshaw wallahs told me that I now knew Delhi fairly well. And when the sweltering weekend couldn’t keep me from venturing out to discover more of Delhi, I could finally realize that I had been won over. I had at last succumbed to Delhi’s allure.

The city has so much of history and culture embedded into it that anyone with even a dab of aesthetic ability is bound to fall in love with it. And as for me, a bit of this place runs in my blood. So, in spite of that initial hostility in May last year, it was inevitable to be smitten by it.

Here’s what caught my eye,

Chandni Chowk

The place is as old as the Red Fort with sweet shops dating back to the 18th century still operative. My maternal grandmother was born and brought up here in a huge Haveli that still exists [my mom’s a North Indian]. In spite of being very crammed up, the fact that this place was at the heart of the 1857 riots makes me appreciate its aura at every visit [Read William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal: The Eclipse of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857 to know about what happened at the Chandni Chowk].

Amidst the age old temples and shops, as one observes some people squabbling with a petty Cycle-rickshaw Wallah over a meager amount of money, one realizes that if only the omnipresent 'Big M' was equipped with senses, it would have surely smirked at these people who had just spent a fortune inside without even bating an eyelid. That hazy structure at the end of the road is the Red Fort!

The mesmerizing Light & Sound show at the Red Fort. A must visit for those who understand India’s History.

I happened to enter into a narrow lane known as the Parathe Waali Gully. It has eat-outs functioning from the late 1800’s which specialize in making Parathas of every possible kind. I could just about gather enough courage to have one!

Chawri Bazar

This is another place teeming with life very close to Chandni Chowk. This picture depicts conventional India’s tryst with modernity. The chaotic traffic and the scary electrical connections hardly hint at the state-of-the-art Metro Rail Station right under this place.

Jama Masjid

Another marvel of Mughal Arhitecture not very far away from Chandni Chowk.

On a sweltering evening around three hundred years back, his forefathers could as well have been found where he sits today.

Fried Chicken at brightly lit traditional eat-out near Jama Masjid…

Although I didn’t have any, I’m sure it would be better than KFC. Unlike KFC, they don’t have to add any preservatives for God’s sake!

India Gate

Visit India Gate on a Public Holiday to see how Indians hailing from rural and urban backgrounds flow into each other like two rivers.

As Sun dipped down over the green expanse around India Gate on that unusually overcast Sunday, scores of people converged at the place to cool off.

Who said India didn’t have a Grand Public Bath? It’s a different matter alltogether that the architect who designed the landscape around India Gate would be perhaps turning in his grave.

He bubbled away in anticipation of attracting some kid’s attention...caught mine instead.

Connaought Place

In addition to being Delhi’s main commercial centre, this place has showrooms of all the major apparel brands.


As this man braved the heat (it should have been around 45 Degree Celsius that day) to eke out a living, I marveled at his determination to make ends meet. A substantial population of India lives in villages. Just imagine their plight in this heat! Our country is naturally disadvantaged.

Power Cuts

As temperatures soared, power failures became the order of the day. The inverter at the place I’m putting up at could only power the common hallway at nights. I couldn’t sleep much for three consecutive nights. Thankfully, I had George Orwell and Amitav Ghosh for company in the hallway.

Eat-outs in order of liking (from my visits during the course of all three internships...and excluding the international chains)

Oh! Calcutta (Expensive, but worth the Nehru Place...Ironically, I was taken to this place by Adarsh, a close buddy who happens to be a Mallu)

Karim’s (World Renowned...near Jama Masjid)

Zen (Authentic Chinese Food...South Extension-II)

Eatopia (Food Court at the India Habitat Centre)

Andhra Bhavan Canteen (all you can eat for just 50 bucks...and the that too for quality food... at Ashok Road)

Nathu’s Pastry Shop (Excellent Sandwiches...Bengali Market)

A Continental Restaurant at Khan Market…(Can’t Recall the name)

Pot Pouri...(at Connaought Place)

Banana Leaf(Flavoursome South Indian Connaught Place).

Sarvanna Bhavan (Lip Smacking South Indian Food...again at CP)

A Rajasthani Restaurant at Dilli Haat (South Delhi)

Being a teetotler, I woudn't be able to apprise you much about the 'Boozing Scene' here. And although I could have given you an insight into New Delhi's modern, magnificent infrastructure, I wanted a raw feeling to persist right through this post.

People, if Bombay Talks, Delhi Rocks!


Sur said...

great pics!
have been to Delhi quite a few times ,but never visited chandni chowk. The pics tempt me, lagta hai will have to go there again.
Chandni chowk also reminds me so much of the area in Hyd. near Charminar, the chudiyon vali gali and all, especially enjoyed being there.

Sur said...

u don't booze? but then who said, 'I just drink thru my eyes'?! ;)

sashi said...

I live in Vancouver and each time I venture into India and see the connivance of the people there I vow never to go back same aS what happened last January.........well till I see this article and Connought PLACE.
A arhitectural marvel from the British Days.
Epitomizes the themes of the ancient and the occidental.
Walking along the walkway from Mohan Singh Place,dealing with the hawkers and obsequious touts,trully only the East could proffer such a place.
An absolute must for those contemplating a visit to the Indian capital.
Trully a submisison of the senses!
Can't wait to go back,deal with the connivance,impecuiniusness,angst and all.
After all that is what writers like Pankaj Mishra and Amitav Ghosh sell.

Debanshu Mukherjee said...


I've been to Hyd too. But couldn't go the old city. Hopefully, next time. And in that case, I do booze.

@ Shashi

Your seem to be an author yourself. Thanks for dropping by!

dharmabum said...

teeto what? how boring! :P

manolin * said...

u should have gone inside jama masjid. it is fabulous. If u r non- muslim then you can be inside when its not prayer time and before evening..go at dusk. fabulous views and fabulous snap opportunities

Sreekala Sivasankaran said...

Delhi - a place at once so familiar and strange; after having lived here for almost 15 years, I recover something anew, while forgetting something else about the city. Well, recently stumbled upon Ghalib’s gali in the old city, which took me again back to his intense ghazals, something that was left behind long ago…

“Not all, only a few –
disguised as tulips,as roses –
return from ashes.
What possibilities
has the earth forever
covered, what faces?”

Best Wishes, Debu. Your taste for places and people, inquisitiveness about cultures and histories and your skill at the camera are all amazing. By the way, ‘Banana Leaf’, I’m not sure as it is..