Bookworm in Delhi: Daryaganj

With every second Indian now beginning to write a book, I often wonder what happened to the bookworms of Delhi.
The people who liked reading, not just writing about their IIT, IIM, Mica – experiences. And when it comes to places in Delhi where you can truly be a bookworm, read, browse, buy and sell is in one place you must visit on a sunday morning… Daryaganj!

Those who want to know what the Twilight is all about, those who want to buy a book recommended by a friend, but don’t have the closet space to keep the number of books  they buy or those who want to get colouring books for their kids to play with’, those are the type of people you will find at Daryaganj – Sunday Morning Street Market.

Located near Asaf Ali Road,  you can come to this market either by Auto, car (there is a car parking) and the closest metro from where you invariably have to take a rickshaw (either Chawri Bazar/ITO) This market is home to a lot of publishing houses and street vendors. These are people who might even have their own book stores, but come to this market on Sundays to possibly sell their old books, books that have been lying in their shops for a while or simply bulk orders for cheap prices.

Here you can find a book from Rs. 10 to Rs. 1000. A mills & boon sits next to a Mein Kamph, while the best of  Jamie Oliver’s cooking can be found next to Picaso’s brush strokes. That’s the beauty of this place. You can find something regular, vintage, unique, rare and simply idiotic or exotic on the same path.

Comics, MBs, Art books, Children books, Harry Potters, Travel guides, MBBS books, Engineering guides, GRE manuals, Coffee table books, Magazines, NatGeo, Lonely planet guides, Self-help books, Weekend guides, New Books , Old Books, Used Books, even stationary, pens and the list goes on. One must visit this market just for a stroll and I guarantee you’ll pick up something.

A special attraction has always been medical and law books and the Guides for Graduation students. You know, the kind a books that one buys a month before the exams and are out of the window an hour after it !

Some Tips:

1. Make sure you carry cash – credit cards don’t really work here.

2. Be careful : not a safe place, pick pocketers may be around.

3. You can and must bargain here, even if the price is already 1/2 of the listed price.

4. If you have the patience, walk through the market, you’ll find a lot of the same books in better condition or at a lower price.

5. EnJoY !!

Khan ka Khaana : Eating out at Khan Market

So you are in Khan Market, on a bright sunny day or late in the evening and wondering – where do you go? 

This market has consistently ranked as one of the costliest high end streets. In fact in 2010, it was rated as the world’s 21st most expensive retail high street by real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. It’s the newest hangout market, a place to be seen. With limitless options, Khan Market does not disappoint. Just be prepared to spend the moollah.

 A new restaurant opens and closes every month here and it surely is the survival of the fittest, so the old favorites like Chonas or Big Chill are forever favourites, but these days the choices have truly increased! Let me list out some options-

The Fine Dining Experience: Even casual dining restaurants tend to be fine dining in this market, if you know what I mean!!

Big Chill – Continental, Italian, Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. One of the oldest most famous ones, there are two outlets in Khan Market itself. I feel that the hype is a bit more than it deserves, don’t get me wrong it used to be awesome once upon a time.

Blanco– European, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. Food is good; they also have a happy hour. They have Meats outlet as well, some really good stuff. Every thursday is women’s night with free mojitos… so enjoy ladies!

The Kitchen – Asian, European, Japanese, Thai. Avg Cost/dish INR 350. The food is really good, it’s a small place but worth the wait for the table. Definitely try their Khao Suey and notice the number go up on their Khao Suey meter!

Mamagoto –Asian, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Best known for their wok & curries, it’s a must try. Go for their Meal in a bowl choices, its filling and tastes good!

Chonas -Chinese, European, North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 250. It has been around for 20+ years and is famous for their Happy Hours and only the Happy Hours. Some people have recommended the sizzlers.

Side Wok – Asian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Great Thai food! The prawn red-curry was excellent, and to top it all they have an online reservation system. How cool is that?

China Fare– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. It’s been the only Chinese restaurant in Khan for some time, and the food is good. But now that they have competition, we’ll just have to wait and watch. I always notice the cat sitting outside the door, see if you can spot her.

Watermelon – Health food, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. It has a relaxed lounge-like atmosphere, segmented into multiple rooms that provide some privacy, I guess?! With a limited menu and average dishes, avoid it if you are particular about your food.

Amici – Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 350.Best known for their oven fresh pizzas, they have some good days and bad days. I went on a bad day!! But have heard really great stuff about the place too.

Mrs Kaurs Crepes and More -American, Fast Food, Desserts, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. Best known for their breakfast menu, they have light meals to enjoy all day too. The portions could be a little larger but that’s gives you an excuse to order some sweet-something.

Ginger Moon– Chinese, Avg Cost/dish INR 400. On my ‘To-Try’ list.

Khan Chacha Kabab Corner– Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Yes, the famous Khan Chacha is now a restaurant on the first floor, but the real fun of the place was the ‘street-food’ so to say atmosphere that is now lost. For the loyalist this remains the only place for kathi rolls.

The QSR (Quick Service Restaurants): by which I mean stand and eat type of places, they are certainly quick and seem to have a lot of fan following too. So don’t get discouraged by the crowds.

Hotdog Factory– American, Fast Food, Avg Cost/dish INR 100.

Chicago Pizza – American, Fast Food, Pizza, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. Their pepperoni slice is nice.

Al Bake– Fast Food, Lebanese, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. an offshoot of the NFC outlets, this one is better than the original.

Salim Kababs – Kababs & Rolls , Avg Cost/dish INR 150. Haven’t tried it yet.

Aap Ki Khatir– Rolls & Mughlai, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. This one is definitely recommended and the rolls are better than some of its counterparts in the same market.

Mrs Kaurs Premium Cookies – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75.

The Kathis – Rolls & North Indian, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

Cocoberry- Desserts, Avg Cost/dish INR 150.

The Cafés and Pubs: for some informal, laze around type of an environment step into one of the many café’s at Khan. Some of these turn into a party zone with loud music and beer as the sun sets.

Latitude – American, Continental, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 450. The latest eatery to set up shop in Khan Market is Latitude 28, a café by The Good Earth, which has its kitchen supervised by chef Ritu Dalmia.

Cafe Turtle – Cafe, Continental, Italian, Others, Avg Cost/dish INR 150. An old haunt for most, it’s great to have some ice-tea and slice of freshly backed cake while you are immersed in the book you are reading.

Sugar N Spice – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 75. Like any other of their outlets, breads and pastries are good.

Market Café – Bakery, Avg Cost/dish INR 200. One of the many specialties of this place is the wi-fi facility. It also has a Sheesha place on its second floor. The one thing you will find about this cafe’ at any given time is that you can actually ‘have a conversation’ without screaming your lungs out like in regular places. Quiet, comfortable and open, its a nice place if you want to really “catch up” with friends.

Route 04– American, Avg Cost/dish INR 300. You’ll find a lot of young kids, music is all American and by the end of the evening everyone is singing. Route 04 run by the owners of Turquoise Cottage and enjoys the same loyalty. Try their burgers, and head there during happy hours, they even have pitchers of LIIT as 1+1, a challenge to finish!

Cafe Oz & Bar – Continental, Avg Cost/dish INR 350. Nice beer & burgers. My fav is the lime & mint spritzer. I love the balance of café and pub that that Cafe Oz has.

Urban Café – Chinese, Continental, North Indian, Italian, Avg Cost/dish INR 600. Drinks are bit on the expensive side and so is food, when you look at the quantity. It has a nice ambience for some club/pub atmosphere with more well traveled diners. (And not just screaming teenagers, that you see in most pubs)

For the lets-stick-to-the-basics diners, there is a McDonalds, Subway, CCD Lounge, Barista Lavazza and the others thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy your trip to the mighty Khan and find your calling in one of the three lanes – outer, inner & middle.

Bon appétit!!

Djinns of Feroz Shah Kotla : Discovering Delhi

Write a letter to the Djinns of Feroz Shah Kotla, and your wishes might come true!

Wait, I’m not kidding. Many of you know or have heard of Feroz Shah Kotla as the cricket stadium where Anil Kumble made a record by taking 10 wickets in a single innings, but there is more to this place, then meets the eye!

Located right next to this famous Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket Stadium, (off Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg) are the ruins of Feroz Shah Kotla. FerozShah Kotla was the imposing citadel of Ferozabad, the ‘Fifth city’ of Delhi. The great builder and Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) built the city of Ferozabad with its citadel in 1354.

Djinns are said to be found in these ruins. Every Thursday, one can witness people gather in hundreds, to pray and write letters to the djinns hoping for their wishes to come true. So much so, that the ruins are open for anyone to visit free after 2pm on Thursday. (On other days, the entry fee is a meagre Rs. 5)

According to Islam, Allah made djinns out of smokeless fire before he made humans out of clay. Unlike ghosts, djinns are shapeless beings who can marry and have children. Unlike humans, they are formless and can ‘live’ for centuries. But like humans and ghosts — and unlike farishtey (angels) — they can be bad or moody. Legend has it that when Iblis, a djinn, refused to bow before Adam, Allah cast him out as Shaitan (devil), not unlike Lucifer who was rebuked as Satan.

The main attraction of the citadel is the 13 meters high sandstone Ashokan Pillar on a rubble-built three-tiered pyramidal structure. Firoz Shah Tughlaq brought this 27 tonne pillar to Delhi from Topar in Ambala, where the great Emperor Ashoka erected it. The more interesting story is about ‘How they got it here’? Well, its hard to believe, but at one point of time the Outer Ring Road we know today, was the location of river Yamuna . This pillar was in fact brought by the river, in one piece. But unfortunately broke while being positioned above the structure.  Anand over at http://synchroni-cities.blogspot.com/2007/03/minareh-zarreen.html has a great story to tell.

The pillar is similar to the one fixed on the ridge, which was also brought by Firoz Shah. The transportation of both the pillars was done with much care and precautions to avoid any damage. Though made of sandstone, the pillar was so polished that till date it looks as if it is made up of some metal.

There are inscriptions on the Minar, and learned men were brought forward to read them. They could only read the latest ones, in Sanskrit. Some inscription on the pillar are only 250 years old and it is said to mention that Bisal Dev, Chohan, Rai of Sambhal, who came to worship certain idols on the banks of the Sarasvati River, and found this pillar in its present position. But the earliest inscriptions incised on the pillar remained bafflingly unreadable.

What is astounding about this place on a Thursday afternoon or evenings, is that, some people who come here, have been doing so since generations. Their families have come each Thursday and their prayers have been answered. A lady I met said five generations of her family have been coming here and they feel that by doing so, their prayers were herd and their lives are healthy.

There are others sights which one might see here, which can leave you baffled, slightly out of  your comfort zone and sometimes down right creepy! Exorcism – is not just for the movies…  the djinns here, people believe, help get rid of evil spirits.

With the place, almost resembling a scary movie at times, bats on the ceiling, dark dingy caves with lots of incense sticks burning, letters pinned against the walls  and then suddenly a scream. I saw a girl hitting herself with her own hands in this sort of trance like fashion where all I could hear was a faint murmur.I didn’t want to be an uninvited guest, so I left. But as I said before, there are supposed to be good and bad djinns. According to folklore, the bad djinns pray on young women, if young women are left unguarded or especially drying their hair on the roof, it is said that these spirits/djinns tend to haunt them. And the oddest thing, they apparently like sweets! Stories people tell!!

The irony of it all is, as the day ends, and people clear and so do the letters, the cleaning staff of the ruins takes out the letters daily and makes sure the walls are clean for the next day. I just hope the djinns have quick reading skills. Aside from just writing letters, people also stick coins on the walls, this also represents a kind of wish that they make, and hope for it to come true someday!

The main pillar of the chief of djinns called Laat wale baba, (Lat is the Hindi word for pillar) is at the centre of a practice of writing letters to djinns who are supposed to reside here. It seems that the practice of writing to the djinns starts in the late 1970s, when a fakir named Laddoo Shah came and started living in these ruins at the end of the Emergency of 1975-77, a year after the demolitions at the nearby Turkman Gate locality, which had once been part of Firozabad.

Aside from the pillar, there is actually a functioning mosque within the grounds. This is said to be one of the largest mosques of the Tughlaq period. I met the Imam there, and asked him the one question I had since I entered this place, ‘Has anyone really seen a djinn?’.  He to my surprise said he had! One day while he was reading the namaz, he saw a couple of people sitting behind and reading it with him. A while later when he looked back he saw that one person sitting in front had gone. He asked the other person who was sitting next to him, where the man went, and to the Imam’s surprise the answer he got was that ‘no one sitting there at all’! The Imam said that good djinns are those who are close to God and want to be closer, hence they live in or around areas where there are mosques.

Other than the djinns, bats, pillars and mosque, there is also a step well or baoli. Located in the centre of the garden, this is a circular baoli with a large underground drain for the water. Though one is not allowed to enter this now (most of these places in the city are chained, due to “accidental” deaths meaning, people accidentally wanting to end their lives! The area where the ruins exist is massive.

The one thing you have to love about old world architecture are the rocks; the way it was constructed, the expanse of the entire location is a visual delight. Even though its in ruins, try and take some time out to see something a little different next to the cricket stadium everyone loves, you might be surprised to see the other side !

(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal


Humayun’s Tomb: New Delhi

“Spectacular!” that’s what visiting US President Barack Obama said about the Humayun’s Tomb on his recent visit to India.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the grandeur and magnificence of the monument. This beautiful red-stone monument in Nizamuddin (South Delhi), built over 450 years ago is being looked after thanks to the major renovation exercise taken up by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Archaeological Survey of India.

Humayun ka Maqbara or Humayun’s Tomb is one of the must see architectural sites in Delhi, especially since it was the inspiration for one of the Seven Wonders of the world – the Taj Mahal.

This tomb has also been a much loved backdrop of many film-makers in Bollywood. In Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Abhishek takes Preity to Humayun’s Tomb and tells her that since he didn’t have enough money to take her to see Taj Mahal, he brought her to see the tomb. A romantic song for the Kareena-Saif starrer Kurbaan was shot here. And even  Aamir Khan’s character in Fanaa takes Kajol and her friends on a Dilli darshan, and one of the places they visit is Humayun’s Tomb.

The entire complex is larger than what I had imagined; the first building one observes is the Isa Khan’s Tomb. This tomb is situated just outside the Humayun’s tomb. It was built in the honor of Isa Khan, a brave and valiant noble under Sher Shah, the Afghan ruler who had overthrown Humayun. It was built in 1547, and until the early 20th century, an entire village had been settled in the enclosure.

The actual Humayn’s tomb was commissioned a year before his death by his Persian wife Haji Begam and her son Akbar. The tomb was constructed from 1562-1572 by Mirak Mirza Ghiyuath a renowned Persian architect. He had previously designed buildings in Herat (now northwest Afghanistan), Bukhara (now Uzbekistan).

The muhgals built many architectural marvels in their times. Everyone from the Mughal Empire’s family tree left a bit of themselves in these buildings. It started with Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, who founded the Mughal Empire in Indiain 1494. In 1530, Babur’s eldest son Humayun succeeded him as the king. After his death the fourteen-year-old Akbar, under the care of Bairam Khan, took charge. Akbar died in A.D. 1605 and was succeeded by his son Jahangir. Jahangir, passed the expanding empire to his son Shah Jahan in 1627. Aurungzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan and took over in 1658. Aurungzeb’s three sons disputed over succession, and the Mughal empire crumbled, just as the Europeans entered the subcontinent.

Back to Humayn’s tomb. The plan of the building is simply brilliant and very mathematical, with symmetrical ground plan and chambers that are sure to wow you. Although the architecture of the tomb was designed by the Persian architect, one can observe the distinctly Indian aspects of the tomb, like the Hindu chattris, that surround the central dome. It follows the Indo-Islamic tradition that was already emerging at the time.

The beautifully carved stone screens are not only artistic but only practical for the ventilation and light. Another prominent features is the center of a garden in the classical Mughal char bagh (four gardens) pattern. High wall surrounds the garden on three sides, the fourth side being bounded by what was once the bank of the river Jamna (Yamuna), which has since been diverted.

We saw some bats having a slumber party in one of the rooms that was being restored. The complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and since then has undergone extensive restoration work, which is still underway.

The recent attention from movies and foreign dignitaries visiting the tomb has helped increase the footfall among local as well as foreign tourists. We visited the tomb on a saturday and were surprised to see a large number of school Children on a field trip.

It is easy to get here, and if you are an avid photographer the visit will be well worth the effort. It is located on Mathura Road, near the Lodi Road crossing. No one can miss the Nila-Gumbad or the blue dome monument at this crossing. Also, an interesting story about the Nila-Gumbad is that, the architect who built the Humayun’s Tomb is buried underneath.

The monument is open for public all days, with parking available for busses, taxis and private vehicles. One has to buy a ticket for INR 10 for citizens and INR 250 for Foreigners.

(C) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal

The Times They Are a-Changin’ : My Delhi

I’m a Delhi’ite. I was born here and have lived/visited Delhi every year of my life. I relate to every word of the Delhi 6 song “Yeh dilli hai mere yaar, Bas ishq mohabbat pyaar” .

At different times in my life Delhi meant different things to me. For most of my schooling years, it was a place for summer vacation at my grandparents place. My memories are of enjoyable times spent with my cousins, maybe because there was no school to go to, or maybe it was the ‘dadi ka laad aur pyar’.  The majority of my time was spent between Karol Bagh & Green Park and occasional drives to India Gate for ice-cream. That was the Delhi I knew and loved.
Delhi was also part of my schooling as I did my 7th grade from here. Delhi to me was about living in Delhi Cantt, going to school in an Army 3-ton, swimming at the club for recreation and Gopinath Bazar for samosas in the evenings, usually post the swimming!  My world was limited to the extremely green, uncrowded part of Delhi. What is not to love about all that?

My next stint in Delhi was the three years spent in DU-South Campus. This was the time that I really explored Delhi, by which I basically mean movie halls, shopping centres and eating joints. The expanse of which was narrowed down to Sarojni Nagar, CP, Janpath, Shanti Nikatan, Chanakya Puri and Priyas. These were the kind of places we, as students could afford on a limited budget. Our most important asset was the DTC bus pass as we hopped on and off buses whenever we pleased.

My first job also happened to be in Delhi too. A Sales job teaches you many things, one of which is going to places you’d have never even heard of. In the 2 years of this job, I travelled mainly in my car. One thing is certain, I learnt more about Delhi driving myself than I would have ever otherwise sitting comfortably in a chauffer driven car (as most Delhi-ites do). For me, all the places were associated with companies; Nehru Place is where IFCI, Bengali Market was next to FICCI and so on. Places I most frequented were Sohna road, Okhla Industrial Area, and the Naraina Industrial belt along with the others.

Having said all that, I recently moved back to Delhi. In the last few months that I have been here I have realized that there is a lot of Delhi left for me to explore. I still have to visit the Lotus temple, Akshardham, North Campus, Humayun’s Tomb, Doll Museum, and Gandhi Smriti. The food tasting at Nizamuddin, Bikaner House and Andhra Bhawan are still left. To be a part of the cultural scene is only a dream… especially seeing a play at Kamani or Siri Fort and also a definite look-see at the recently opened Kingdom of Dreams at Gurgaon. That’s just a small list right now… 

So here is my New Year’s resolution: Exploring Delhi!

Destination Coorg

252 kms from Bangalore and 1525 m above sea level lies Coorg which means ‘dense forest on steep hill’. Coorg is often called the Scotland of India.

Being one of the closest getaways from Bangalore (apart from Mysore), it is a nice place to spend a weekend.

The misty hills, lush forest, acres and acres of pepper and coffee plantation, orange groves, undulating streets and breathtaking views are what make Coorg an unforgettable holiday destination.

252 kms from Bangalore and 1525 m above sea level lies Coorg which means ‘dense forest on steep hill’. Dubbed as the Scotland of India.

Being one of the closest getaways from Bangalore (apart from Mysore), it is a nice place to spend a weekend. The misty hills, lush forest, acres and acres of pepper and coffee plantation, orange groves, undulating streets and breathtaking views are what make Coorg an unforgettable holiday destination.

I have lived in the Himalayan regions as well as in the north eastern states of India and mountains and hills are not new to me, but Coorg managed to live up to my expectations. The experience of having coffee & pepper fruit & seeing the cardamom on the roots was unique.

The first time we went there, we stayed at ‘Planters Camp’  (www.coorgplanterscamp.com). Two of our best friends were visiting from Mumbai  & we stayed in two big tents that had all the comforts a tent can provide ;). The tariff where very reasonable & included the tents, all meals, a coffee plantation tour, a nature walk and bonfire.

The weekend was as relaxing as it could get. Lighting the bonfire under a clear night with great company & lots of chit chat was as good as it can get. On the food front, distinctive cuisine includes Pandhi Curry, Kadambuttu, Chilli Pork, Rice Rotis, Chicken Curry, Paputtu, Naputtu, Mutton Pepper Fry, Coorg Mango Curry … Yummy!!

On the way back to Bangalore, we stopped at Bylakupe, the largest tibetan settlement in South India, about 5 kms from Kushalnagar to visit the Namdroling Tibetan Monastery, popularly known as the Golden temple. Unfortunately we neither found momos nor thukpa, but none the less the grandeur of the monastery was worth the stop.

If you are not into budget traveling, another nice place to stay is Club Mahindra Coorg Resort. We booked the studio apartments (recommend taking the top floor), four people can easily be accommodated and it has all modern amenities that you can think of. It has a pool, a recreation center, restaurants, spa & massage center and lots of exciting activities to do.  The only thing I missed was the Coorgie food that we had enjoyed at Planters Camp.

The best time to visit Coorg is from October to April. The intrepid traveler who would care to make a visit during the monsoons during the months of June to September would be rewarded with many an unforgettable sight. There is some local sightseeing to do though we had come to relax & have fun so didn’t venture out much.

On the way back, we did manage go to Abby Falls (or the Liril Falls – the first liril advertisement was shot here). Even during the summer there is plenty of water in these falls. The roar of the falls can be heard from the main road, from where a path goes through lovely coffee and cardamom plantations right up to them. All in all a chilled out place. Do take your jackets with you.

Fact File : Chail – Himachal Pradesh

It might not be one of the Top 10 Hill Stations in India as per mustseeindia, but Chail
has all the makings of a perfect holiday in the hills. And the icing on the cake is that it’s not as crowded as some of the top 10!

Chail is about 350km from Delhi and it takes about 8-10 hr to reach there. We spent a day there last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the drive especially from Kandaghat to Chail.

We started from New Delhi and took the route via Panchkula and basically traveled on NH1 and NH22. New Delhi –Ambala (250km on NH1) then turn on to NH 22 for another 100Km of driving distance. We crossed Panchkula- Kalka- Dharampur- Solan bypass- Kandaghat – Sadhupull – Chail.

So, What is unique about Chail?

Chail has always stood for the ‘alternative’ and owes its very existence to an impulsive decision by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala to create an alternative capital; a challenge to the British dominated Shimla. There is a legend that the Maharaja was facing an exiled from Shimla after he was banished from Shimla for eloping with Lord Kitchner’s daughter. Lord Kitchner just happened to be the Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army at that time. So the Maharaja decided to create his own summer capital.

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh is perhaps the most famous Maharaja of Patiala. Did you know-  that he was the first man in India to own an aircraft, which he bought from the United Kingdom in the first decade of the twentieth century. He was also the captain of the Indian cricket team that visited England.

Chail main attraction is the Cricket Ground that is the highest cricket ground in the world. Well, as the Captain of the Indian Cricket team the least the Maharaja could do was to have a Cricket pitch in this back yard!

On the premises of the Chail Palace lies ‘The Shimla View point’. On a clear day on can see all of Shimla, although we could imagine it across the clouds when we visited. This is another one of the Maharaja’s genius (almost egoistic ideas), to be on a hill higher than the British, and keep an eye on them- literally.

And the Military School is also very famous. I was surprised to know that the Chail Military School was established after the First World War in 1922, the school occupies the second largest area in Chail after the Palace, they say!

What to do in Chail?

Nothing. Well, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds. But Chail is the perfect places to do noting, maybe, look out your window to admire the beauty of the gigantic Deodar and Oak forests. The other option is to take a book or your iPod and get lost in deep thought. If you are with family/friends it is a good idea to carry some board games.

For the wildlife enthusiasts there is a Sanctuary that one can visit. The monkeys and languor will come visit you in any case. Trekking is another option.

Where to stay in Chail?

We stayed at the Chail Palace that was built in 1891 so we could experience the grand architecture created by the Maharaja. Himachal Tourism, now owner of the gracious mansion has set up nice resort to suit visitor’s needs and budget. The rooms range from 3 to 10k. There is an option to stay in side the main building of the palace that has a bar, dinning room, lounge and a children’s gaming arcade (a couple of video games). There are also cottages and log huts to choose from. Beautiful lawns and thick forests surround the palace. It is perfect for quiet walks on something known as a ‘lovers hill’. Enjoy the badminton courts, lawn tennis courts, billiards and even a children’s park.

The room we stayed in was within the Palace. It was a large room with a nice bathroom. The service here is not awesome, as it is a government run hotel and you may find the service slow, The décor could be better, especially since they have beautiful furniture, wall hangings and ornate mirrors to work with. We had a nice breakfast; the dining room and the bar has the old world charm that we enjoyed.

There are other options like the Lion Hotel or if you prefer camping, Camp sights like http://www.rootsoutdoor.com/ are also available.

After spending a great day in Chail we are off to Kasauli… see you there! 

Delhi’s Wedding Shopping Bonanza – Part II

If the heat, rain, sweat and absolutely no bargaining skills is killing you – do not fret there are some great air-conditioned stores to choose from. They have more or less similar things and it’s a matter of your choice and luck that will change the ‘how-great-is-this?’ rating for these.

Here is a look at some specific Retail Stores


Frontier Bazar and CTC Plaza are some of the top choices. Meena Bazar , Gujralsons , Chhabara 555, Heritage Handloom Emporium and Bombay Selections are great stops for suits, sari and dress materials.

Most of these have multiple outlets in Karol Bagh, Chandni chowk, Rajouri Garden, Lajpat Nagar, South Extension and basically all over Delhi.

If you are the get-in-buy-and-get-out types you are guaranteed to be irritated with these shops. Well! Shopping for wedding in general is taxing for you, these ‘aaoji-bethoji’ (come-sit) will make you want to scream. But nonetheless this has to be done. Window Shopping or like my mom calls it ‘nain-tripti’ (pleasure for eyes) is an essential part of wedding shopping, especially if one is going to spend a considerably large sum of money on these purchases.

Some women can spend hours on end just looking at the variety in a store like Frontier. With multiple-floors of garments there is never a ‘that’s-it !!!’ for these ladies. The salesmen here are also very enthusiastic and will charm their way into making a sale. If you like they will drape the saree or lehnga with so you know how it will look, give you tones of options to play with color, and you can purchase a made-to-order, absolutely unique wardrobe here.

I believe that a bride’s trousseau is like her treasure chest, it should have a sample of the awesome things India has to offer. It is incomplete without silk sari. Nalli has a great collection of the Kanjeevaram, Kota silk, Mysore silk and other specialties of the South. Glass bangles look very festive, a great place to buy them other than Charminar (since you’ll have to go to Hyderabad for that) is Hanuman Temple in CP. It is very close to Nalli Silk Sarees.

The wedding season brings with it ‘Sales’ do make use of them. In fact, Wedding has become such a big industry that a specialty mall by the name of ‘Wedding Souk’ in Pitampura Delhi has recently opened, but I haven’t ventured to that part of town so thats all the information I have. Do let me know if there is something exciting you know about?

If you are looking for really high-end designer wear, head towards MG Road, Santushti Complex or Hauzkhasvillage to get your fill of Ritu Kumar, Satya Paul or Ogaan Or just step into DLF Emporio

Delhi, the capital city of India, is a place of great contrasts and convolutions. The many sights and sounds of Delhi make it easy to spend days exploring the old bazzars, the high-end malls and designer stores. I have had some fun times, and hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane.

Happy Shopping!

Delhi’s Wedding Shopping Bonanza – Part I

Love or Arranged, Marriages will be absolutely no fun without the wedding shopping. Or so I believe! Weddings give not only the bride and groom the freedom to splurge freely, but also an occasion for the invitees to shop for that special outfit.

As we all know, Punjabi weddings go over the edge sometimes, most of them carry on for a couple of days and there are about half a dozen functions the bride needs to dress-up for. So most families start a couple of months in advance to stock up on the clothes, shoes and accessories. A Good Idea!

If you are doing you shopping in Delhi, I’ve put together some of the best stores and shopping areas out of my experience.

I want to give you fair warning that Wedding shopping can go completely out of hand and you may end up buying things because it is ‘so pretty’ or ‘the price is just right’. The best way to avoid that is to PLAN. Have a budget, make lists, set the number of sarees, bags, suits, shoes (well! Not shoes) you need to buy. When you are buying something ask your self – Do I Like it or Love it?And is this the best thing I have seen anywhere or the best thing in this shop? And always ask – Where all will I wear it?

Now that you are ready with your Plan, lets go shopping!

First stop – Karol Bagh & Chandini Chowk

Karol Bagh & Chandini Chowk are the most famous and well-explored shopping hubs. These places are so famous that movies and books like Zoya factor & Pyar ke side effects have made reference to them. And not in vain, I may add. You will get your traditional to designer copies here and at comparatively fewer moolahs too. You will however, need to be familiar with the gallis-gochas and certainly need to be great at bargaining.

Chandni Chowk is one of the largest wholesale market of Asia. Earlier it was almost impossible to reach there but since the arrival of Metro service from CP to CC, it has become more accessible. Put on your walking shoes and be ready for narrow lanes and lots of people. I can safely say that, I love the Delhi Metro – they brought in the metro where cars couldn’t go before.

Chawdi bazaar is a great place to get your wedding cards printed. Near the paranthey walli gali, you’ll find the shops with ribbons, wrapping paper, baskets and boxes. These come in handy when the gifts for relatives and so-and–so need to be packed. For some great quality dry-fruit visit the spice market.

Now coming to the main event, the clothes. Both CC and KB have hundreds of small no name shops stocking up the bling goodies. The price range to suit any budget, but one must have a good eye for the material and the workmanship, or else you’ll be taken for a ride. Ask for designer rip-offs of the spring or winter collection, you’ll definitely find what you are looking for.

One can certainly see a shift to latest malls and other shopping destinations, in most Indian metros. But these small gallis and tiny nooks & corners have a charm of their own. There is an excitement about going there. It’s like watching a real good thriller after seeing a couple of boring chick flicks.

A little off topic, but while you are there, take a tour of the neighborhood on a cycle rickshaw down the traffic-choked Chandni Chowk. This place is — if not all of India’s , but certainly a large part of it — main shopping thoroughfare, lined with shops selling drippingly sweet and chats, lurid textiles, perfumes and jewelry and also has an anomalous branch of McDonald’s thrown in for good measure.

As you can see, I can go on and on about Chandini-Chowk, but I shall stop here. I still have a couple of great stores to tell you guys about so watch out for Part 2!

The Best of the Idiot Box

Television has become not just the pastime of the bored, but also an inherent part of our everyday lives. It’s no secret I love watching television, the only difference is that earlier I watched and waited in anticipation for an episode every week, now, I watch online or download the newest episodes, without so much as watching an advertisement or changing the channel in between. It’s pure unadulterated continuous television watching experience!

I have been watching a number of shows since I was a kid, so I’m gonna list my favourite from then and now!

The Wonder Years
An adult Kevin Arnold reminisces on his teenage years spent growing up during the 60s. As he goes from adolescence to adulthood, he experiences, along with his best friend Paul and sometimes-girlfriend Winnie, the full range of trials and traumas that come in just about everyone’s life. This nostalgic and heartwarming series, where one boys journey, similar to  many others the same age, is one I remember from my childhood days.

Doogie Howser M.D.
Doogie is no ordinary teenager, he is a doctor. As smart as they come, he has been a doctor since the age of fourteen. But it’s not because you are highly intelligent that you don’t have the same feelings toward life. He is constantly torn between a life of teenage fun with his buddy Vinny, and a more serious and quiet life practicing medicine. I remember this show for one of the best endings in television, i.e. he maintains a diary entry  on his computer, and every night you see him come back to his desk and write the most philosophical yet true yet common things, that happen in daily life, but you never really give a second glance to. Following the life of a child genius makes this another great show. Ps. the main character  Neil Patrik Harris is now ever so popular as Barney from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (another top fav in the list to follow).

F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Some may call it the longest running sitcom on TV – Why? Cause this particular show created history, its broadcasted in various countries, different languages and many an off shoot of the same concept can still be seen in television and cinema today. Six young people, on their own and struggling to survive in the real world, find the companionship, comfort and support they get from each other to be the perfect antidote to the pressures of life. We know them as Ross, Rachael, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler and Joey. The ten seasons of Friends are most likely on every desktop and DVD cabinet of this generation of viewers. Its hard to describe this series, as if you haven’t watched it, you’ve pretty much missed a slice of this generation’s best comedy. Everyone relates to some character, they find their quirks embedded in them, and its probably that way, the aptly titled sitcom is the longest re-run show till date.

How I Met Your Mother
The show is about 5 friends – Ted, Marshall, Lily, Barney and Robin. Ted and Marshal were college roomates, and Marshall has been dating Lily since college. Barney is Ted’s self proclaimed best friend (they first meet at a urinal -*trivia) and Robin, well, egged on by his best friend’s upcoming nuptials, (Lily & Marshall) Ted believes he finds the woman of his dreams in Robin, a Canadian in NY to land a job in a TV Network. The Narrator of the show is Ted and even though in the beginning you think he will end up with Robin, the whole concept of the show is Ted speaking to his two kids on the couch, about How he met their mother, which till date, the series isn’t even close to getting at. Barney is played by Neil Patrick Harris, mentioned above as the young Doogie Howser. And Lily, is Alyson Hannigan, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The Big Bang Theory
A recent addition to the television circuit, The Big Bang Theory began in 2007. It is the story of 5 people – focusing on three main characters – Leonard, Sheldon and Penny. Leonard Hofstadter and Sheldon Cooper are both brilliant physicists working at Cal Tech in Pasadena, California. They are colleagues, best friends and roommates, although in all capacities their relationship is always tested primarily by Sheldon’s regimented and non-conventional ways. They are also friends with their Cal Tech colleagues, mechanical engineer Howard Wolowitz and astrophysicist Rajesh Koothrappali. The foursome spend their time working on their individual work projects, playing video games, watching science fiction movies or reading comic books. As they are self-professed nerds, all have little or no luck with “popular” women. When Penny, a pretty woman and an aspiring actress originally from Omaha, moves into the apartment next to Leonard and Sheldon’s, Leonard has another aspiration in life, namely to get Penny to be his girlfriend. The show is firstly for those who are at least interested in technology and have a somewhat basic idea of physics and chemistry. But you might also be like me, who loves the jokes, Sheldon Cooper and Bazinga! While Sheldon is the most annoying roommate one could ever imagine, his quirks make him likable, acceptable and adorable! Bazinga is his way of telling people that he has played a practical joke on them, or that he is simply joking. (Otherwise he never does so). His roommate is the ever patient Leonard whose heart is set on his neighbour Penny (Kaley Cuoco – “8 Simple rules”). It’s a great show, with tons of laughs and Indians will love it cause of the presence of Raj Kuthrapalli, an Indian character played by Kunal Nayyar.

Cougar Town
Recently started show, though it will air on Indian television from this month. One season is over in the US and its a pretty funny show. The main character is Monica of Friends fame or Courtney Cox. She plays a recently divorced woman  who decides to find some excitement in her dating life. Cougar a is term we’ve all used at some point to describe older gals who get glammed up to troll for younger men. A woman of 40 years with a teenage son, divorced husband, hot across the road neighbour and a best friend (on the side house) neighbour, Jules (Cox) owns a real estate business and post divorce, decides to get back on the dating market. Her friendship with her neighbour and best friend Elle (Christa Miller) is hilarious, where one of the best quirk about Ellie is that if a conversation goes on too long without her name in it, she zaps out and doesn’t listen. Her son Travis, gives the cool underlying funny moments with ease and her ex-husband reminds you of “God, that was a mistake” kinda guy! Overall, a fun series to watch!

Two and a Half Men
A hedonistic jingle writer’s free-wheeling life comes to an abrupt halt when his brother and 10-year-old nephew move into his beach-front house. The Harper brothers Charlie and Alan are almost opposites but form a great team. They have little in common except their dislike for their mundane, maternally cold and domineering mother, Evelyn. Alan, a compulsively neat chiropractor and control-freak, is thrown out by his manipulative wife Judith who nevertheless gets him to pay for everything and do most jobs in the house. Charlie is a freelance jingle composer and irresistible Cassanova who lives in a luxurious beach-house and rarely gets up before noon. Charlie “temporarily” allows Alan and his son Jake, a food-obsessed, lazy school kid who shuttles between his parents, to move in with them after Alan’s separation/divorce. The sitcom revolves around their conflicting lifestyles, raising Jake (who has the efficient, caring dad while having a ball with his fun-loving sugar uncle who teaches him boyish things), and bantering with Evelyn and various other friends and family. Other fairly regular characters include Charlie’s cleaning lady Berta and his rich, self-confessed stalker neighbor Rose who often sneaks in to spy on Charlie.The show has its share of laughs, sarcastic moments and well once you start watching, you tend to continue.

Castle
I am a big fan of crime shows. This one is by far a little more interesting, and moves from crime, to fiction, to family. Started very recently – 2009, the show is about a best selling writer – Richard Castle, who is asked to help Detective Beckett on one of her cases (where the murder is similar to Castle’s books) and thanks to his friendship with the Mayor, he assigns him self to shadow Detective Kate Beckett in her cases for his new book, whose main character, Nikki Heat, is based on this detective. Castle is played by Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic plays Beckett. Castle’s daughter Alexis (an over achiever, straight and strong headed) and mother Martha Rodgers (a retired actress) give the series the homely feel and colour, and act as inspiration to Castle’s problems without even knowing it.

White Collar
The newest “crime-related” show on TV is luring viewers (read: female) by the plenty. The lead in the show Neil Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) is a suave ex-con turned FBI aide. This white collar (a non-violent crime, generally for personal gain and often involving money) criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals using his expertise as an art and securities thief, counterfeiter and racketeer. But you watch one or two episodes, and you’re hooked. Not just to the whole crime solving mystery but also to the exceptionally good looking, hat wearing, smooth talking Neil Caffrey. The guy who ends up catching Neil twice is the very intelligent Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) who heads the White Collar Division. His wife is played by the beautiful Tiffani Thiessen. But one of the other very interesting characters is called Mozzie (Willie Garson) Caffrey’s aid and a quirky little man who has a little trouble with those he calls Suits (those in the bureau). This bald OCD character uses his intelligence, ingenuity and charm to help Neil in tricky situations. The show is addictive and one of the contemporary ones that you shouldn’t miss!

Grey’s Anatomy
A drama centered on the personal and professional lives of five surgical interns and their supervisors. It has been running for five years now and still going strong, its got the McDreamy, the McSteamy and pretty strong characters to back it up. One of the best quotes from Meredith Grey in the series is about surviving surgical internship… “The key to surviving a surgical internship is denial. We deny that we’re tired, we deny that we’re scared, we deny how badly we want to succeed. And most importantly, we deny that we’re in denial. We only see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe, and it works. We lie to ourselves so much that after a while the lies start to seem like the truth. We deny so much that we can’t recognize the truth right in front of our faces.” The characters are full of character and feeling and sense and everything that is in the best television.  The story lines are believable with sad parts, funny parts, intense moments, and refreshing insights…just everything a great show needs. There are enough surprises to keep you guessing, but enough stability to keep one coming back to watch the next episode. This is truly an absolutely wonderful show!

Crime Scene Investigation (CSI)
An elite team of police forensic evidence investigation experts work their cases in Las Vegas. With the amount of episodes this series has, and the offshoots of CSI Miami, CSI New York, this is a great crime solving through forensics show. While the first CSI (Las Vegas) focuses on old school methods of forensics (still pretty much better than anything real in our country!) CSI Miami goes into a whole new digital playing field of forensics. The show is simple, a crime is committed – a murder/homicide… and forensics are the key to unearthing the killer. It’s one episode, one story and sometimes that’s all you have time for. So its something I love.

Heroes
Creator Tim Kring, has a kick-ass imagination, and I for one love it. The series is about people who thought they were like everyone else… until they woke with incredible abilities. The writing and the interweaving plot and characters is compelling and interesting, nothing dumbed down, but nothing contrived either. The direction fits the concept perfectly, it grabs you as much as it should, without being distracting. The acting is most surprising in that it’s actually good. Masi Oka, who plays “Hiro Nakamura”, is quite possibly the best of the cast, and with the best ability – to freeze time, or time travel. The rest of the cast has impressive abilities as well. There are some pop culture references and nods to comic book lore which seem to give it a very cool hero/comic book hip feel that makes you trust the writers on this one. This is one show, you need to continuously watch, those who I know saw couple of episodes and came back later, well they are no longer interested in the show. Its something you need to be seeing from the start to finish without missing anything in between. The story moves fast, the characters keep interacting, powers or abilities are exchanged, history is revealed, the good and bad have thin lines of judgment and most of all, it travels in so many spaces of time, that continuity of the viewer and the cast is of utmost importance.

Couple of shows are now off air, one being the Gilmore Girls, my sister and I loved that show. Another few, 8 Simple Rules – for dating my teenage daughter, Charmed, Dharma & Greg, Lipstick Jungle (only lasted a season, but not bad!) Full House, Star Wars, Ugly Betty, That 70’s Show  and Practice are some I remember fondly.

Others that deserve a special mention, which I watch, but not so regularly now are – Boston Legal, Bones, Without a Trace, One Tree Hill, Scrubs. These did well, but somehow lost interest in them.

That’s whats so interesting about television… you start by sitting in front of the tv flipping through channels, get engrossed and sometimes before you know it, you’ve been sitting there for couple of hours. Right now top on the list of TV watchers is Reality TV. That post will come up soon!