Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Lonely Tomb: Neela Gombat

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

Another blistering day of summer and the temperature reached 45 degrees in Delhi. 1pm at Nizamuddin East. Many are resting on the green turf behind Humayun tomb to get rid of searing loo and scorchy sun. The bits of Humayun tomb are visible and the peak is sparkling under the super hot sun. Its another 15 minutes walk following the railway track to reach Humayun Tomb. Heat wave is unbearable. "A glass of water please?" But where is the water? No shops, no stalls in close vicinity. Look right. There's a tomb which is partially covering the Sun. It looks spectacular under the sun. It looks like its playing hide and seek with the sun. A part of its has shed and the other side is so bright that you can't see with eyes straight open as if someone is reflecting sunlight off a mirror on your face. Meet Surinder the security guard and the sole manager of this historical property. He talks about this tomb.

This Octagonal tomb is known as Neela Gombat or Blue Dome. This is not a major tourist attraction spot but lot of tourists stop by this tomb and spend quite some time on the way visiting Humayun Tomb. You can enter here for free without buying any ticket. This work of ancient Indian architecture is located right behind the Humayun tomb adjoining Nizamuddin Railway track. It’s called Neela Gombat because its "onion" shaped peak is made up of glazed blue tiles which was rare those days. There are rumours about this tomb. It is said that it has been built by Abdur Rahim Khan-I-Khana for his faithful attendant Fahim Khan in 1625. But there is no historic signboard here which tells the story of this tomb. However Surinder versed a totally different tale about the Neela Gombti. He said that Humayun’s wife Hamada Banu Begum's special attendant used live in this tomb who specially made Churis(Bracelets) for her. After his death he was buried here. Now Fahim Khan could have bourne two identities. He could be Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana's servant as well as the servant of Hamida Banu Begum. Both are believable. But Wikipedia does not mention anything about the Bracelet making history. Maybe some secret stories are only told only at the right place, right time and to right kind of people.

This spectacular tomb has awesome view from all across its sides. The maintenance is really poor. Each sides of this Octagonal tomb look unique. Sadly you can’t enter inside the tomb due to security reason. It’s closed forever and is only opened for cleaning purpose. A devout Muslim is reading namaz next to the tomb. Bangladeshi refugees have made plastic tents across the railway track to live there. "This place is not good Sir. Anything can happen here. All wrong kind of people live by the railway track. See these lights are missing. We lost many signboards as well." said Surinder with a very emotional tone and points his finger to the empty light holders. Thieves and beggars steal lights and sell them outside. "Sir this tomb looks awesome during the sunset and also when the lights are on in the evening". He sits on the floor with a frustration look and stares at the empty light holders. Lonely tomb stares back at him.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Foods dont lie: Assam Bhawan

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

22 year old Punjabi lad "Sunny" does not eat Rajma Chawl on Sunday afternoons. Instead he gives his taste buds an experience of Assam at "Jakoi" which means Fishnet in Assamese. Savour Assam's haute cuisine at "Assam Bhawan" at Sardar Patel Marg located amongst the home of many foreign embassies in Chanakyapuri. Jakoi is the in-house restaurant of Assam Bhawan.

You will not have any car parking issue and it’s free of charge. Plus it’s connected by major bus routes. The nearest bus stop is just few meters away. Now you choose your mode of transport to get there. You need to sign your name at the entrance with your address and phone number. This is just a formality also it tells you that you are stepping into a highly secured area. Enter Assam Bhawan go straight and then take a left and the sloping stretch will lead you to Jakoi. Few cane chairs and painted chastes with the lots of indoor plants in the open area certainly makes a minimalistic statement to its quirky decor. But it’s empty. No one enjoys lunch in an open area at 2pm in this Delhi heat in the month of June. Turn around. You see a huge glass door and that opens to a large air-conditioned banquet looking sitting area. There are sofas with low length tables as well as normal table chairs for dining. The ambience is totally theme centric. An Assamese throne with Archery, fishing weapons nailed on top of it in the red background. There are photos of the great personalities of Assam such as Bhupen Hazarika, famous actress Bidya Rao, Actor Nipan Goswami and the talented classical singer Dipali Barthakur and many more. It does not only offer food but also offers the knowledge of Assamese culture with nice Assamese music playing in the air.

It smells exotic. Some herbs which we never smelt before mixed with a fine aroma of camphor and fish. The smell wafts in the air and makes us hungrier. The menu is extensive plus it has some seasonal dishes to offer which is separately mentioned on a standalone menu kept nicely on each table. There is regular non-vegetarian and vegetarian thalis mentioned in the a-la-Carte menu with variety of fish, chicken and duck preparation. Vegetarian and Non vegetarian thalis cost Rs 200 and Rs 250 respectively. It looks huge, elaborate and of course cheap with so many items on the plate. The service is also quick with neatly dressed up waiters serving the best from Assam.

The Non Vegetarian Thali comes with two bowls of thin grained aromatic rice. They said this particular rice is easily digestible. For "Starters" they have Aloo Pitika and Dali. Aloo Pitika is spicy mashed potato and Dali is lentils prepared with their traditional spices. Tastes great. In "Entree" there is Xaak which is actually Spinach cooked with chillis and spices. Then there is a Khaar which is cooked by burning banana skin and adding baking soda in it. Another tasty dish. They say it cleanses the stomach and acts as a detoxifier. Then there is main course which includes Tenga Fish which is a huge piece of Ruhu fish cooked in spicy tangy gravy. This is a delicacy of Assam. It tastes so good that you have to ask for more. In Assam no meal is complete without Tenga Fish. This is not the end. There is also chicken curry. The chicken curry is spicy yet you can taste the chicken in it and not the spice because the spice is perfectly cooked with the chicken. All's well that ends well. In the dessert they have scented rice boiled in thin milk. The whole affair is worth remembering. You will come back for sure. The most expensive dish in the A-la -carte menu is 350 which is Steamed Hilsa in Assamese style. You will never find Duck fry for 300 Rs in anywhere in Delhi. One phrase to the whole thing: Very affordable, tasty and something very different. Welcome all.

Lovely Decor

Archery weapons

They made Assam proud

And the merry meal

The a-la-carte Menu

Monday, 11 June 2012

Greenest, Quietest and Richest: Nizamuddin East

Out in the morning heat of early June. Not very far, just errands to an area of the riches of Delhi. Nizamuddin East. Like the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York this area too is priciest and remains the residential area of the very important people in Delhi. It falls on the famous Mathura Road.  Many Delhi Transport buses ply through this area. It is considered to be one of New Delhi's greenest and most peaceful area. And why not? The whole Nizamuddin East has 32 public parks and the huge lay of Humayun Tomb. The view to the tomb is breathtaking. Most houses in A and B block can view Humayun Tomb from their Patio or Balcony. And every house terrace can have a view of the historical tomb. The privilege is they can visit the tomb without buying any ticket. And the whole greenery and the peacefulness reduce the temperature. It feels like its 5 degrees cooler than the outer world. Almost every house has plantations around the wall or in their balcony and have a park facing view.

Your Mother lives here. Yes Sheila Dixit, The hon'ble chief minister of Delhi has her residence here and also many important people of the society share this neighborhood such as Jatin Das and his daughter, actor Nandita Das, Francis Wacziarg  of the Neemrana Hotels chain, Anjolie Ela Menon and many more.

There is a narrow market strip at the backside of B block. It has grocery stores, Drycleaners, an upscale Cafe "Cafe Turtle" and also a factory outlet of an Ethnic Designer Store called "Anokhi". But mostly the residents of this area go to Khan Market for their daily shopping which is 5 minutes drive away. This area is huge but you would love to walk in its quiet tranquility and its stunning unperturbed beauty. No neighborhood of Delhi has such huge greenery like this.

You cannot buy any house here because no one wants to sell even if you want to spend a fortune. A normal two bedroom apartment will cost you 1 Lac or above as a monthly rent. This prestigious colony has few serviced apartments and bed and breakfasts. They charge little less than "Taj Hotels" per day approximately. Live life king-size or in a Queenly state or estate? Come over here.

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Just another Park: Keshav Park

Another ignored park in this Capital. But I'm sold to its randomness, its busy patrons, the earthy smell, the large stunning fountain and its location midst of a hustle-bustle of a famous market. Step into Keshav Park at the backyard of Sarojini Nagar Market infront of its Parking lot. You have surely seen it if not just have walked in anytime. This park does not have any benchmark and cannot be compared to the famous ones like Lodi Garden or Palika Parking Park. But it still has its own distinctions. The reason it has its own regulars.

 There is a big statue of Dr Keshav Ambedkar next to the Fountain. People are idling on the steps around the statue with the neighborhood dog and there's a mad man sitting with Namaskar(Palms pressed together) pose towards the statue. He can be mistaken as a statue. Ignore him.

Bad maintenance, missing grass in-between, overgrown weeds and litters everywhere. No joggers or walkers here yet all the benches are occupied in this muggy weather. Its 4pm here. A middle aged couple is resting here in-between their shopping in Sarojini Nagar Market. It’s a good place for a short recess to regain energy under the blue sky and then back to shopping again. But there's not much blue sky here. There's a huge mall under construction at its side. This becomes the lunch place for the workers in the afternoon. There is a tap for drinking water but that does not work or municipality may have cut the water connection due to its misusage. The whole neighborhood slumdog children are here and disturbing everyone for money showing off their crazy acrobatics with Bollywood item hits. They are swearing each other for the kick of it and running around everywhere chasing each other.

No one is seen in exercise clothes. No dog walkers are to be found. No one is even playing cricket or football. It has a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone is doing their own stuff. Its pretty calm and noise free. The neighborhood villagers come here to chill out with family and kids. The name of the village is Pillanji. Drivers come and take a walk hands in hands intertwining the fingers with their girl friends  or sit in some romantic corner and enjoy some cozy moments. Few groups of old drivers are sitting in rounds and playing cards. They are making occasional noise of victory. One of them is a scribe and is noting down everyone's score. End of the game the person has to treat tea to everyone yet there is no tea man or vending guy selling anything in this park. No beggars, smack addicts, massagewala or homosexual men are seen anywhere around. So it gives a clean cut to the park. Amid the busy clutter of Sarojini Nagar Market it definitely has lot of nature to offer. Jai ho!

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

99% Delhi: Amit Kumar: Muzaffarbad. Bihar

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

His favourite film is "Dabang". He loves his Auto Rickshaw and he gave a secret pet name to it which cannot be mentioned here due to a no-breaking-promise deal. He doesn't stick to the traffic rules. He jumps red lights. He never wears his uniform. The shirt, which is a part of the uniform, is resting around the side view mirror of his Auto Rickshaw. He is wearing a baby pink t-shirt with his grey uniform trouser. He speeds away on the Delhi road strutting his coolest toy and murmuring the latest bollywood song liners. Young blood and it reflects in his demeanor. Meet Amit Kumar, 22 years old lad from Muzaffarbad District of Bihar but currently he made Delhi his home.

"I just started my work now, its 5pm. I will work till the night is over and then go home with a Pauwa(Quarter portion of alcohol), cook food, enjoy my drinks and will go off to sleep", happily says with a smile. He looks left, right and stares at the girl who is riding a scooty and stopped at a traffic jam next to his auto. He straightened up his shirt collar and says "I love Dilli girls. I get a lot in the night. They are good fun. But our relation starts and ends here in this Auto", Amit says as his green auto meanders through the busy evening traffic.

This jovial, fun loving guy is really enjoying in Delhi. His meaningless banter is annoying but it has an interesting side when you realize how quickly this young Bihari guy has adapted the Delhi culture and became a cool Delhiite Like every other young Delhiite he goes to the cinemas with friends, roams around in CP, loves chole bature and also often visits India Gate in the night to eat ice-cream. He pays 250rs rent a day to his Auto owner and stays somewhere in the narrow lanes of Pahargunj with his two roommates in a one room set where costs 2500Rs a month. "There's a lot of money in Auto business. I will earn few more thousands and then go back to my village and take a sabbatical". This is the usual practice of these Bihar bound boys. They come here, ride Autos and save 20000Rs to 30000Rs and then go back to their native land and chill out and work in their paddy fields, Sugarcane groves and they are back again in Delhi after 3-4 month. Delhi is a fatal attraction. The pull of delhi is so magnetic that everyone has to come back and so does Amit. "This time my parents are trying to get me married". Why not from someone from Delhi? "I will only marry the one my parents choose for me. I am happy that way. But I will continue to live in Delhi after my marriage. I may travel more to Bihar in a year but I cannot part with Delhi. It’s my bread and butter and the place I love so much and it’s my city now".

"I meet much kind of people in my ride. Good, bad Worst. Some people don’t want to pay any fare, some pay extra, some even offer in kinds. But Delhi is full of different kind of people. Our five fingers are not the same Sir. But mostly I meet good people during my ride. Thank you Sir". He has no time to carry out a long conversation. He returns the change and pulls the long stick to start the auto engine. A few meters ahead a young working girl flags his auto and it disappears in the busy outer ring road of Delhi.

Amit on his speeding wheels

His resting shirt around the side view mirror.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Child's Play

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)

No. They are not child labours. Advance India. They are playful kids like every other kids that we see in the park. Except they are not playing in the park but they are playing at their parent's work place. Their parents are the masons and building a house as a part of the huge group. These two daughters are copying their mother exactly the way she carries cement on top of her head in a huge plate. Their mother giggles at them and tells "Why do they have to work? We are not dead. Let them play now". Their Father peeps out from the drainage line and smiles. He is cementing the drain surface across the building. These two daughters are extremely cute. They are too shy to talk but they are giggling and running around eachother. They play all day and when they are tired they rest with the street dogs on the huge sand stacks infront of the building-in-making. What a life! Life's a playground.

Shop, Eat, Love @ Sarojini Nagar

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)
Delhi's "fashion street" runs parallel in few lanes and it’s by lanes in
the heart of its South Eastern side. Delhi's millionaires and Rickshawalas
are shopping together for their dream clothes. Welcome to Sarojini Nagar
Market, SN or Saro. Those who are highly fashionable and really don’t care
about the price tag and the longevity of your clothes. This is your place.
So fill up your swag and look your best.

This is totally a fatal attraction for the shoppers. Designer rejects,
accessories, knock offs, stockings, Hats, Boots, frocks, skirts, tops and
what not! Dress to kill and you find all that here with a great bargain.
But you have to be superb at it. If not, watch others buying and
bargaining. You will learn it in 5 minutes. You can buy a Mango top for
100 and Tommy jeans for 200rs. They look close to original or maybe they
are. Be lucky and look good while spending the least. Magic of shopping
here will turn you into a shopaholic. And why not? India's famous have
shopped here. Sushmita Sen shopped for her Miss India outfit at Delhi's
Sarojini Nagar. Sylvie is often seen here with her whole entourage on a
shopping spree. The amount of clothes and its varieties are really mind

Sarojini Nagar has many things to offer other than clothes. Fresh fruits,
seasonal fruits, house hold stuff etc. If you don’t need clothes you can
buy other stuff as well. Or you can buy everything here. Sip a glass of
chilled bunta drink or gorge on some yummy spicy tibetian momos while
shopping. So let yourself loose and shop, eat, live here. By the end of it
after your careful searching and picking you will have hauled a decent
number of stuff to flaunt.

Look at that corner. The old man is selling shorts for 50 each. Some of
them have "Billabong" and "Allen Solly" tags. Turn around and see all T-
shirts are for 100 piled on the wobbly table. Just pick the right one,
check for missing stitches, stains and its all yours. The English lad
shopping here compares this market to that of their "Camden Market" in
London. Not only British, you will find people from different countries
including Africa and Iceland. And everyone has a bit of their share here
because it sells all styles and in all sizes which is a rarity in Delhi.
From huge Africans to skinny Europeans, everyone has a happy ending here.
Fashion never dies here. Everyone comes here and you should too.

Zara Tank Tops..ooooh

WoW Gas shirts are for 100.
Sale Sale Sale everywhere

Lets take a break and eat something.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Death by Hauz Khas Village

(Text and Photography by Pupps Roy)
Our Hauz Khas Village is losing its charm and sanity. With more and more
cafes and boutiques are mushrooming in its lap to beautify everyday and
the sudden surge in number of patrons is increasing horribly. Only one
word to it, "Misfit". This fashion hub seriously needs some consideration.
 It’s not the Hauz khas village we knew where we hung out, walked miles
alongside in the same lanes and we literally lived here every day. Hauz
khas village which sees artsy, new age people, foreigners, writers,
alternative minds, tourists, fashionistas, singers and painters roaming
around freely in its lanes is now seeing a different clan entering bit by
bit everyday and spoiling the so called image of this place. To the old,
this new is a bad news. It’s like a world which no longer existed and a
slow death to art. The flavour will not totally vanish but it will be
difficult to sustain the aura of the village in the same level like now.
These days it’s often seen group of people talking loudly. Some stary ones
have come to the village out of nowhere. So many roving eyes and the story
goes on. Now the question is this is a public place and we cannot be
clannish in order to decide who can enter any particular area or not.
Nightclubs are rejecting lot of people these days that don't look
acceptable to their standard rules. But it’s difficult to measure a
person. It’s definitely a tough task. And it’s also difficult to refuse
someone to enter. But don’t they understand that they are not fit for this
place and environment? Why are you coming to Hauz khas village? It’s not
your place dude. You better go to CP or in some fancy malls to hang out.
This is definitely not your territory so don’t try entering here. Please
don’t spoil it. Many regulars and business owners believe there is a need
for filtration of the entering mass. But again it’s out of their hands.
Its not easy to say No. The future of Hauz Khas Village is now being
determined by how it takes on a host to its unlikely new arriving patrons.
Some people again believe it’s a mixed crowd and let them be like that.
More people often mean more business. But not all business units want to
cater everybody. These differences will remain but we are still hoping to
live with the crowd we saw here six months back. Yes just six months. The
place was such a beauty with its sensible, understanding entrants. A
different side of Delhi with a tryst. Let this be a little different.