Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Connaught Place - The shopping paradise for the rich and wealthy

With all the big brands showrooms occupying the prime space in connaught place, the market is designed for those who are looking for premium products and ambience.   Set in the old buildings built during the British era, refurbished and renovated to suit modern tastes and choices, this place is busy as well as quiet with an old world charm around it.

This place is still called by its old name inspite of being renamed as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk.  It has been one of my favourite haunts and I could roam around alone along the corridors and collonades of this beautiful shopping paradise for hours without getting bored.   There is always a passive humdrum of people around.   When I don't want to buy anything, it gives me the simple pleasure of looking around and do a bit of window shopping.   There are a variety of things that one could buy outisde of these showrooms too.  Small shops with Indian handicraft items, books, posters with beautiful quotes, little trinkets are all sold along the paths.

Most of these buildings have been built by the Britishers but there are some little buildings from the Mughal and the Indian Rajas also around.   The big roundabout of the Connaught Place covers a circle of multiple layers of buildings.  There is an outer circle, middle circle and inner circle of buildings.  Apart from the showrooms, these buildings houses offices and corporate houses of different organizations.  There are banks, restaurants, panwalla's, coffee shops, travel agents, etc.

The offices and business houses around this place ensures a regular flow of people into this area from all around Delhi.

It is also the central part of Delhi and all roads from every direction in Delhi come and converge at this point.  In the centre of these circles is a huge round park which has recently undergone a huge makeshift from the park I knew of some 10-15 years ago.   The Rajiv Chowk Metro Station and Palika Bazaar lie below this park.

This park now has a huge big Indian Flag with a small amphitheatre built-in the centre.  People from all around come to take a little break and relax in the sun during winter days.

On Sundays too, when the market is closed there are people in huge numbers occupying this place.

This has turned out to be more than a shopping place - a tourist attraction, picnic spot and a place where one can just spend sometime with the loved ones!!

For other tourist attractions in Delhi, visit my blogs on Zafar Mahal,  Qutub MinarHumayun's Tomb, Safdarjung's TombLodhi Gardens,  Jama MasjidChandni ChowkLotus Temple

Friday, January 20, 2017

The long forgotten Indian Post Box

I don't know how many still use this, but these letter boxes stand firm in their place with a pride that still sticks to them reminding us of their glorious past and making us feel guilty of our negligence towards them these days.

There was a time when we frequented and extended our hands to them quite often, with different emotions each time! Sometimes it would be with letters written to our parents, our friends, our spouse or loved ones or it could be some official letters, like job applications or complaints that we were seeking redressal for.

We would look at them longingly as if they could give us answers to the questions we have just posed in the letters that we have written and just dropped into them.   It would take days and months before we would get a reply to our letters but our innermost desire would be to get an instant reply.

With telephone and mobiles now, instant reply is possible and we finish our conversation in seconds and minutes. Email makes it possible for us to pour out our emotions without any constraints on the no. of pages or no. of words yet our emails have become the shortest, probably not even crossing a paragraph.  Probably it was just the fact that it would take ages for us to receive a reply and then write to our loved ones again, that we would want to fill out pages and pages with sweet nothings and all the daily humdrums of our life.

The Indian Post Office though has adapted itself quickly with changing times.  There are still people in our villages where the computers and the telecom biggies have not reached and rely on these post offices to convey their messages.   The Post office now acts like a local bank, investment partner, insurance company, courier and logistics company, etc.  Even though there are less personnel and staff to manage, they are still going strong with their policies and innovative ideas to beat the changing winds and times.  The e-commerce platform have started using them as logistics partners to take their products to places where they know no one else can reach!!!

The Parantha (The Indian Stuffed bread) trail

During winters in Delhi, stuffed parantha's of all kinds are the favourite item in breakfast, lunch or dinner menus.

It is dipped in oil (kind of shallow fried if it has to be tasty) and is fattening, yet the yummy and melt-in-the-mouth feel cannot resist even the hardcore health enthusiasts!   And if it is hot, right from the tawa, one can sit and gobble up without keeping a count.

Stuffed parantha's are part of Punjabi cuisine.   Add a scoop of butter and hung curd as a side dish with a little achar (pickle), and you are set for the rest of the day!!

We, South Indians, have taken sometime adapting to this, but now can't live without.  So, today morning, this was the breakfast at home. Kids love it, parents love it and my husband (who generally skips breakfast) would be ready for breakfast when the flavour wafts out of the kitchen.

We once went all the way to Murthal (in Haryana) from Delhi, simply to have the stuffed parantha's that the roadside dhaba's there are famous for!!

There are different kinds of stuffings we can have
- Gobhi Parantha is a stuffing of  shredded cauliflower cooked with spices,
- Aloo Parantha is the stuffing of boiled potatoes prepared with spices,
- Paneer Parantha is made with shredded paneer (Indian cottage cheese)

These are some of the major ones, but if you go to the famous Paranthe Wali Gali of Chandni Chowk or the highway dhaba's, you will find many many more combinations.

Preparation of these are quite simple.   We make the stuffings separately (not giving the complete method here..  sure you can find a lot of sites giving out detailed method of preparation) and then stuff these into the small balls of atta that we take before we flatten it out.    There will be some bit of stuffings that will kind of pop out of the atta, but that's fine as long as it is contained in the flattened piece.   Then it is shallow fried on the tawa.  The health conscious can use a healthier version of oil or less oil, if it satisfies them.

So, if you are visiting Delhi or any North Indian destinations in the winters, the Indian stuffed parantha should definitely be a must try item in the agenda!!!

Sarojini Nagar Market of Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market is the all-weather all-season market that caters to the needs of the entire South Delhi.   If there is one market that can satisfy Delhiwala’s appetite for shopping, it is this market.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people come here with the sole intention of testing out their negotiation and bargaining skills.   I used to hate bargaining and would simply feel quite magnanimous in handing over the price the vendors asked for.   But some of my visits with my husband, a hardcore bargainer have made me realize that the vendors kind of look down upon people who do not negotiate because as the norm goes, they hike up the price by atleast twice or thrice the original price so that they would still be left with some margin when the deal is finally done.

 However, there are fixed price outlets and wares where you can select garments in the same range starting from Rs. 100, 150, 200, 250, etc..

I have been visiting this market from the time I got married about 20 years ago and came to settle down in the south side of Delhi.   From then onwards, if I have anything to buy from children's clothes to shoes, bags, undergarments, hosiery items, bed sheets, covers or even curtains, etc., I head to this haven.   There are even shops for buying vegetables, grocery items, household items and kitchen utensils in case you need such items.

Babu Market is another complex that lies in the same vicinity and has approximately 4 rows of shops that again caters to mostly garments with some jewellery shops and accessories and all women’s stores thrown in.

All said and done, this market offers decent products at affordable rates.   You can find things you would not find anywhere else - children's fancy dresses for their school competition, from paalak to a fairy, these shops can change their personality.  They can even loan you these dresses for a day or two!  What else would you need.

A word of caution though - On Sundays, only those who have some really good patience, focus and crowd management skills should attempt to attack this market.   On Saturdays and Sundays, this market can be so crowded that you just need to stand at one place, the crowd will pull you to all directions.   

Recently there has been an addition of a multi-storied parking plaza which has turned out to be semi-modern building in the vicinity with Haldiram’s and other food joints like McD and Subway catering to the hungry public!

To know more about other markets in Delhi, visit my blog on Delhi Haat and Nehru Place.

For other tourist attractions in Delhi, visit my blogs on Zafar Mahal,  Qutub MinarHumayun's Tomb, Safdarjung's TombLodhi Gardens,  Jama MasjidChandni ChowkLotus Temple

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lohri - The Winter Festival of Delhi

If there is one festival in the thick of winter that people in Delhi look forward to, it is Lohri.  It is a time for people to come together in the evening and create an atmosphere of bonfire and bonhomie!

Even in a busy city like Delhi, people make an effort to gather wood from all around to make a fire in the evening - sometimes in their lawns, parks or even roads. In the evening, people gather around it and enjoy the crackling fire, eating rewris, peanuts and chikkis. Some sing songs and dance around the bonfire creating an atmosphere of mirth and celebration.

Why do people celebrate Lohri? Good question. Not many might be able to answer. There are cultural and seasonal twists to the origins of this warm festival.

One of the stories behind this festival is that this festival is celebrated in remembrance of Dulla Bhatti, the Indian version of Robin Hood who saved a girl and adopted her as his daughter. Children in some parts of North India sing his songs on this day. But why celebrate Dulla Bhatti on Lohri is a question that doesn't quite have an authentic answer till now. "Why not" could be a very well put riposte to the question "Why?"

However, in Punjab where this festival is celebrated in its full glory and excitement, it is said to be a harvest festival. People take a breather from their farming as the rabi crop has been harvested and spend time to sit together and enjoy. Brightly attired young men, women and children dance to the drum beats, the famous Bhangra dance of Punjab!

The seasonal twist to this festival comes from the fact that in its early avatar, the festival was celebrated on the eve of the winter solstice, which essentially came around December 22-23. However, over a long period of time it shifted to the end of the month in the Bikrami calendar when the winter solstice occurred. The origin of the association of the sesame seeds with the festival also is in conjunction with this belief that after the festival, the nights would gradually becomes shorter by the "grain of one sesame seed." Yes, that is a tough one to decipher, but then, aren't most folklore :-D

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Book Review - The 3 mistakes of my life

Book Review

The 3 mistakes of my life - Third book of Chetan Bhagat.  

What I liked most was the fact that Chetan Bhagat has narrated the story in a way that almost looks like an auto-biography with the author himself getting involved in the story.  This style definitely increases the credibility of the story.   

The story revolves around 3 boys who are good friends and their all-encompassing passion with the national hobby – cricket.  They recognize a great talent in a small boy who has the potential to become a national hero.  It is now their common desire to help and protect this young kid to help achieve this goal. 

Based in Ahmedabad and set in the background of Godhra Violence, this story depicts the way emotions and allegiances change in turbulent and violent times.  How people go mad with religious sentiments to shed lives that they have never thought of before.   It brings the worst out of humanity with people killing their own !!

A tale of continuous struggles of these young and budding entrepreneurs and cricketers from a small town and meagre means who have talent to make it big.  Mix it with a little emotional tangle and love, caste and religious differences which pop up even amongst close friends who would have otherwise laid down their life for each other.  

Overall a very easy read, written in simple language so everyone can understand with the usual masala’s to make an Indian reader tick. 

Rating : 3/5  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Feeding the Feathered Friends

I think i've missed this spectacle at this intersection earlier in my commutes but recently when I was crossing this place I saw a huge flock of pigeons flying around.

In a tiny little triangular land wedged on the end of Malak Ram Issar Marg between the busy traffic square of Pamposh Enclave and Chittaranjan Park also called as C R Park, I saw hundreds of pigeons gathered and flocking around people feeding them.

There were 2 or 3 sellers sitting at each corners of this triangular median with grains for people to buy and feed these birds.

It was delightful to see so many pigeons gathering up and scampering towards the people who were throwing out corns and other grains at them.  They looked quite content and peaceful.

It was a pleasant sight and nice to see people feeding birds but there are very differing views on bird feeding.  Some people do these out of religious sentiments and some for their emotional and spiritual gratification.  It is supposed to bring good luck and success according to some religious and astrological views.

However, environmentalists and ecologists are of the opinion that this is harmful to the natural eco system and only promotes the birds to lose their natural instinct to prey and survive.  The population of pigeons in the city therefore increases to a larger proportion than it ought to be.  Since they are fed on only grains day in and day out, they lose on important nutrition from other sources that are very essential for their survival.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Nehru Place - The IT Hub of Delhi

If you are a computer geek, then you definitely can’t miss being in the middle of all the cacophony of Nehru Place.   From a high end computer and laptop to any computer or mobile accessory, you can find solutions from company owned retail outlet to distributors to shady underhand pirated and cheap illegal stuff.  In short, there is a solution to everyone.

As we approach Nehru Place from the South side of Delhi,  we start seeing the high-rises of Nehru Place from the overbridge that starts from Sarovar Portico in Pamposh Enclave.   

Nehru Place is a cluster of old buildings with outdated lifts and outdated structures which houses some corporates and business houses.   

In the middle of these huge structures is one of the most happening  central plaza where you can find shops selling computers and mobiles, stationery items, computer accessories, printouts and photocopies, banks punctuated by some food joints and other facilities for people working around this place.   

In the central arcade, we can find all sorts of small vendors with their different kinds of wares from belts, purses, bags, computer and mobile accessories, clothes and fabric items.

It was a pleasant surprise to find a section of the market dedicated now to garments and fabrics. There are more varied set of consumers who would be flocking to Nehru Place. As a woman, I used to find Nehru Place quite boring with only computer stuffs, but now there is more to look forward to during a trip to Nehru Place!

Nehru Place is now beginning to be more than just an IT hub.  It has multiple other options like Cafe Coffe Day, Epicuria food court and Fitness First gym giving multiple options and products for consumers to experience and shop.

There are big buildings of Microsoft with multiple hotels around Nehru Place.

A metro station with a full fledged food court has also come up at the other end which has made commuting to this hub quite an easy task for people working and shopping here.

For other tourist attractions in Delhi, visit my blogs on Zafar Mahal,  Qutub MinarHumayun's Tomb, Safdarjung's TombLodhi Gardens,  Jama MasjidChandni ChowkLotus Temple

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What is the significance of Banana Flowers and Leafs in Tamil Weddings

I was on my way back from the morning walk today when I saw the Vaikunthnathji Temple near my house decorated with different colours and kinds of flowers.   It was a beautiful sight to behold.  I know that Tamil and Malayalam Hindu weddings takes place in the morning, so I guessed that there might be a wedding scheduled there.

What also captured my attention was that there were 2 bunches of bananas along with their flower at the tip hanging beautifully adorning the entrance of the Temple along with the other flowers and the decorations.

I tried googling for an answer -  what is the significance of having a banana flower in Tamil weddings. I got this answer in Quora given by C (Selva) R.Selvakumar which I am reproducing here as it is :

It symbolizes 'eternal' life'. The banana (plantain)  plants,  known in Tamil as  vāḻai (வாழை),  produce baby plants (apparently invariably) and thus symbolizes the unfailing succession of offspring, generation after generation. The Tamil phrase used in belssing, 'vāḻaiyaṭi vāḻai' (வாழையடி வாழை) literally means like a baby plant by the side of a banana plant - symbolizing the eternal succession of offspring. The very word for the plant vāḻai, (வாழை)  means life ('ever-living-life').  Hence very auspicious.  The word vāḻ  (வாழ்) means 'to live'. The word vāḻai (வாழை) means that which lives (for ever).

If there is anyone else with some other answers to this question, do reply or add in your comment below!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thank You Stranger, my belief in humanity is still Intact because of you!

It was just yesterday evening when I was getting back home from office. I got down from the auto and tried crossing the busy street to get into my colony near the Vaikunthnathji Temple at Bersarai.

The road that goes to Vasant Kunj through Bersarai is always a very busy one!  Especially in the evening when people are coming back from their offices, there is a continuous flow of vehicles on that road.  So, yesterday as usual, I somehow maneuvered half the stretch because there is a traffic light just behind.   And during the red light phase as some vehicles were held up there, I darted out before the freeway guys came rushing past.  Now I was in the middle of the road and standing on the divider.  It was the second road leading to the traffic light I had to cross that was on a continuous haul.

As I was waiting there, I saw a car slowing down right before me and I thought that this is my big chance.  I started to cross but soon realised that I would not be able to, as the car seemed to be in a hurry and  I backed up to let it go.  I kept looking at that car that passed me probably with a forlorn eye.  I heard some honking sound as I stood there and I jerked my head around to see the driver in the car that was coming right behind was waiting and honking at me frantically.  I was scared.  I thought I had done something wrong and took a step back.

Then I saw the guy who was driving that black car agitatedly waving his hand to say I should cross the road.  I looked across the car and saw cars coming at full speed from all around.  I knew that even if I cross his car, I will get stuck in the middle of the road.  So, I waved back at him to tell him he should keep going as I could not cross.  After sometime when I crossed the road and got into my colony, I realized I had a very happy sensation about me.  I don’t remember the face of the person in the car, nor the make of the car.  I just remember that it was a black car probably going to Vasant Kunj.   But it made me happy.  I was also equally sad that I could not even say a thank you to that person by way of gesture.  Everything had happened so suddenly.

On Delhi roads, this kind of a gesture is rare or rather unheard of!  Every one is dashing through and wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible.  Nobody wants to wait and there is no consideration for another person either.

I was happy that a person was ready to wait for another person to cross the road.   It was a very small thing but that realization and happy feeling was with me for a long time.  And I felt that all is not lost still.   Spreading happiness doesn’t cost you anything.  A simple smile and a simple gesture is enough!

Through this blog, I hope to reach that stranger and say Thank You!.   Even if I could not say anything at that moment, I have wished him well in my heart.  Whoever you are, wherever you are - the dark Knight in shining armor -  Do well, be blessed and lead a wonderful life!

The story of Indian Chai

There are many rituals that we perform during the day.   A ritual is something that we have become so habituated in doing that we do it without giving a second thought.  It becomes a part and parcel of ourselves or that moment.   These rituals become a kind of comfort factor and help us to be rooted to who we are, where we are and where we belong.  It brings a sense of belongingness to the place, the moment and the space we are in.   Consuming tea in India has also become a kind of ritual. It has taken that space of mindlessness and comfort that one can’t live without.

In India, tea is consumed at various occasions and for various reasons, or rather there is particularly no reason required for having tea in India!”

Starting from the one morning cup that wakes us up to the time we go to bed, it is an anytime and everytime beverage that gets devoured if we are feeling bored, if we have too much work, if we are tired or if we are feeling lazy!

On a cloudy or rainy day, a hot cup of tea with some pakora’s is something that everyone looks forward to..  Getting a hot cup of chai in bed early morning while we are still snuggling in the quilt is the most welcoming thing on a cold winter day.

If we have friends over at home, then we show our love to them with a hot cup of tea and snacks.  If we have friends in office and want to go out for a chat, it has to be over a cup of tea!!  Even marriages gets finalized over a cup of tea!

We need a hot cup when we reach office to start the day!  It is also one of the main ingredients of our various meetings and discussions.   The kind of tea or chai we get at our home, office and outside is all very different in flavour, aroma and strength of the tea leaves.  The office tea that comes out of the vending machines don't have the kind of flavour or aroma that a home-made one, boiled on a stove has or the one that is brewed continuously over and over again by the roadside vendor.  To cater to the ever-present need, there are chai walla’s at every nook and corner of the country.

Chai is prescribed by most self-styled Indian doctors like a Panacea for all ills and moods.  A tea is recommended,  if we have a headache, stomach problems, cold and cough, etc.

From North to the South, West to the east, the chai is consumed in various ways with a lot of different infusions to it.  Some of the favourite infusions that Indians love is Masala Chai, Adrak ki chai (Ginger Tea), Elaichi Chai (Cardamom Tea), Tulsi Tea (Basil tea).

These days Green tea is becoming popular as a health drink too.  From slimming to anti-ageing, there are all sorts of stories surrounding green tea that are becoming a fad!

Whatever it is, we Indians love our chai and would be consuming it whether it is going to be good or bad for our health..  that’s how it has become part of our daily ritual!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tree of Life or Tree of Enlightenment?

This is one of the most revered and worshipped trees in India!  One can find this tree spread across the length and breadth of India.   In almost all the villages, there would be a platform made under this tree for people to sit and spend sometime in the shade before proceeding on their journey.   In Delhi, I have seen this tree attached to a temple or vice-versa.   If it’s not a huge temple, then atleast there would be a few photographs or idols of different Hindu diety kept under the foot of the tree.  People worship this tree to get success, removal of fear from devils and supernatural powers, to be happy, etc. etc.

In Hindu mythology, Krishna is said to be residing in this tree.  He is also supposed to have  laid down his life under this tree .  It is also said that the Trimurti, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva reside in this tree – Brahma in the roots, Vishnu in the trunk and Shiva in the leaves.   Lakshmi is also said to be visiting this tree on Saturdays.   Ladies tie threads around the tree and go around this tree worshipping for husband’s long life and even to be blessed with children.

The tree is also considered sacred for Buddhists as Lord Buddha attained his enlightenment while meditating under this tree and therefore it is also called the tree of enlightenment.

Scientifically, this tree is considered to be of huge medicinal value.  It is supposed to cure more than 30 ailments.  Its, roots, barks, trunk, fruits, seeds, milk and leaves are all considered to provide relief for various health conditions.

It is also said (though not a proven theory) that this is the only tree that gives out oxygen even at night!  It is called by many names – Peepal, Pippla, Bodhi, Ashwatha, Banyan, Ficus religiosa and many more!

I love the shape of the leaves.  They are beautiful heart shaped ones with a long tapering end.  It has been an inspiration for various art forms in India.  Most of them are very old and have roots falling to the ground from above.  It sometimes has a very scary and haunted look to it.

There is a peepal tree right next to our building and strangely I have been noticing some egrets perched up on this tree for the last couple of days.  I've noticed quite a few of them come and nestle around its branches almost every day when I went out for a walk around the place.  I was intrigued and looked around to see if they were inhabiting other trees also, but they seemed to be interested in occupying their space on this tree only.  Do they also intrinsically recognise this is a sacred tree or is there some other reason, I wonder?

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