Wednesday, May 30, 2007
[By Daniela Schwarz. The German wife of a proper Delhi Walla, Frau Schwarz manages a blog – appropriately titled Kabab Mein Haddi.]
Every morning I open the door to my balcony to check the nature of the surprise my friendly neighbours deliver daily. Sometimes it's a tuft of hair which is but natural since many Indian ladies prefer to get rid of dead hair while beautifying themselves outside on their balconies. On several other occasions I have picked up mysterious strips of plastic with blue checks. At the end of a thorough investigation stood the conclusion that some neighbour's blinds (that cheap blue plastic type) was coming un-done strip by strip. Once I found a more useful gift - a comb!
But today it was a bunch of roti-pieces. Of course I understand. Even I usually rack my brain how to dispose off the chapatis lying on my plate. You see, I'm not a big roti fan except if I happen to sit at Karim's. So it is comprehensible that there may be more people like me who come up with creative ways to let mother's rotis disappear in places other than their oesophagus.
However, Rahul, my husband, tries very hard to further my understanding of Indian culture by explaining that it is not uncommon for Indians to hack left-over rotis into bite-sized pieces for the birds to eat, or to fling them into secret places where they are no longer visible.
Aha, I see. The secret place is usually the "chhajaa" - that little stone slab above the windows. You thought it was some sort of sun protection! Indeed, mysterious are the ways of architecture, food recycling and animal welfare here.
Sometimes, of course, a cheeky little wind gust might swish the rotis off to, let's say, my balcony. But thou need not worry for the birds, since they just switch on their chapati-tracking-system and feast on the wheat-offering (with or without ghee).
So there it is. I'm not the victim of a naughty neighbour's attack pelting my home with rotis. It's for the birds! They like the rotis and will clean them up.
But alas, those happy-go-pooping-all-over-Delhi pigeons didn't like the rotis that lay in my balcony.
As it happened, I woke up to the dried, crunchy version of it strewn all over my balcony! Why did the birds let go a sumptuous roti? Chapatis, after all, are a staple for Indians as they are for their pets. I remember a neighbour's Labrador gorging rice and rotis. Daily! (And why not! Have you never seen a wolf hunt down a juicy cabbage on NatGeo?)
I gradually began to understand why Rahul and I were the only ones to feed the stray dogs (oh yeah we did!) with left-over chicken bones while our neighbours chucked a couple of rotis packed in a plastic bag, usually referred to only as 'cover'.
But again, why didn't the birds clean the balcony off its rotis? Maybe they just weren't hungry last night. So I just took out my broom and swept away those sad pieces of roti-shoti.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
[By Mohit Syall; standing next to Oprah Winfrey during a New York City fund-raising evening.]
After spending almost 8 years of my adult life in the New York City area, I am returning back to my hometown New Delhi. A lot has changed since I left the city. Even though I visited every year, it was like going back to a strange place I never knew before.
Delhi memories of childhood and teenage years have now grown distant and blurred. How will I adjust back to life in Delhi? Will I love it? Will I hate it?
Delhi, or for that matter India, is a depressing place to be especially after having lived in New York. No doubt there is a lot of beauty and a lot of people in the city but compared to metropolitan cities in more developed countries there is very little to do besides eat, work and sleep. In terms of culture and cultural choices India is a very limiting country. Perhaps that is why Indians are so HUNGRY for life in the west.
Let's see the options we have in New York: Lots of theatre, Broadway shows, even more off-Broadway shows; thousands of elegant restaurants serving a multitude of cuisines never even heard in India - from Japanese to Korean, Indian, German, Ukrainian, French, Italian, Malaysian, Tibetan, Russian, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Brazilian, Mexican, Argentinean, British, Soul food (southern food) and of course American! Not only does NYC have restaurants offering all these cuisines but you can actually pick and chose from many that offer the same cuisine.
We have movie theatres at every few blocks showing every kind of film in the world. We have hundreds of late night lounges, piano bars, and karaoke bars. We have different ethnic neighbourhoods - Indian areas, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, German, Italian (Little Italy), Chinese ( China Town - there is one in every major US city). We have dozens of cultural events every single day. There are art exhibits, museums like the MOMA ( Museum of Modern Art), the Guggenheim, the famous Metropolitan museum and much more. Last but not the least my favourite part - NYC offers the best shopping experience in the world. SOHO, 5th Avenue and the West Village have everything you need for your wardrobe or home from all corners of the world. Every designer label is a short cab ride away. More importantly there is something for every budget in this city.
Delhi and Mumbai have a lot of stuff to do as well but on a much smaller scale. Most Delhites I know either hang out every night with friends and relatives or go to a movie or go out to eat and drink. They have extremely limited lives compared to the over abundance of choices people have here in NYC.
So what do rich New Yorkers do for a night out? Let's see - take a helicopter ride over Manhattan then drive in their chauffeured Limo to an elegant restaurant probably on a high floor with magnificent views of NYC and finish up with a ballroom dance. Or they spend $200 a person on tickets to a European Symphony / Orchestra performing somewhere in the City. Or better still shell out a $1000 or upwards for a Charity Event to wine and dine with the celebrities. Everything is at your fingertips in this great city called New York.
Why then am I returning to India? Maybe I just feel a wee bit overwhelmed by the abundance of choices in New York City. Maybe I've been there done that and need to move on. But it's hard to give up this city. I probably never will. It's even harder to live in Delhi after seeing all that I have seen. But Delhi was and will always be my first home - even though it doesn't have to be my only home!
Friday, May 11, 2007
[By Mayank Austen Soofi, Picture Source - NA]
In May, 2007, while laying the foundation stone for three more flyovers in the city, Mrs. Sheila Dikshit, Delhi's Chief Minister, said, "Delhi is seen as a prosperous city. People from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and other places come here. What can we do? We can't stop them. There is no law to stop them.”
Bihar and UP are some of India's poorest states from where villagers migrate to cities like Delhi and Mumbai in search of better opportunities.
Oh, but just what can Mrs. Dixit do!
Her city has beauty and grace - the classic Connaught Place, the historic Jama Masjid, the mystic Nizamuddin, and the splendorous Rashtrapati Bhawan.
So what if most of the malls and call centers are in neighbouring Gurgaon (in the Haryana state), NOIDA, and Ghaziabad (both in UP)? So what if middle class havens are shifting from Delhi's Mayur Vihar and Janak Puri to Gurgaon's DLF and Ghaziabad's Indirapuram? How does it matter if there is a reverse migration taking place from Delhi to these deluxe-duplex townships of UP and Haryana?
Just what can Mrs. Dixit do!
Not much has changed in spite of the swanky metro rail and mushrooming flyovers. Traffic jams have worsened, power crisis is grim, Yamuna is almost dead, and rape is merely a street away.
Reigning over Delhi since nine years, one could not doubt Mrs. Dixit's sincerity in trying to improve the living standards. But how to discourage the uncouth wretched of UP-Bihar from coming? One can't even devise regulations to control their influx. If only Delhi was an undemocratic China.
Just what can Mrs. Dixit do!
Herself a Punjab-born immigrant who once represented UP's Kannauj constituency in the Lok Sabha, Mrs. Dixit has all that which makes for an oh-so-cool Delhi Walla. Soft-spoken and unfailingly courteous, she studied in the Convent of Jesus and Mary and graduated from Miranda House; her grey hair complements her elegant fabindia sarees; she reads books like Reading Lolita in Tehran, and regularly watches (mostly) English films at PVR.
But woe to the party spoilers - those Biharis and UP-wallas who breed like mice. They rot in slums which you raze one day only for them to spring up at some other place the next day. (Frustrating, frustrating). They clog highways with tuk-tuks and rickshaws, and urinate on the boundary walls of pretty Civil Lines bungalows (Beware of Dog; No Trespassing Allowed). Worse, they defecate beside the railway tracks!
Just what can Mrs. Dixit do!
If Delhi was like Mrs. Dixit, only about high-brow India International Centres, bibliophilic Khan Markets, fashionable Vasant Vihars, uppity LSRs and serene Lodhi Gardens. If only all citizens patronised Kathak in Kamani Auditorium and Madhubani paintings in Dilli Haat. If only all Delhites thought and talked in English.
Just what can Mrs. Dixit do?
So what if Mrs. Dixit's maid could be from Jharkhand; driver from Bihar; gardener from UP; and security guard from Chhattisgarh? They are necessary people all right but do they need to be so visible? Ah, if wishes were horses.
Just what can Mrs. Dixit do?
Mrs. Sheila Dikshit's statement following the controversy on her faux-pas: “I am fully aware of the contribution made by people coming from outside, especially from UP and Bihar, in the development of Delhi and my statement has been distorted by a section of the media.”
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
[Text and pictures by Madelyn Mulvaney; a resident of Vancouver, she visited Delhi in February, 2007.]
As I sipped my Masala Chai by the early light of a Canadian morning, my eyes caught the twinkling mirror work of the wall-hanging and my mind wandered back to my visit to Delhi with my little boy Noah.
It goes without saying (and yet I will) that Delhi enchanted me with its breathtaking scenery. I gasped in wonder as we visited the serenity of the Jama Masjid mosque, the Birla Mandir temple and the pearly Moti Masjid. It was truly love at first sight in the National Gallery of Modern Art, in the shades of the welcoming roadside tea stands and amidst the smells of colourful curry cafes. How could I forget the labyrinth of Old Delhi markets, all a-blaze with colors of vibrant textiles and scented with the aroma of the cinnamon tea?
My greatest passion in life is collecting books and I could have lost myself forever wandering through the fabulous bookshops while my son begged for yet another kameez.
Truly, Delhi was an engaging city with riches to intoxicate any traveller. And yet what touched me the most in this city were the people. It soon became clear to me that Delhi appreciated the art of being together. It was in Delhi that I learned the value and significance of culture and finally felt "at home."
My favourite sites as we travelled by tuk-tuk through the bustling streets were the families speeding by on motor bikes. I would see smiling couples zoom past, the woman's arms clasped about her husband, her scarf flowing behind her like a beautiful butterfly. Often entire families managed to fit on a scooter with little children and babies in tow.
I think we all yearn to feel at home in the world and the immense kindness Delhi showed me is rooted deeply in my heart. We were made to feel like family members. After a visit to a library our driver treated us to sparkling lime sodas. The manager of the hotel we stayed at in the Channa market invited us to his home for dinner with his wife and children. Our wonderful friend at the internet cafe introduced us to his Auntie who helped us shop for spices to make home-made masala tea. And just two weeks after I returned to Canada a package arrived from our tour guide with a beautiful copy of the Gita and packages of T-plus Masala mix!
We marvelled at the loving sense of community all about us in the wonderful city. Boys would walk home arm in arm from school as shop owners shared tea in the sun. We met so many new friends and it was heartbreaking to leave them behind to return home.
Mother Theresa once said "If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another." Delhi has not forgotten that we belong to one another and at last I have found my heart's true home in this effervescent city.
Snapshot Memories - Travel Buddies
My son befriended these wonderful boys and they joined us for lunch. They were downhearted when we had to leave in our tuk-tuk.
Delhi enchanted me with its breathtaking scenery. I gasped in wonder as we visited the serenity of the Jama Masjid mosque...
If I wasn't having chai, then I was drinking Lime Soda. With lots of sugar - yummmmmy!
What touched me the most in Delhi were the people. It soon became clear to me that Delhi appreciated the art of being together. It was here I learned the value and significance of culture and finally felt "at home."
We marvelled at the loving sense of community all about us in the wonderful city. Boys would walk home arm in arm from school as shop owners shared tea in the sun.
My favourite sites as we travelled by tuk-tuk through the bustling streets were the families speeding by on motor bikes. I would see smiling couples zoom past, the woman's arms clasped about her husband, her scarf flowing behind her like a beautiful butterfly.
[The author's pictures can be accessed in her flickr album.]
Monday, May 07, 2007
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Performed in open against the backdrop of Maati Ghar, the hijras were shocking, the taxi driver vulgar (he urinated on the wall), the Sufis delirious, and the qawwals enchanting. Even the fighting cocks were real, though the snake, sensibly, was not.
All this was easy, compared to the challenge of coherently presenting Dalrymple's account. Rich with anecdotes and stories, it’s too dense to be bound into a neat script. Just how to seduce impatient Delhites to what some might regard as a spectacle of exotic kitsch crafted by a white man's pen? Corrupt clerks and highway baraats are everyday irritants, and excessive musings about Delhi's disappeared glories could become irksome.
What rescued the play from tasting like flat beer were excellent performances (Zohra Sehgal's cameo received movie star applause) and what-next surprises that lingered until the actors took their bow. Like Delhi itself, it was difficult for the audience to decide where their focus should be. As a Yunani hakeem admonished a limping dancer to avoid eating ghobi, the wandering eye could also spot a GB Road prostitute or even Bahadur Shah Zafar in his Red Fort splendour. All these threads could have gotten tangled if not for Tom Alter. As Dalrymple, Alter laughed, grimaced, boomed, whispered, danced, tripped, ran up, hurried down, holding everyone spellbound with a Koi-Hai accent. He and the play deserve a second viewing.
Directed by Rudra Deep Chakravarti; Produced by Dreamtheatre Productions. The play ran from 16th to 26th April.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Exploring Paharganj is like entering into a kitschy bubble full of backpackers' hostels, Hebrew-language bookshops, and shabby eateries offering Croissant to Europeans and Humus Pita to Israelis.
From Lasagna Verde to Chateaubriand Steak (rare, medium, or well done), delicacies are priced cheaper here than in the peppy restaurants in Defense Colony and Vasant Vihar. Most of this food is prepared by Nepali cooks who picked foreign recipes from tourists homesick enough to teach their cuisine to the daal-bhaat professionals. Some such ageing hippies opened their own joints- owner of Dokebi Nara, a Korean restaurant, perhaps being one of them.
This little place, accessible only by foot through narrow streets and rickety staircases, was an accidental discovery. Like a smuggler's den, the mood at Dokebi Nara was suffused with mystery. Chinese-style lamps faintly shone on the back of the metal chairs. There was no air-conditioning, no fan, only warm, fetid air coming up from below. The diners were silhouetted in darkness. Behind a bookshelf, stuffed with Korean paperbacks, sat the owner busy playing a card game on his laptop. He had long strands of soft hair jutting out from his chin. He exchanged my greetings with a miffed silence. I decided to call him Kim Jong-il, after the elusive North Korean dictator.
The unfriendly steward asked disbelievingly if I really wanted to have Korean food. I nodded, spotting an empty table. Several hostile eyes peered at me. There was only one menu card in English on which was boldly printed – "We make the food with mineral water." The most expensive dish was priced at a mere Rs. 150! Glancing through the list – Kimchibokumbab, Soojaebi, Jeyook Bokkum and Yachebokkum - I ordered the first one.
Everyone looked Korean. On the next table sat loutish boys roasting fishes on a hot plate. Their bare-chested dress-code and loud hee-haws conjured up images of what I imagined would be Seoul's low life. Soon a hip young couple joined me. They started smooching as soon as they seated themselves. Haa Kumi was travelling in India with boyfriend Kim Gabdol. She conversed in broken English while Kim smoked Shim Te cigarettes. They were not pleased with Delhi but liked Dokebi Nara which they had first heard of in Seoul. "The food is like back home." Kim said. "But Kimchi is strange." Kimchi, a fermented vegetable and fish relish, is eaten at every Korean meal. They complained there was no Chinese cabbage in it and was not spicy enough.
Haa glanced eagerly when my Kimchibokumbab arrived. It was fried rice tossed in Kimchi with a sunny-side-up egg. I clumsily picked the steel chop sticks as the couple suspended lip locking to observe me. Even Mr. Jong-il stared anxiously. I concentrated on the sticks. Ah, it was something new for my taste buds. Kim tried some rice and declared it similar to his mother's cooking. The grains were sticky and soft, he said, and a little sweet. Unfortunately he did not talk much. They were more interested in kissing so I busied myself with handling the chopsticks.
It seemed unreal that I was savoring authentic Korean home-cooking in a discreet Paharganj shack. That the eccentric owner appeared hostile to non-Koreans added to the thrill. Of course, the best thing was the price!
While leaving, curious about his life story, I requested Mr. Jong-il for an interview. "I don't understand English," he said, in perfect English!
Thursday, May 03, 2007
[By Manika Dhama; picture by Rohit Dhama]
11 years ago when my father told an acquaintance that we had shifted to NOIDA, he thought it was a fancy exotic place in U.S.A. (he probably confused it with Nevada!).
Few would make that mistake today because NOIDA is now synonymous with kidnappings of children from wealthy families (Adobe CEO's son Anant Gupa Kidnapped!) and sexual abuse and murder of those from poor households (15 Child Skeletons Found in Nithari!). While these are grim reminders of what can happen in this 'Delhi suburb', it is also the place almost 7 lakh of us call home.
My first encounter with NOIDA happened some years before we settled in this city (I refuse to call it a town!). We were visiting a favorite Uncle here. My chronic amnesia only permits recollection of an almost barren landscape with a few leafless trees AND frequent power cuts. After that this place was erased from my memory till a few years later when my parents announced that we were shifting to NOIDA. I was thrilled! I had always lived in small towns and as a 10-year-old in boarding school I was tired of quizzical expressions when I told people where my parents lived. Now all that would change. Everybody had heard of Delhi and NOIDA was 'almost' in Delhi (what naiveté! NOIDA is in the unfashionable Uttar Pradesh.)
I will never forget the night in 1995 when I was coming home for winter vacations from my hostel in Nainital. I couldn't stop staring out of the car window. All I saw were the wide roads and bright lights but that was the defining image of a city in my mind. That was all that mattered. So what if the name 'NOIDA' was not even a 'real' name. NOIDA is an abbreviation for New Okhla Industrial Development Authority. I was going to have my very own 'City of Blinding Lights' (though U2 released the single only 9 years later).
11 years have passed since that night. NOIDA has changed. So have I. Perhaps I can get away with saying "I grew up here." Well okay, I already knew how to ride a bicycle when we came here. But there was a lot left to happen, for my city and me. The first 5-Star hotel, first crush, first shopping mall, first board exam, first multiplex, first driving lesson…
Superstitions dictate that any Chief Minister who visits this city loses the next election. (How convenient!) Considered by politicians to be the 'jewel' in the (dusty) U.P. Crown, politics in NOIDA is all about consensus. They all agree on the following:
Thou shalt not complete any project started by another party.
When in power, thou shalt appoint extended family members, friends, et al to key positions
Thou shalt purchase prime real estate property in NOIDA and build houses that look like Taj Mahal-gone-horribly-wrong.
But who cares about politics when you know that Vikram Seth lives in your city (at least for some months in a year I'm sure!).
And who cares if it takes a good 30 minutes through bad traffic to get out of NOIDA, when you needn't go to Delhi anymore to catch a movie?
Does it really matter that parking space around markets is grossly inadequate, when you can party till wee hours of the morning in watering holes like Sector 18's Elevate which stays open way past midnight (a deadline in Delhi)?
So what if almost every suspect for a crime in Delhi decides to hide in NOIDA. It is understandable since the number of sectors here is beyond your counting abilities (in Hindi). One can easily get lost while driving from Sector 1 to Sector 135.
Would it bother you if your car be stolen in broad daylight when in NOIDA you could lose weight in a branch of the same gym that your favorite film stars frequent in Mumbai?
Are power cuts such a big deal in a place where buying a square foot of land (just enough to stand on) could make you poorer by Rs. 45,000/-?
And would you cry when trees are cut to make way for the metro rail that would chop off the riding time to Delhi's Connaught Place by one hour!
It took me 11 years and a random search on Wikipedia to discover that I share my birth date with NOIDA (the city is only a few years older). If cities had destinies, NOIDA and I would have compared notes on how life was treating us. Now I just have to contend with witnessing the change here.
Big hoardings in the city announce Malls, Town Square, City Centre 'COMING SOON'. One is simultaneously excited and worried. I can enjoy the fabulous facilities but will concrete eat away the green? There will be a lot to choose from, but could the 'growth' be too much to handle? Would I still want to live in the city I was infatuated with on that night 11 years ago?
People have big plans for NOIDA. I have big plans for myself. The only difference is…while I can paint 'Coming Soon' signboards for my life, NOIDA will have to sit back and watch its life unfold.
[Text and photographs by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Where is that old Central Park in New Delhi? The unruly greenery where illegal acts in India - such as homosexuality and hashish puffing - were carried out discreetly, away from prying eyes.
Around four years back, this public garden of general ill-repute was closed down. Delhi was building its first subway system, and Central Park would be the hub. Once taken over by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the park’s benches were disposed of, its grass turned over, its trees felled, and, finally, everything completely dug up to build an underground railway terminus.
It was promised that Central Park at Connaught Place would get a face-lift after completion of the subway. ‘‘We want it to look better than when we took it. We want to give a better garden back to the city,’’ said the subway’s managing director, E. Sreedharan.
Redeveloped at a cost of Rs. 6 crores (approx. US $1.25 million) and covering an area of 41,500 square meters, Central Park opened its gates to Delhites in December, 2006.
The Post-Renovation Look
A weekday evening: Well-behaved couples lounge on grassy slope, relaxed families pose for digicams, while healthy children chirp about. “It is like walking in a foreign country,” a lady whispers to her impressed husband as they viewed the shining Connaught Place skyline surrounding the circular park.
She was not exaggerating. The garden was spotlessly clean. Nearly 700 trees and 2,750 shrubs, many of them exotic, have been planted. Cascading fountains. A 350-seater amphitheater for music recitals. In addition, the new subway was compared favorably with those in London and New York.
Undoubtedly, it is a more beautiful Central Park – a fitting tribute to an increasingly confident metropolis eager to don the trappings of the developed world.
But every bright light has a dark shadow. There was a time when no “decent” person would be caught strolling in Central Park after dusk. Shady and unlit in the evenings, the old park was home for all sorts of social rejects – drug addicts, homosexuals, eunuchs, prostitutes and other lonely souls. The new Central Park, as a middle-class paradise has shorn away the low-life. But…where did all those people go, now that their sanctuary has been snatched away?
Even now the renovated park reverberates with the memories of its disappeared souls. Few would miss them, but they certainly would miss their Central Park. These pictures are a modest elegy for the forgotten. They are no longer seen here.
The New Central Park - Everybody Loves "Normal" Crowd
The New Central Park - We are Family People
The New Central Park - Connaught Place View
The New Central Park - Dark but Decent
The New Central Park - "Nice" People Cruising
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
[By Atish Dipankar (second from left in the front row); picture by Suhas Gupta.]
[The author studied Computer Science in IIT Delhi from 2001 to 2006. Owner of the blog-site Dust in the Wind, he lives in Bangalore.]
I was Dipu and Pinku, Laddu, Chu were my movie pals in IIT Delhi. We always ran to grab the last row of the front-stall as soon as the doors would open. In Chankaya theatre we could watch a movie for 95 bucks (the auto took 20 from the hostel gate and we often came back walking!).
The popular hangout places around IIT Delhi shared a common theme: good restaurants (not necessarily expensive), movie theatres, and lots of girls. Basant Lok's Priya Cinema, PVR Saket and the SDA Market, opposite the Main Gate, topped the list. Linked by a common thread they were distinct in their own ways.
PVR Anupam at Saket was Delhi's first multiplex. We frequented it not to watch a movie but to loiter around, to ogle at the classy crowd, and to check out second hand books. We also never missed out on the tasty & cheap non-vegetarian food in the numerous 'open-air' shacks there.
Priya cinema, on the other hand, was more approachable and affordable. The experience of watching a film there (on cheap) consisted of sitting in the front stall where we had to twist our head from left to right to take in the giant screen in its entirety. But more important was the time we spent before and after the movie.
Ah, how could we forget leering at the hot females, doing window shopping, and grabbing a bite at McDonald's or Nirula's (where the Subz Burger was a hands down favourite). The movie in fact was not a necessity at all. I could recall trips to Priya when we didn't have any plans to watch a movie and the primary motivation was to soothe one's eyes with a heavy dose of pretty young things. It was only in the pre-final and final years that the McDonalds and the Zaikas were replaced, initially by Pizza Hut, and then by Punjabi By Nature and TGIF.
In IIT, there was just too much to like and savour: haggling with auto wallas as half a dozen of us tried to get into a single thuk-thuk; and supping at Sassi (Aaloo ka Parathas, Bread Omelettes, Maggi noodles and Chai constituted breakfast, lunch and dinner for many of us). Then there was Shefali Sweets (Badam Milk, Masala Dosa…) and Rainbows (American Chop suey, Hot Chocolate Fudge..) at the SDA Market. Of course the hip Barista café there was only a place to sit, check out the babes and order nothing. But by third year we had grown up enough to start requesting Cappuccino and Dark Temptation from the uniformed stewards. And who could forget the late night starvation trips to AIIMS, and the occasional ones to Ber Sarai or Jia Sarai – all for the sake of parathas!
But the place which sparkle the most in my memory is Rajinder Da Dhaba (RDD). Adjacent to Kamal Cinema Complex in Safdarjung Enclave, it was a necessary gourmet pilgrimage, especially after two of my close friends got their bikes. Mostly we used to bring the food to our hostel room and dig our fingers at the Butter Chicken, Shahi Paneer, Dal Makhani, Rumali Roti and Vegetable Pulao. But before attacking the food, we would select the play-list in our computers and yes, we would close the door. No interruptions permitted.
All these hangouts formed an important chunk of my existence in IIT. Okay, they were conventional – merely restaurants, movie halls and markets. All right, we didn't go to discos and pubs. True, the malls at Gurgaon and Noida were too far. Let's confess, Connaught Place was only occasionally visited. But what mattered was the fun, the treats, and the many 'chal yaar Priya ho ke aate hain' rides that we had.
You see we were just a bunch of 'normal' engineering students who only wanted to have a good time. Albeit in my case it exceeded the time spent in labs and lectures. But there are no regrets. Those were wonderful moments and I was lucky to have lived them.