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Visiting old Delhi is like a twisted delight which constantly knocks certain serious questions on one’s mind. The moment I stepped in I could see glimpse of some old structural designs showing how magnificent this settlement would have been in its glory days and yet how badly we managed it.
Today I took a journey to Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk, the places which are talked like jewels in Delhi’s history. Well to be honest what they are today just bewilders me. What I saw was and old man trying hard to keep up with todays’ youth. What we forget is that some flavors are best when preserved in their original taste. Wherein on one hand I was mystified thinking how charming and absorbing the lanes would have been some-day I was also highly disturbed to see how cruel development has been on it.
The walls still carry the architectural grandeur of old times but were all entwined with the electrical cables running across them. The lanes were to narrow and probably too crowded by autos, rickshaws & hand-pulled rickshaws while the crowd made it nearly impossible to walk on a relaxed- lethargic pace. It seemed there were just a handful of people like me and rest were all in hurry as if driven by some purpose.
Well before I move on let me tell you some bits about their history. Chandni Chowk (which if you translate in English comes to be Moonlight Square) was built somewhere in 17’th century during reigns of Mughal Empror – Shahjahan, by his daughter Jahanara Begum. Chandni Chowk had a pond and gardens all of them were lit up at night when moonlight descended. Just the mere thought of a royal pond surrounded by exquisite gardens glittering under moonlight fills up my heart with romance.
Chandni Chowk in it’s initial days extended from Red Fort to Fatehpuri Mosque and was bifurcated into 4 sections :
1. Urdu Bazaar
2. Phool Mandi (Flower Market)
3. Jouhari Bazaar (Jeweller’s Market)
4. Chandni Chowk (yes Chandni Chowk itself!!)
Well moving on from it’s history, today Chandni Chowk is known as one of the biggest wholesale market in North India. At my home name of Chandni Chowk usually crops up whenever a bunch of ladies are talking about going shopping for someone’s wedding to I had this predefined picture of this market being about fancy traditional attires but I was for a surprise today.
While walking through the main street across Chandni Chowk you can distinctly hear salesmen from various showrooms pitching in the specialties they have on offer. It is kinda hard not to notice that all major Saree Brands have their showrooms build so I thanked god that neither my mom nor my wife accompanied me. But big brands apart, charm of shopping in Chandni Chowk lies not in the showrooms but through the narrow lanes driving into it’s interior. There are so many shops each offering something different so you can understand what a verity you are in for.
Caution : Husbands/ Boyfriends beware “Do Not Accopmny Your Partner If They Insist You to Go To Chandni Chowk” I repeat “DO NOT ACCOMPNY THEM!!!!”
But soon I discovered that Chandni Chowk still is divided into specialties. As I moved on I suddenly ventured into a section full of shops dealing with electrical items and in no time I was on doorstep to Masjid (Mosque) Fatehpuri beyond which was a world for traders of spices and dry fruits.
Chandni Chowk is an absolute foodie’s delight!. You will walk across those famous rabri-faaluda, rabri-jalebi, golgappe, dahi-bhalle at regular intervals so Take Them On! .But I also gave a miss to the famous Paranthe-Wali Gali cause there is no better way to discover the mouth watering food than in company of friends. So I know I will be knocking it’s door soon with a growling stomach !!.
Even though today I nearly spent 5 hours exploring through Chawri Baazar & Chandni Chowk I know it in my heart that I will have to come back again. And this to me just summarizes how visually fulfilling this place is – you just can’t have enough.
Meanwhile, please feel free to share your experiences and views to add strength to this blog about Delhi!!
Dear Ms. Dixit
Good Evening to you!
I have a bad back ache and am tired of an extremely long and draining day yesterday. And that is why I write to you.
I wonder if you were in Delhi on 20th July 2013. If you were, I wonder if you stepped out of your residence and tried to enjoy a ‘drive in the rains’. If you did, I have some questions for you. If you didn’t, I insist that the next time you’re in Delhi and it is raining, please get out and enjoy the drive on the wide roads of Delhi. I was here yesterday and I was driving.
It is said that to drive in the rains, with the splatter against your windscreen and the splashes under your wheels, is quite an experience. An experience it was; only thing is, that it was not the romantic kinds as I was told it would be … it was traumatizing, horrifying and quite disconcerting. You and the previous leaders that Delhi has had, I presume, have always employed the best civil engineers and other specialists to build the infrastructure of this city. The Delhi Metro, the wide roads, the greenery all around etc. etc. are all indicators to that fact. I could go on and on about what is good about Delhi’s infrastructure (relatively?!) but that is not why I request your attention. I want to point at this very small fact that was possibly ignored by you and the people employed by you.
Just for the record, it takes about 35 to 40 minutes to drive from Central Secretariat to Dilshad Garden under usual traffic conditions on a usual day. It took me 215 minutes. That is almost 6 man-hours wasted (there were 2 people in the car). Not because of the rains, no … rains are good; no rain would mean no water from Delhi Jal Board and possibly no electricity from the BSES either. It was not the traffic either; on a Saturday evening, the traffic is usually sane and manageable and one cannot complain about 5000 other cars when I myself am out trying to do some chores. It was the amount of water on the roads… bad drainage, water-clogging, and the works! Am sure you must have read about it in the papers, I hope you have. So, when I say that there is water clogging in Lucknow and Kanpur and Bhopal, I tend to rubbish it by saying that they are not Tier-A cities, they do not deserve good infrastructure and I ask people to stop complaining. When people from Chennai and Kolkata squirm under the effects of bad roads and traffic management, I say, Mumbai is the Financial Capital and Delhi is the Political Centre of India and that Chennai and Kolkata need to do more to deserve some attention from the Governments, Centre and State. When Mumbaikars complain about rains and the aftermath, I say, never mind … your roads are not wide enough and there aren’t enough roads in the first place. So one would imagine that Delhi is the place to be eh?! Umm, there are parts of Delhi that are not Delhi and would possibly never be… and if they do not get good roads and other shit, so be it, really! But India Gate and the surrounding area? That is what Delhi is to most people who do not know Delhi. And even if those places are not taken care of, I wonder what’s all the fuss and façade about vision of Delhi 2020 blah blah. In my opinion, a good road with bad drainage is like good clothes without underwear … if you know what I mean.
What I do not understand, Ma’m, is how did this very important aspect of infrastructure miss everyone’s attention? Well it did, and I get that human errors happen often. But how is it that you and your ecosystem of politicians, bureaucrats and public administration sit on this issue, year after year, months after months, day after day and rains after rains and do nothing about it. Or are you telling me that you have done everything in your power to fix it, and that there is not a single engineer in India or otherwise who can fix the drainage problem? The number of man-hours spent on the road, the amount of fuel burnt and toxins emitted, the mental misery it caused is all something you would have taken notice of. But that does not suffice. Someone needs to act on it. And I am guessing that someone is you, you who have probably never taken your car out to enjoy a drive in the rains. Please do. And you will know what I am saying.
India wants to host the Olympics in 2020 I hear; all the best with that!
With much regards
(A worn-out citizen)
************ Everybody Connects To This One *****************
Living life delliwala style involves practicing a lot of malpractices. While Delhi is being projected as one of the greenest & most affordable city to live in, we dilliwalas need to improve on quite a few frontiers.
The Major Civic Manners We All Need To Practice
1) To pee or not to pee:
God created us and god gave us water so it is perfectly natural to give it back to nature rather than donating it in public washrooms. I know it all seems so logical but how about utilizing the money you paid to government for developing public utilities? It’s your money which has been used so I am sure you don’t want that money to rot in ignorance.
2)Help in hour Of need:
The most common example is ignorance toward accident victims. I know it is something that police has to deal with but they can only handle it once they are aware of it. If we can’t stop to help the victim at least call up an ambulance or police control room van to inform them of this incident. Think of your one relative in need and no one doing anything about it! (may that day never come).
3) Jumping Lights:
We all know how to negotiate with traffic cops when caught, but why to reduce the weight in your pocket. Ever thought that best way to curb corruption is by ensuring that no one gets an opportunity to ask for bribe. The longest wait for a traffic light to go green will not exceed 2 minutes, so you know it’s not such a long wait after all.
4) Garbage management:
Throw garbage in the garbage bins and not in your neighbor’s plot. Even the most remote colonies have garbage collection system or someone coming to collect garbage from your homes. 2-3 rupees a day is not a big cost to keep your locality clean.
Pan Masala, Guthka, mucus or just plain saliva, we have all sorts of things stuffed inside out mouth which seek liberation, so why to keep that in bounds? Your city is like your home, so let’s not spoil it. Imagine someone sitting on their bedroom watching cricket match and just spitting paan-masala in the adjacent wall!! Well of course you don’t won’t do it!. So way can’t your respect your city in the same way?
Metro station ticket counter, bus stand, railway station counter, hospital window all of these have one thing in common – queue. There a quite a few of us who believe that allowing a person who landed before them to get opportunity ahead of them is an unfair practice. So they simply don’t use the queue and can shamelessly argue about it as well.
It is famously quoted in India that if you can drive in Delhi then you are good for global arena. Superficially this looks good but this is something purely build on sarcasm. We Delhietes must be one of the worst sects of drivers, considering we hardly follow the traffic norms. There is no concept of lane driving, we lack patience and lack concept of “No Horn Please”, have high disregard for red lights(in fact sometimes we honk on red light to move the vehicle in front in order to jump the red light).
So friends what ya say? Shall We practice a few of these?
NOTE: The pictures used for presentation have not been clicked by me. They have been collected through various websites on internet.
It’s 6:00 AM and a calm morning glow sets into my room from my window. Personally I don’t like to get up before 7:30 so upset over my wife who did not pull the curtains properly last night, I dragged my ass to my window. With eyes half closed I took a peak outside and it was that perfect magical time when sun is not up but the sunlight has arrived in atmosphere.
I could see the trees & their leaves swaying with a soft breeze flowing past them and that pulled my attention to the slightly overcast sky. And now I couldn’t pull the curtains across the window because suddenly so many feelings started flowing to me through the glass of my window. Memories from my schooling days, and a few from last year were suddenly out from the closet and started to paint me in their flavor.
As a kid I used to be make those paper boats and be a viking ruling small streams of rain water flowing at my backyard during heavy rains, I used to run across my lawns just in shorts while my elder sister used to shout at me, asking me to cover myself with a raincoat. I feel that playing in rains has a special magical connection with our childhood and it is one of the most cherished activities which we leave behind while growing up.
5 Monsoon Things I wish I had never stopped doing while growing up:
1) Make boats and see them floating away with monsoon streams.
2) Get on the playground and have a soccer match with my friends.
3) Shaking tree branches while passing through to see droplets settled on leaves & branches shower a mini-rain.
4) Go cycling on roads which got deserted by heavy rains. I had my entire friend’s group doing that!
5) Acting sick to skip school.
5 reasons why I still love monsoon:
1) No better time to enjoy killer triple combo of hot masala tea-pakoras-pudhina chatni.
2) Savior from scorching Delhi summer heat.
3) Greenery of our parks, gardens & trees is at it’s best.
4) Most romantic time of the year.
5) The heavenly scent of moist soil which floats in the air. This is the fragrance and nothing compares to it.
However, despite of painting Delhi in it’s best shades, Monsoon is not always best of seasons. Here is the list of things which I wish never happens during monsoon :
1) Traffic jams.
2) The stench which arises from overflowing drains.
3) Water logging.
And one important suggestion:
Avoid Delhi Street Food During Monsoons.
Invitation On Behalf Of Delhi
I know lot of news gets splashed about rapes happening in my city and this has really tarnished the image of my Delhi. I understand the heavy criticism and I myself get awestruck every morning when similar news is splashed on front page highlighting such incidents.
Being born and brought up in Delhi, I take a lot of pride in identifying myself as Delhite but trust me recent publicity wave has pushed me to the wall taking away nearly all my defenses. It feels like you can relate to Arthur from movie “King Arthur” who had discovered that the purpose & Rome which he had been fighting for didn’t exist any longer.
It’s is like a huge which monster has taken shape , and all the good qualities of my city have taken a backseat against it. When I look back maybe I was just becoming a part of the crowd which started believing that Delhi is not meant for women but I am glad I have been pushed out of that phase.
A few years back Shobha De had blasted the entire community of Delhi men in her article and then to my memory there was another impactful blog post “Letter to a Delhi Boy” reflecting views of a south Indian girl on boys in Delhi, all pointing out to one conclusion that Delhi is not safe for women.
Yes there are concerns for women safety but can these really define my entire community? The most honest answer would be a ‘NO’. There is a lot more to my city, which goes deeper than what has been projected as a superficial image of Delhi men.
The image which you get to see in everyday life, while you are out shopping, in malls, travelling through metro or public transport and not on a news report supplemented to you in your native city. A handful of men getting into ladies compartment in a metro makes it to news but no one talks about those bunch of people who vacate their seat to accommodate a lady passenger to save her from frenzied Rajiv Chowk crowd. We are a community sensible enough to call our wives as “Home Ministers” and mature enough to handle the reigns of governance to a women chief minister.
We all read the headlines where “RAPE” are mentioned and allow them to make judgments on our behalf but do we ever keep the follow up of these news in our memory where the case comes out as a pressure technique to make a guy commit to marriage, or it was a false case of enmity to implicate someone wrongly. Or have you cared to think that how many times an accused or rape gets caught from your native town or village which is not Delhi. Have you ever googled how many people land up every day in Delhi from distant parts of India to get an employment or pursue their education? Majority of these come from closed communities and suddenly become mainstream part of a progressive culture where their perception for “women” gets challenged.
But of course you would rather publicise men ogling at your assets but not talk about some friendly stranger who would give you directions to your destination, or even drive in front of you till you reach where you intend to. You vent out your objections over guys trying to impress girls by boasting about their Lamborghini but what else do you expect some man to do after splurging a hefty 100 Lacks on a car? Humbleness?
Kindly understand that my intentions are not to shed off my responsibility to make my city safe or shift the blame on migrants or simply shrug a sensitive issue off my shoulder or project Delhi as flawless destination. My city has many shades and is a complex design woven together by threads of various cultures, communities and people and has many struggles of it’s own. If you paint my city with one color only – Women Harassment, then not only are you doing an injustice to the vibrancy & buoyancy which Delhi has to offer but you are also depriving yourself from opportunity to discover the gamut of experiences which Delhi has on it’s platter.
My City is not a perfect blend but for sure it has a flavor worth indulging in. So please be a “Atithi” and discover Delhi beyond common perceptions.
Me To Paanwala: Bhaiya ye auranzeb ki baoli kahan padegi? (could you direct me to auranzeb ki baoli?)
Paanwala: Hain? (What?)
Me To Paanwala: “Auranzeb ki baoli” suna hai yahin kahin aas paas hai. (“Auranzeb ki baoli”, I was told that it was somewhere nearby.)
Paanwala: Saahab Auranzeb ne koi banayi to pata nahi!, par ugrasen ki paas mein hi padegi. Wo gali se andar ho jao phir pehla right. Seedha wahin pahochoge. (I dont know if Aurangzeb made one, but there is one in close vicinity created by Ugrasen. Go through that lane and then take first right, it will take you to your destination.)
Me: Thank You bhaiyaji.
Paanwala: Akele jaoge kya? (Going there alone?)
Me: Haan ji bahiya (Yes)
Paanwala : with a smirk on his face.. Phir kya faayda (You might not enjoy it then!)
Speechless & confused I walked to where I was directed. Must me a few hundred yards of walk and I reached the gate. Conveniently located among residential colonies, the red walls will large blocks of stones spoke a language of medieval times sufficient to hint that I had reached my destination.
Ugrasen Ki Baoli also known as Agrasen Ki Baoli is a stepwell which must have been created in pre-lodhi era which delhi witnessed and signifies the time when water was respected and efforts were made to search & preserve it. In fact on my conversation with the guard, there was water in the step-well till 2010.
Even though various residential settlements & buildings hover around it and it is located at heart of Delhi yet it is surprisingly peaceful and a perfect place if you are searching for withdrawal for frenzied city crowd. A solitude which was mostly broken by the flutters of pigeon’s wings.
I observed that it was mostly couple which occupied the human crowd inside the monument and and the monument windows give shelter to their desire for being close together away from preying eyes of people around them.
The compound also have a mosque inside but for some reason beyond my understanding, guard did not permit me to get close to it! :(.
Meanwhile for your reference the stepwell which is now an ASI protected site has more than 110 steps, so you know that it does run deep. It’s length is 60 meters (north to south) and is 15 meters wide.
It is within walking distance from barakhamba metro station and is located on Hailey Road, Connaught Place. Timings are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
This one if for neighborhood auntijies who are too busy peeping inside my house than their’s
Inspired By My Cousin Nayan .
It’s 2 PM, scorching hot and I am done with my exams, how abnormal do you think it would be to have friend’s over at my place? Well I just opened a bottle of coke and started with James Bond movie, when out of blue the doorbell rang. It was a little odd time to be expecting visitors so under impression that another of my friend might have arrived, I opened the door with a smile just to get it snatched away. It was the auntyji from the other side of the park and before I could open my mouth, with her eyes prowling behind my shoulder she popped up her question “What are you doing with your friends?” and I was like “How the fuck does it matter to you?” (obviously inside my head).
I am sure that this is not just one incident but all of us in Delhi have such auntiji’s but such sneaky eyes, probing brain and interfering nose as our neighbor. It;s not just Nayan (my cousin) but even my patience & politeness has been tested on numerous occasions by similar characters the only activity during their slothful housewife day is to sit on their window and gather intel about their surrounding. This intel is later shared & distributed among their sisterhood during their routine gatherings.
BBC : Bhenji (sisterhood) Broadcasting Corporation.
The network is generally strongly connected to different parts of the colony you reside in and they ensure that the sisterhood covers nearly all corners of the block you reside in. This way all the houses remain under their surveillance and it gets impossible to break their code “NO ONE ESCAPES”.
BBC : Creative ways to counter BBC Agents.
1. Ignorance : Well we all know this one. The best way to defeat their advances is to ignore their presence.
2. Sarcasm : This one is not meant for everyone, sarcasm is a weapon to be used on opponents with above average intellect. You surely would not like to speak golden and then elaborate the same in simple language. It just takes the charm out of kill.
3. Delude : Use some diversion, come up with spicy topic or cook up some hot gossip to ensure that her empty mind is occupied with something else. Send her on a wild goose chase (test your skills and try it multiple times :P)
4. Play Tit-for-Tat: Yes, how about giving her a taste of her own medicine. Keep an eye on her house for a few days and on every possible opportunity ring their bell to ask the questions she asks from you.
5. Be Straightforward : Well even though this is the lamest and tasteless of all possible alternates but works pretty well. Tell her to Shut Up And Mind her Own Business!! (little politely). Though the best thing about point 5 way is that it will save you a lot of effort but be warned that this will keep your wit unused.
So, Best of luck and feel free to share your experiences and ideas to counter the BBC