Friday, January 20, 2006

Hi, everyone.
It's been a long time.
Correction, its been a very long time.

I do owe all of you (who have been checking my blog out regularly) an apology. What can I say, its been a very hectic six months. College, leaving home, leaving old friends, making new ones, growing up to some extent.... The works. As a result, I haven't.. I wouldn't say not been able to... but I haven't written yet. Tonight, I decided enough was enough, and that I had to write sometime, and so I did.

So, well, I was in Delhi for two brilliant months, from the 29th of October to the Second of January. During those months, as everyone who lives there knows, I met almost everyone, and generally chill maaroed with all of them, and well, lived like no tommorow.

I also read a book called the City of Djinns, by William Dalrymple. This book, it must be said at the outset, is brilliant. It deals with Delhi, the way it grew, and what it became and has become over the last one thousand years. This inspired the history buff in me( which is pretty much all of me) to explore the city, which has become a lot easier ever since the metro came.

Came the 1st of December, I decided to go to Chandni Chowk, and discovered a new city, a city where Dilliwaley, and not Delhi-ites live. A city not built over the last 70 years, but one that has three hundred fifty years of history. Not Punjabi in origin, but Mughal. A city with Mohallas, and not colonies. A city, in short, quite different from my former perception of the city I live in.

Chandni Chowk, as mentioned before, is the main street of old Delhi, with the Jama Masjid at one end, and the Fatehpuri Masjid at the other. Initially (1690) a boulevard lined by gardens with a canal in the middle, today it is one of the most congested roads in Delhi, and a major wholesale shopping centre where you can get anything. Traces of the old grandeur still remain, a trifle grotesque, a trifle sad, a trifle reminiscent of time gone by.

An instance of this would be, as I've just pointed out, the Masjids in Old Delhi. They transport one back to a time when Delhi was a Muslim city, as in, not that it did not have Hindus, but the language was Urdu, the food influenced by Islam, the very ethos of the city full of what the Urdu language knows as 'tahzeeb'. All that seems so much in the past now, another thing we have lost since 1947, and without which our lives are so much the poorer. I mean, Urdu is one of the richest languages on the earth, was born in this soil, and now is cast out by the very land in which it flourished.

All this was brought back to me as I walked by Jama Masjid, on my way to Karim's. Karim's (since 1916) is the best place to eat authentic non-vegetarian food, dripping with oil, but oh, so immensely tasty. The Qorma melts in your mouth, and as for the Pasandas, oh baby. Karim's claims to be the descendant of the Mughal cooks, and if that's what they ate, no wonder they never wanted to fight out. (See, that's another example of the past relating with the present).

Another lovely place to eat would be Paraanthewali Gali, just 200 m. off the Metro station. Even though it is a shadow of what it once was, the three paraanthewale shops still inside the narrow, dingy lane still serve paraanthas that tell you how it was to live in a time when cholestrol was unheard of, and Ghee the remedy for every illness. What's amazing is that these places are still frequented, though now it's more as a real treat, and not as an everyday occurrence.

A bit further, on the opposite side, would bring you to Ballimaran, entering into which would give you access to Ghalib's house. Though restored with less than painstaking work (a part of it until VERY recently, was used as a public toilet), with a lot of imagination one can still imagine Ghalib living and working there. The sounds and smells of this area are a pungent mix of food, spices and goodness-knows-what, the same as what it must have been in the days of the poet with the distinct air around him.

I shall continue with this soon, for I must sleep.