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.


Anonymous Aadisht Khanna said...

Hmmm. You read City of Djinns, visited Chandni Chowk even, and never once did you wonder why exactly the Mughal culture fell into such precipitious decline?

12:01 pm  
Blogger shraddha said...

hii..i was reading ctiy of djinns and really enjoying it but it has now been confiscated by my mom ("boards are sooo close"!) i think its a lovely book (i hav reached halfway) and even though i am no big history buff i really want to go visit chandini chowk and the whole of old delhi.its so sad that there are soo many wonderful places in delhi yet nobody cares for them.

7:17 am  
Blogger suparna said...

heyy..yea...we went to chandni chowk as a part of heritage walk in class xi..haha they nvr took u ..n yea it was awesome..but they nvr took us to paraanthewali we had to eat in haldirams:(..neway yea visited mirzaghalib ki haveli,fatehpur masjid etc etc.

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Anonymous suparna said...

o wait..they did take u to heritage walk..o well.weird memory of mine..nvrmind

3:34 am  
Blogger Vrinda said...

Nice of you to call before leaving, I must say...

9:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! just stumbled upon ur blog...u still have (or dare say far improoved) ur writing and expression. keep up the gr8 job!

ur ex-parjaiji(who managed to cause a 'syapa' in ur dear frnds life)

3:51 am  
Blogger Bhavya said...

Dude! It's Hamara Bajaj!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey dude...
umm my name is rhea... am from bombay... i dont really know how, but i just stumbled on your blog and... well .. it was totally amazing... its probably weird for you cuz im this total stranger saying this, but i felt like there was some weird link with the stuff you wrote, and me... i dunno, but you really seem like a kindred soul! i sound like a total freak right!! but i gess the truth is stranger than fiction.. anywayz, shall keep up with ur blogs now.. nice to know that ur goin to nalsar am trying for that too, next yr..ciao!

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1:04 am  
Blogger Anustup said...


I live in Calcutta and will be visiting Delhi shortly enroute to Agra. I am very eager to visit Ghalib's house in Ballimaran....seems you have gone there already. Could you please give me some more detailed info on how to get there?
BTW, I have read "City of Djinns' and the feeling reading it was the same as yours. Have you tried 'White Mughals'- its awesome!!
my email id:

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