Thursday, December 14, 2006


Just finished writing a long list of "what all to do in one week in LA" to another friend. That's one city I've loved and enjoyed more than any other in Amreeka. And whenever any of my friends decide to make a trip to LA I send my enthu "Go to Ambala Dhaba and Getty" suggestions to them. I sometimes wish I had moved there instead.. ok but this post was not about that.
So while writing that list for the umpteen time I decided to make one for Dilli as well. Here's my list of favorite things to do and places to see in my big bad home town - in no particular order!

1. Dilli Haat in the Winters: All the things to do and see and hear and taste are very season specific so don't complain if you venture in a diff season than that recommended by me!
Dilli Haat is undoubtedly one if not THE best place to hang out in a sunny winter afternoon. Forget all the farmer's market and all that shoo sha you go to, come to Dilli haat. From rugs to bracelets to momos and prawn in coconut curry - you can get whatever your heart desires. My personal favorites are the manksho rooti (meat roti) at Bijoli Grill, not-so-silver silver anklets, beaded purses, Rajasthani mirrors and the Mehndi waaalis who hang out outside the haat.

2. Nizamuddin Dargah on Thursday evenings: This is the best place to combine some live sufi music with yummy kababs (tho' maybe my low immunity, amreekanised tummy won't be able to enjoy those beef kababs anymore!). Went there a couple of times with aluchaat, once with Riti and her token firangi friend and I was as fascinated by the amazing architecture of the dargah, the color, the noise and the smells of the place as the mad passionate singing by the young sufi singers.

3. Janpath and Connaught Place(oops Rajiv Chowk!): This is a super convenient evening destination thanks to the metro. I am not a big shopper and feel suffocated if I have to walk around in closed Gurgaon style malls but I love street shopping in CP and Janpath. Janpath is ofcourse firnagi paradise and if you happen to land up at a shop at the same time as some white-skinned mem, then your best bet is to move on cos the shopkeeper is going to either ignore you completely or growl at you rudely. Can't really blame them - they can sell a cushion cover for Rs 500 ($10) to one of the whiteys (heheheh Bingo that one was for you) while we native-types will bargain it down to a Rs 50 ($1). Then there is the sanitized version of dilli haat - the air conditioned, sparkling clean Cottage Industry. Where you can look as much as your heart desires without buying anything (everything caters to dollar earners)

4. Chandni Chowk (literally silver square): Aloochat and gang would be better atdescribing this area - but whatver I remember of it are my ventures with the Arora clan, Ma and once with Mojo. Mojo and I had decided to eat EVERy possible thing we could eat so from gobhi paneer and non veg Parathas at Parathe -waali gali ( a whole lane full of just paratha joints) to gol gappas made by the man with the dirtiest finger nails to the creamiest kulfi (Indi ice cream) to the perfectest dahi bhallas (a sweet spicy yogurt based dish? Can't really decribe it). Apart from the food, Chandni chowk is a paradise for jewellery shoppers - I' ve looted Ma several times by taking her to the silver shops and buying tons of silver dangling ear-rings, bangles and anklets. If you know a lil bit about prices this is the best and cheapest place to shop. My german friend went crazy here and bought himself half a dozen thick bracelets and chokers and looked totally crazy in our entire himalayan trip - since he has short red hair and is very german "macho" looking!

ok this threatens to be an endless list so I will pause for now...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On Aunty-dom, stinky lions and all such random thoughts

Instead of philosophising and being aatel (arty farty intellectual types), this post is for random thoughts and random achievements, random lies and random truths...

Ah the biggest achievement of the day - told college aunties about the perils of seeking the company of a stinky dwarfy quiz master who did his imaginary PhD from an imaginary land (Princeton, Haryana?) under some imaginary John Nash. Maybe by now his resume shows that he fought in World War II as well and still managed to stay 28 years old (yups it's him, the super man Parnab). I know it's stale news and nah I don't have any personal grouse against this man who claims that the reason why he never brushes his teeth is cos lions never do (DUH?). But since these Bongo aunties insist on hiring him for quiz shows I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Unfortunately I think he has them in a coma with his bad breath and the show goes on....

I am approaching the next phase in my life. I am guessing there is a deadline beyond which you have to cross over to another phase, no? I' ve lived the life of a stubborn moody teenager for 8 years more than the legal limit. I refuse to accept I am 27, independent, with a home and partner of my own. I refuse to bow down when kids call me aunty and when I am expected to make chit chat with 8 year olds about "their bast friends and favorite colors" and when aunties ask me "beta kaha sattle karne ka socha?" (where do you plan to start your family) . I took a BIG step towards aunty-dom and spoke to the 8 year old boy next doors about his favorite Enid Blyton and didnt burst into indignant protests and nervous giggles when my cousin mentioned "marriage date"...Shites I've been converted...

I had an imaginary affair through Orkut, fretted and laughed over it with FOC and I decided I miss home. But where is home? The answer to this biggy threatens to make me take the aatel route. I will resist.
The choices:
a) Home = Delhi
b) Home = this campus
c) Home = mummy daddy
d) Home = Amherst
e) Home = 92 ?

I'll sleep over it and tell you tomorrow :P

Monday, December 04, 2006

Play Talk

Thanks to the metro and Ma, I have been watching quite a few plays lately. The first one was part of the "Jashnebachpan'' (celebrating childhood) series a Bengali play - Paakhi (The bird) followed by another play by the same group - Duli. Though the plays were by Nandikar - a much celebrated Bengali theatre group - the first one was quite bah. Maybe it did its job well and entertained all under the age of 5 and I was too old to be enchanted by 30 year olds in pigtails pretending to be kids, or maybe the play WAS bad. The sets were "cute", the lil birdy puppets equally cute, but this concept of over acting just cos your audience is primarily pre-teen seems really misplaced and unfair to me. Why not give their intelligence a fair chance. I am sure kids can fully grasp subtler emotions and don't need to be subjected to hysterical weeping and giggles...

Duli, however, more than made up for Pakhi. It was a simple narration by a woman traveling by train, carrying three matkas of milk for her relatives. But the message (we are all part of one big family!) was conveyed so beautifully by the only actor on stage - Sohini Haldar that it made me want to jump on stage and start acting! I've seen Haldar in Aparna Sen's Paromitar Ek Din (intrenationally released as "House of memories") where she played the role of a schizophrenic. Her acting and her voice are so amazingly powerful that you wish she had done more than a few movies.

The other play I watched "Cotton 56 Polyester 84" was at the Prithvi Festival is a hard hitting, and poignantly funny play centred around Girangaon, Mumbai's historical textile mill district. The drama is played out by Kaka and Bhausahab, two mill workers, who spend their days at the local newspaper stand, recounting the past. As they speak a fascinating stream of characters flow past, each adding a new dimension to the story.

Apparently, the script has been arrived at after months of research which involved meeting mill workers, their families, mill land activists, union leaders, attending meetings of committees , presentations by activists before the courts.
The play does much more than giving a real portrayal of fun and banter in relationships, it very play cleverly encapsulates the entire political history of Mumbai - perspective of communists, Shiv Sena, Datta Samant, Congress Party, the arrival of the mafia, and finally, globalisation. Cotton 56 was undoubtedly one of the best plays I ve seen for a while - my first experience of Maratha theatre was really worth it.

But as striking was a simple poetry recitation by Zohra Sehgal, again at the Prithvi fest yesterday. Sehgal recited poetry by Faiz, Kaifi Azmi, Gulzar among others. Actually calling it poetry recitation would be an insult. It was so so much more. Sehgal is a 94 year old theatre and movie actress - who has acted with Prithvi theatre and also with play groups in london. Her eyes and voice is full of such enthusiasm and drama that a simple recitation becomes better than a play. her recitation/enacting of a poem by faiz where a little girl has been forced to go to a temple but her mind is still with her dolls and her doll house was more than amazing...

Incidently I was sitting between Sehgal and Shashi Kapoor for some time and felt thrilled! Two celebrities who have aged so differently...but that's for another day!

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