Why Evenings Have Changed

Sunset
It is early evening. I can hear the birds chirping excitedly, convening to discuss the night’s meal and if the chicks are going to be happy with what they are taking home. The lights have started coming on in the windows I can see from mine; there are candles in some. An old man is slowly walking on the pavement, carrying a bagful of pastries for his grandchildren. I can hear their faraway giggles from the neighbourhood’s park; they are glad the swings are no longer covered in snow. Perhaps they aren’t his grandchildren. Perhaps his grandchildren are away, in another country, and he only gets to talk to them on Christmas and birthdays. Maybe he is taking the pastries for his wife. Maybe for himself. But I digress.
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Why This Durga Puja Is Entirely Different

Durga Puja in CR Park

The sun is a beautiful shade of gold. The birds are chirping more often, almost glad that a long and dehydrating summer is on its way out. The air is fragrant – with the distant aroma of khichudi-bhog that hordes of people will queue up to eat. There’s no doubt about it – Durga Puja is here.

For a couple of wonderful days starting now, days that make up for everything else the year brings forth, C.R. Park in Delhi will celebrate merriment and gaiety. Children will dress up in their new clothes and run to the pandals, buying one ice-cream after the other from the many carts. The stage will abound in musicians and orchestras, dancers and nervous little volunteers making announcements related to the prasad and the anjali. By night, the lanes outside my house will be lit in a million colours, the fairy lights in no mood to sober down till long after the year has bid adieu. It will be a sight to behold. And here, miles away from it all, I will behold the sight only in my memories. Continue reading

The Real Reason I’m Fixated On C.R. Park Food

CR Park Market No 2

“I’ll have some of the Radha Pallobi.”

A friend of mine, a newcomer to Market No. 1, Chittaranjan Park, had just wiped clean a plateful of Bengali sweets – chomchom, rajbhog, sandesh and yes, rasgullas.

“Splendid idea.” I told her. “You’ve had far too many sweets anyway.”

“Wait, what? Isn’t Radha Pallobi a sweet? It sure sounds like one!”

I shook my head and handed over to her a plate of steaming hot Radha Pallobi – stuffed luchis with delicious aloo dum. She was taken aback momentarily, but soon dug in with enthusiasm, much to the shop-owner’s joy.

My friend was no exception; most people on their first trip to C.R. Park are gastronomically overwhelmed at the sheer expanse of this mini-Kolkata. There’s the chaat corner, for instance. They have soft fuchkas – or panipuri – which they fill with a yum mixture of mashed potatoes, chillies and fragrant lemons. They have mangsho-ghughni – chickpeas infused with delicious spices, and hold your breath, mutton. And then there’s jhalmuri too – tall cones of puffed rice flavoured with green chillies, onions, tomatoes, spices and namkeen. Continue reading

Oh Delhi!

CRPark

Outside Shiv Mandir in Chittaranjan Park, New Delhi

I travel to Delhi tomorrow. After almost eight months of living away from the madness. And while I can’t claim Pune has been particularly sane, I have been away from the morning Metro rush, the honking cars outside my house, and the slight chill in the air that starts coming in this time of the year. But madness, really? This evening, randomly, I realize I have actually missed it all!

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When Pujo Is Just a Month Away

Durga Puja in C.R. Park, Delhi

Durga Puja in C.R. Park, Delhi

The sunlight is different. More golden, less yellow. It touches you differently – more softly. When this happens, Mom says Pujo is approaching. That glorious time of the year when my Bengali neighbourhood looks lovelier than ever and the air is delicious with luchi, aloo dum and khichudi. I feel it in me today, even away in Pune. Durga Puja is not too far.

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Rituals at Lajpat Nagar

Central Market

*Picture from http://im.hunt.in/

It was a ritual of sorts. They couldn’t return from Lajpat Nagar without a chocolate ice-cream and a pair of earrings. “How many earrings does your shop now have?” Onlookers and neighbours who came to visit them would often ask, putting on mock-serious faces. That was when she decided to keep an inventory though nothing could tempt her to let her possessions out on rent.

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Counting Sparrows

She wondered what had made her laugh in the picture taken at India Gate, no less than ten years ago. She had visited more recently than that but then, the newest trend which she had failed to catch on to was selfies. He no longer bothered to click pictures of her. He no longer bothered to come along, really.

At a stone’s throw from India Gate was Children’s Park. This was where their son had got his first bruise. He wore a Band-Aid over the wound very proudly for a week, after which she had to cajole him with a chocolate to get rid of it. Like the other happy families, they would snack on sugar candies and sweetcorn on Sunday evenings at the park. Once, when their six-year old had fallen asleep in the car afterward, he held her close and kissed her.

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Finding Peace

He hated being late to work. He hated the whole drill of rushing to the elevator, swearing when it stopped at each floor, hoping against hope the card-swipe machine would have a malfunctioning clock. In the Delhi Metro every day, he struggled with a million others to covet a seat and prevent himself from falling over at each station.

“Are you alright?”

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The Sharmas in Karol Bagh

Roshan Di Kulfi

It was a white, wintry day. Mr Sharma and his wife stood outside Roshan Di Kulfi – the old, Karol Bagh restaurant – waiting for a table. They looked enviously at a group of college children, busy eating with plates in their hands. There was a time when Mr Sharma too could eat while standing. He would come along to the restaurant with his wife, then girlfriend, and order two plates of papdi chaat. It had come as a pleasant surprise the first time they visited, the fact that the place also served food other than kulfi. Now, however, his hands shook too much. Worse still in Delhi’s biting winter.

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