A Dilli-Waali's Guide to Dilli
In the context of my love-hate relationship with this city, the love factor has grown significantly in the last couple of years.
The city offers immense opportunities for exploration & learning – not only from the diversity of people that you are bound to meet, but also from the place itself. It gives you the chance for anonymity and self-care, but also has the coolest places to socialise and meet people. History and modernity move hand-in-hand and you can be a tourist every single day, if you like. There are more city parks, monuments, buildings, shopping hubs and quaint cafes that you can realistically explore.
Now without too much ado, here’s my list of Top 10 Experiences in the city of Delhi.
1) Touch and feel at the Qutub Complex
The Qutub Complex, as we see it today, has grown incrementally between the 11th and 14th centuries. The real beauty of having many so many materials – from sandstone to marble to iron, in one place was something that I truly encountered after getting the chance to explore parts of the complex blindfolded through the lovely folks at the Delhi Walk Festival. With your eyes shut, you stop seeing colours and you start feeling the textures on the stone, the cool and warm surfaces, and every little detail in the carving.
2) Deep fried everything at the Parathewali Gali
While simpler parathas are a common breakfast-food in North Indian households, the variety of stuffing inside these deep-fried breads at Paranthewali Gali is mind-blowing. You can love it or you can hate it, but you cannot stop yourself from being amazed at how they can turn anything into a stuffing. From simple lentils and vegetables to dry fruits and even “khurchan”. Khurchan is the layer of thickened milk which is a by-product of milk being boiled in an iron kadhai (indian wok) over a long period of time. It’s very lightly sweetened, or not very sweet at all.
3) Magic in the air at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
The approach to this mystical Dargah is lined with shops selling amulets, charms, chadars and other trinkets. Thursday evenings offer a magical ambience when the place comes alive with the sound of qawwali (sufi devotional singing) that mesmerizes the crowds of locals and tourists alike.
4) A garden of boutiques at the Santushti Shopping Complex
Worlds apart from the general hustle-bustle of Delhi city, the Santushti shopping complex is a serene setting. For me, it’s the perfect place to meet up with my close friends, have a meal at Diggin’ and stroll around the gardens looking at the boutique labels which inhabit the cottages. The San-cha Tea Boutique is my favourite shop to pop into every time I’m there.
5) A day out in Connaught Place
Delhi LOVES its food. You’d notice that because 6 out of these 10 places on my list mention food in some way or the other. But Connaught Place really takes the cake when you’re in the mood for restaurant hopping. You can have 3 meals at completely different types of eateries (not going into details as that’ll become a whole another blog) and top it up with drinks at any time of the day. You can also fill up the space in-between the meals with museums, movies, lazing around on the grass or shopping.
6) Re-connecting with the motherland at the Crafts Museum
The museum boasts of India’s largest collection (correct me if I’ve picked up the wrong source) of Indian crafts – from textiles to metal work, and often has craft-persons working on the spot too. The village complex is what I really enjoy – it has life-size recreations of dwelling from across the country. You can hop between Nagaland and Himachal and Kerala by walking a few hundred steps. The same is true for the food at Café Lota. I love that I can have sabudana popcorn, follow it up with appam & stew, and end with the apple cinnamon jalebi.
7) Saturday night, Dilli-style, at India Gate
The expansive lawns, lit-up monument in the centre, balloons and ice-cream vendors! That sums up the family-friendly nightlife scene in Delhi. Whenever possible, we make it a point to do this ATLEAST on Republic Day, when all the buildings around are beautifully lit-up.
8) Connecting with the divine at Lotus Temple
When viewed from afar, the Lotus Temple looks exactly like the award-winning piece of architecture that it is. But only when you get up close, do you start to feel the magic. Every human being, irrespective of their religion, nationality, gender or any such identity, is welcome inside this Baha’I House of Worship to say the prayers of their choice, or simply be, sans any rituals.
9) Sunsets at Hauz Khas Fort
Quite often, the words “Hauz Khas” to mind dark, loud clubs and men on the streets shouting “ladies night” at you. But My Hauz Khas is very different. It’s a 13th Century madrasa ruins, it’s the memory of my first outdoor class in design studio, it’s the memory of sunsets and walks around the lake, through the Deer Park and so much more. My Hauz Khas also has some stunning artists’ studios and graffiti in the back-lanes of the market. I’d highly recommend that you step out and discover your own version of this highly under-rated place in Delhi.
10) Expecting the unexpected at Dilli Haat
Well, ofcourse there is food for which I go here as well. Street food from everywhere in India. But the place is way more than just an open-air pan-India food court. There are performances happening every now and then. While a few of the craft stalls are permanent there, the state-wise stalls often host new work every 15 days and every visit to Dilli Haat could possibly introduce you to something new.