Saturday, September 24, 2011

The English are gone but...

From the intrepid Nazneen, on her solo Golden Triangle trip:
Gorgeous aerial view photos of schoolchildren queuing at Humayun's Tomb.

The queue has a strangely hypnotic quality, doesn't it? As if it has a life of its own.

I also simply *love* the way the queue is snaking its way through the centre of the Char Bagh Mughal Garden scheme.

The first Mughal Emperor Babur built many gardens, to make "that charmless and disorderly Hind (India)" feel more like home.

He was inspired by (and perhaps homesick for) the gorgeous gardens of Samarkand and Herat that he had left behind. Among the earliest things he planted in India were melons, I'm told.

In the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is a watercolour painting of Babur supervising the laying out of Bagh-e-Wafa at Kabul. It is in the Char Bagh style, and water flows merrily in the middle. The Emperor wears golden robes. There are orange-laden trees in the foreground, and birds in the sky. The brick walls enclose a little slice of paradise....

A closer look reveals that pomegranates were also among the favourites being planted. See how beautifully the fruit is detailed. There is a dove delicately perched on a pomegranate branch. The gardeners have their sleeves rolled up. Ah, the pleasures of a Mughal miniature.

As someone who dearly loves her little potted plants, and gets a great deal of pleasure from simply looking at them every day, I feel a sense of affinity with this Mongol king.

Looking at this painting, I can't help thinking that the popular image of the Mongols as "barbarians" conveniently ignores the softer and more aesthetic aspects of their life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Woohoo!! We are on India Today Travel Plus and THE YAHOO HOMEPAGE!!

This month, India Today Travel Plus listed "10 Must-do Walks in India".

And guess what?

3 out of the 10 are ours!

My Old Delhi Food Trail, the Mylapore Bazaar Walk in Chennai, and my Matunga Market Walk in Mumbai are among them.

As you can guess, I am *very* pleased indeed!

And guess what - This story made it to Yahoo India!! So we're also the Home Page Story on Yahoo today!!

Text of article here:
Old Delhi Food Trail
What's the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of food in Delhi? Mughlai? Perish the thought. For a change, focus on the unique 'Baniya' vegetarian streetfood of Sitaram Bazaar. The Old Delhi Food Trail walks you through the bazaar to learn about the ingredients and essentials of Indian cooking. The colourful and interesting streetfood in this market caters to the Baniya community. Crisp Gol Gappas, Kulcha Chole, Bedmi Puri (stuffed with a spicy mixture of lentils), Nagori Halwa (small puris served with halwa)--the list of enticing streetfood is endless. After this, visit Masterji Kee Haveli, one of the last-standing havelis in Delhi. Here, you can choose to participate in the cooking of a vegetarian meal or just watch. This is not a cooking lesson though; it is a chance to get up close and personal with four generations of a family that continues to live under one roof.

Mylapore Walk, Chennai
This walk makes you go through Chennai's cultural hub and one of its oldest areas--Mylapore. The Portuguese arrived on Mylapore's shores in 1523 and left only in 1749, when the British took over. Despite this, the area has retained its incredible temples and the traditions that revolve around them. The walk takes you to the 300-year-old Kapaleeswarar Temple, the epicentre around which Mylapore is built.

Peek into the temple's daily routine, its own schedule--one that is not usually visible to the outside world. Later, walk through the surrounding areas. Learn about life around the temple tank with its myriad chaos of small shops dedicated to everything from jewellery, brassware, silk, puja items, to fruit and vegetable shops. The walk ends with snacks and coffee at the popular Saravana Bhavan.

Matunga Market food walk, Mumbai
Matunga, in central Mumbai, has a vibrant cultural scene, an indication of the various communities living here. The Food Walk takes you through the markets of this area, and gives a peek into the food of the three communities--Tamil Brahmins, Gujaratis and Jains. All the three are vegetarian, but have different customs and rules, which are very much visible in their food.

The tour begins at the Kannika Parameshwari temple where you learn about the history of Hinduism and Buddhism. From there, head to the market area where you'll be introduced to local fruits, vegetables and spices, with an explanation of how they fit into the daily meal.

Discover inventive foods like Khakra Dosa (a plain dosa made very crisp and then dried liked a khakra), Jain Mousse (mousse prepared without egg) and Chocolate Barfi. The combinations are tantalising and designed to please every palate. Do leave some space for authentic aromatic South Indian coffee at the end.