Saturday, October 17, 2009

Malai Mandir - Uttara Swamimalai

Uttara Swamimalai meaning the Swamimalai of Lord Subramania in the North, as opposed to the 6 such in the South. It soon came to be called Malai Mandir, which is how it is known even today. The word malai (pronounced maley) in Tamil means hill and the name translates literally into a temple atop a hill. It is perched on a tiny hillock. The word though becomes mispronounced to its Hindi counterpart malai meaning cream! This was the bastion of South Indian families through the 70s till probably the 90s when other south Indian temples started dotting the Delhi landscape. My faintest earliest memories about it as a construction site when the temple was started to be built and the head of the Kanchi mutt camped there. The only thing I remember was seeing elephants which were a novelty in Delhi. Since then, the temple has grown to now becoming a landmark on the outer ring road. The temple houses the main deity – Lord Subramania and of other Gods including Shiva, Ganesha and Rajarajeshwari. The temple has been built in the traditional style of temples of Lord Subramania as in Tamil Nadu.

On festival days, the biggest being Skanda Shashti (shasti or 6th day after Diwali) one can get to view some of the finest of local dances and orchestra from Tamil Nadu. Be it the kavadi, karagam and more…

Location – On the outer ring road, opposite Vasant Vihar. Approximately 12 kms from Connaught Place. Specifically it is in Sector VII at R K Puram. There is plenty of parking available outside the gate. The temple can be seen from afar as atop a hill, a pretty sight giving the impression of a typical Tamil Nadu style temple. The walls have the typical red stripes on the outside.

Timings – During Summers Morning – 6:30 am – 11 / 12 am, Evenings – 5:30 – 9:00 pmWinters – Morning 7:00 am – 12:00 am, evenings – 5:00 – 8:30 pm. Do check with the temple authorities for timings on auspicious days, Sundays etc..

Highlight – This is “the” place to pick up Madrasi products – plantain leaves, kanakabaram (orange coloured flowers), kadambam (where floral chains are made with a riot of colours of flowers), lotus pods, rose petals. Most of the flowers are flown in straight from Chennai, still Madras to most of us. Karika patta, paan leaves…. I am told the prashad handed out is also equally tasty, though I am yet to be privy to it.

Insider Tip – The cynosure of all eyes within the temple premises are the two pairs of peacock/peahen. Their sharp cry is a blissful relief amidst the concrete jungle around. If lucky, the peacock can even deign to dance for you spreading its wings in happy abundance. Feed the peacocks and the voracious peahens (yes, she can literally bite the pieces off your hands) popcorns, corn or better still bits of coconut from the archana basket after the worship (chadava). This was revealed to me by a regular. Climb up the steps to the top where Lord Muruga / subramania diety presides. Sit on the outer periphery, there is always a breeze even on the stillest of day. The city looks gorgeous from there. Believe me, sitting up there enjoying the breeze, watching the city flow past hearing the peacock cry, it is truly an oasis – a heaven in the hustle bustle of the city.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A village called Delhi

(This article appeared way back in The Pioneer, India, on 18th Sept. 1997… It will be interesting to get the comments of the readers as to “is Delhi still a village or has it evolved into cutting edge fast forward global city”!! NJOY!)
Brought up in a city, I used to feel the distinct disadvantage of not having tasted the village experience. The familiar sights, the laid back attitude towards life, fresh air, under developed infrastructure, numerous animals etc., caused an irrational longing.

Trying to reconcile this longing, a sudden thought struck me, aren't these characteristics of a village similar to Delhi also. (This brought on an argument between the sure shot head and its emotional counterpart, the heart which went something like this).

Delhi - a village? bah!, disdained the heart, but the head was smarter and said okay what does a village have ? Let us start with the morning routine, people perform their morning ablution in the fields, how is it different in Delhi - Sulabh Shauchalyas not withstanding. "So what "said the heart, "look at the pace of life, is it not much slower there?" The head said, have you tried taking one of the renowned red lines. You could re-define the meaning of "on time". It is never in a hurry and stops wherever told. It carries everything from animals to human beings. Try boarding a bus from Chandni Chowk, traders cart their weekly purchase in it. Vegetable vendors think nothing of dumping their wares atop the bus and at times sit along with it - sounds familiar ? Or the butcher, who carries a hen or two in a bus or the milkman who simply hangs the empty vessels at the wrought iron at the back of the bus. Do you categorise all this - "fast paced" ? Even the leaks in the buses add the familiar touch.

The heart not to be put down said, in the village everyone knows everyone. Well haven't you seen the courteous bus conductors and drivers, they stop the bus and call out to everyone. You want to have a glass of water, tell the conductor, he will stop the bus and probably will join you. They might call each other chacha and Tau in the village, here it is uncleji, auntyji, sirji and madamji. Haven't you seen many a driver stop the bus in the middle of the road to exchange notes with a driver driving down the opposite side, so do people in other vehicles.

"The village has lots of animals and trees", the heart attacked. Of course, we have them here also. How many times have you skirted a bovine beauty lying in the middle of the road, chewing cud, blissfully unaware of the havoc caused by it. Or better still, stopped to let a herd of goat or buffaloes pass by. Every village has its pet dog which barks at strangers entering the village and spends its time lying in the shaded porch of the houses. Now swear & speak the truth, doesn't your locality have its pet dog, which lives off the dustbins and barks at strangers entering your colony and sleeps in the corner of the staircase. You can also see the wall of a beautiful building covered with dung cakes. Paan spitting, no problem, habits hardly ever die. We also have the Surajkund melas, dilli haats, veer bazaars, shukr bazaar, just like Gaon ka mela the head was really charged up.

Food.... began the heart, with so many MNCs setting up factories in the interiors, the villagers will know more about Thai & Chinese cooking than you or me. And aren't the Kaku da Dhabha and Chotte lal bhaturewalas akin to those old nukkad joints, finished the head.
The sights may be the same said the heart half convinced, but what of the smell, pure unpolluted air of the villages. With so much industrial pollution, there seems to be little difference retorted the head. The heart, ever the romantic, sighed and said, the undulating stream of fresh water, village belles, the lush green surroundings, pure cool air…. you have been watching too many Hindi movies, scoffed the head. At this point, I said "hey, stop it" and like a true Delhite finished the argument with Ki Pharak Pendha, Dilli village hai, village Dilli hai, sab chalta hai.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Weekly Market in Delhi - Sunday Market at Kamra Bangash, Chitli Kabr


Kamra Bangash, Chitli Kabr is a well known place for some beautiful handicrafts and eateries. Kamra Bangash is located behind the Jama Masjid area. To go Chitli Kabr, Kamra Bangash one traverses the bylanes behind Darya Ganj and it is confusing but ask around and you shall reach. To confess I love shops and markets; it is where the city comes alive. The bigger disparate the market, the better – as there is this sense of adventure the excitement of finding something novel and different.

Our discovery of this Sunday market was by chance. It was in search of a zardozi craftswoman a resident of this area that my friend and I chanced upon it. I had dragged her promising a treat at the Paranthewali gali later. Being unfamiliar with the area, we were taken by her son, a very talented artist himself through the by lanes. Narrow and quaint, one look at the market, and we said in unison, we will explore it later after meeting the craftswoman. What unfolded was shop after shop each laden with fabrics, zardozi, jewellery, shoes, bags, knick knack, zari and more…quaint. The Sunday bazaar is a must do for the ladies of the area so you guessed it right, the ware is heavily bent towards the feminine class. Of course it is very crowded as the entire area seems to descent. There is plenty of yardage available in the form of sarees, suit, just fabric and dupattas. The prices very very reasonable. Zardozi fabric and material abound, glittery and bright. The typical georgette, satin, chiffon material with plenty of glitter is what can be seen in shop after shop. It is also a paradise for fruits, vegetables incredibly fresh and very affordable prices. Shoes, slippers as also jewellery. The jewellery is a kind of paste made in brass or copper and polished to look like gold. It is studded with coloured stones and is extremely popular. The range is incredible. Most of the jewellery is made in the by lanes of the market. Silver jewellery is also available in plenty.. Apart from food joints which abound, one does get a host of rice papads in various shapes at very reasonable prices. Old vessels, book shops may as well be there, one though needs to look.

Location – Approximately 8 kms from Connaught Place. Located behind Daryaganj on one side and Chandni Chowk on the other. Actually, it is sandwiched between these two places. The best is to get off outside the Delite cinema and walk it from there. Rickshaws abound but it is scary given the narrow alleys and crowd!! Turn in the first left gully or lane after Delite cinema and just take in the meandering road to the area.

Timings
– Not sure but after 10:30 in the morning is okay till 6 pm in the evening.


Highlight
– This place is well known for its typical Mughlai cuisine. Dishy platters of kababs, with characteristic thick spongy thandoori rotis, biryanis….. My vegetarian palette limits the description of these gastronomical delights. Refer to Time Out Delhi where many of these eateries have been described.


Insider Tip
– The market is quite attractive and beckons exploration. Literally every nook is exploding with wares. We were able to bargain for plain cream colour cotton fabric at about Rs. 22 or so a meter. Some of the suit pieces or dupattas can easily be worked into pretty drapes, cushion covers or table runners for everyday rigorous use.