Of Jangh and Afghanistan in Dilli

On a wintery, sun-warmed day, few pleasures of life are sweeter than Singh sahab’s gajjar ka halwa. There is a gram of ghee for every ten grams of halwa. Probably why it tastes divine! 

Singh sahab’s corner shop is tucked away in a dirty by-lane of Bhogal, just beyond Jangpura extension.

I was introduced to the kaleidoscope of this hidden world years ago. It started off with tagging along with Aunty to the Mangal Bazaar for weekly errands. Eventually it became ‘our’ thing. Her happiness to explore what’s new in the stores and my  joy to experience purane sheher ka bazaar-haat. There’s something very India, very 1980s about the Mangal Bazaar.  Bright, woollen salwar kameez ka kapda jostles for space with Made-in-China LED lights. The air is thick with the smell of aloo tikki  and fresh jalebis. The whitest of mooli and the greenest of saag patta  beckon you to taste winter in all its glory.

And just when you think that there’s not much to discover, voila!  The aroma of freshly baking bread entices you from the Afghani bakery. 2013-11-24 16.31.01I’ve often passed by Abdul’s shop, tempted by the warm loaves of yeasty goodness. But never really found it in me to stop and do justice to the cravings. Today however, the pull was irresistible. As we crossed the road, it was easy to see why his simple shop front was always three-deep crowded. They make just the naan roti!  Just the one product. And just so delectable!

2013-11-24 16.31.11 (1)What’s not to like about salty, slightly chew, 100% fresh, hot-out-of-the-tandoor bread, I say! So a naan  was bought. And the journey home was peppered with loud conversation debating the best accompaniment to the naan.  Of course it had to be tea. Of course it had to be sweet, ginger tea, replete with creamy milk.

Every time I am in Bhogal, I seem to discover a Delhi that’s well-hidden in full parade. From the sardarjis who grace the chairs outside ancient cloth stores, to the Janghis who still make the best shalgam gobi ka achar  this side of the border, this mini-world is teeming with life.



Such a taboo. Something we never talk about, if it can be helped. Euphemism for the holy silence. 

I suppose no one is actually afraid of death. Just that no one wants to be there when it happens. 

And why not. Change is always .. disturbing. Even good change.

With the growing emphasis on The Individual, the pressure to leave a mark, be someone, do something is here to stay. And to leave without accomplishing any of that – terribly lowering, isn’t it?

And then the grief. Not the one that’s mired in anger and fear. But the one that comes after. The deep grief of abandonment. Of the loss of hope. Not just of what one wanted but what can never be. Ever. 

Religion – and accompanying rituals. Cultural platitudes. The dogma of what is correct and what isn’t. Discourses on the soul. Of journeys beyond. They all gloss over the fact that grief is a terribly private affair. That death leaves an emptiness unless we anticipate it. And sometimes, even then.

Grief – not pretty. Not the wailing or the endless streams of tears. But the blackness of empty eyes. The hollowness of being. Yes – that is intensely personal. It is easier to shed tears than to face the void. And so, when unshed tears are encountered, it is unnatural. Unfeeling. Just not done to not show grief in the woefully inadequate language that society understands.

Death. Talk about it. Think about it. And if you have the courage, look it in the eye. That will leave your loved ones less bereft.

Dilli ki dehleez par

Every city is a work of discovery. This winter, I set out to discover Dilli. Tucked away before the grand drama of Saket’s malls is Malviya Nagar. A refugee settlement in the 1950s, it was initially a new home for Haryanvis and Rajasthanis that fled the bloodbaths of the Partition. Named after Madan Mohan Malviya, it is squeezed in between the posher facades of Panchsheel Enclave and Saket. The one claim-to-fame that Malviya Nagar always had was Sheikh Yusuf Qattal’s tomb. Not that I wandered around an old tomb on a winter’s eve. Still. After a fairly decent cuppa ginger tea and a surprisingly great grilled panini sandwich at T’Pot, I figured I might as well walk away a headache and check out the neighbourhood. And I wasn’t disappointed. An autorickshaw mounted with two loudspeakers decried the local government. The smell of roasted shakkarkand  and aloo chat  played with the buzz of a thousand voices. Fruit, laal gajjar, stacks of mathri,  salted groundnuts, rewri.  Everything that spells winter. All Delhi. Who knew of bread pizza, with little tomato slices and white cheesiness on triangular sandwiches?  Or the advent of cheese-aloo  momos?  Streets full of newness! “Sorry Girls, For Mens’ Wear Only” and “Bhutaani Stores” jostle for space between a Smartphone outlet and a famous ice cream parlour. Diamond stores and shoe shops. Paanwallahs and watch-repairers. “Maydum, rose le lo.” The blare of horns. Audis that take up more space than their stream-lined makers would ever admit. Sardarjis  and twenty-year-old Maruti 800s. Latest fashions in winterwear – purple wool kurtis  with multi-hued scarves stitched on. A microcosm of Dilli. A small town. Almost provincial, with its muddy roads and dimly-lit streets. With every street explored, a new world to be in.


There’s a strong breeze that tosses his hair around.

How long? It hasn’t been a while yet.

Her eyes smile. Worry? Fatigue? They are care-worn and yet, they sparkle.

An unusual combination of a man. Different.

She smiles often.

An evening of fun. A little weariness.

Moments of silence, so quietly full of conversation.

The skyline glows with city lights.

Is this what dreams are made of?


An Evening


Candles flickered in the breeze.  The scent of dry lavender hung in the air, filling the verandah with its presence. You could hear the sea, wave after wave of summer warmth. The kitchen door was ajar, light streaming out. Dinner was ready and waiting in the oven.

He watched her as she walked out. She was dressed in white. He’d gifted it to her years ago and it still fit like a glove. Her skin glowed like no luxury could ever afford. Lips that glistened. Eyes that shone. Beauty that no money could ever buy.

This is what he’d waited for, month after month. All those nights. Yearning for her touch, wanting the comfort of her presence. Because she was the rest of him.

She hummed to herself. Music. His. For her. 

There he stood. Tall. Not dark. He’s lost weight…she thought to herself, as her eyes traced his figure. Yet  – there was so much more of the man she loved in him. She knew he saw her clearly, despite the last pair of broken glasses that sat in the parlor, awaiting the needful… But that was a chore for tomorrow, for this was their evening…

He cleared his throat and walked upto her, stopping short a pace as he held out his hand. She slipped hers into his. Stepping in tune to his lead. Pitch perfect in their hearts. As he gazed into her eyes, “Forever…?”

And then he knew, as she sighed, and let her bare soles slip on to his feet… to be borne…forever…

What It Means To Be A Woman

First of all, I rarely blog, the Muse and I having separated a while ago. So two posts in a day is certainly a momentous occurrence, personally. 

Now that we have that out of the way, read this

Once you do, come back here and if you’re a man, imagine, for the next five minutes – that you’re a woman.

1. In that daily allowance, you need to provide for sanitary napkins/ cloth for five days each month.

2. In that daily allowance, you need to provide for soap to wash yourself – at least for those five days every month. 

3. In that daily allowance, you need to provide for a minimum of two pieces of clothing – one for the upper torso and one for the lower.

4. In that daily allowance, you need to provide for your children, since in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society, it would not be conventional to expect your husband/ male of the house to forgo his food for that of the children.

In many cases, you don’t get that ‘daily allowance’ since you don’t earn.

You don’t earn because you’re spending the day cooking and feeding the children, scavenging for food or tending to the older members of the family. 

Or – you don’t earn because you are too frail to do manual labour and do not possess any other employable skills.

Or – you are pregnant.

That is just a smidgen of what it means to be a woman. 


Happiness Is Not As Common As You Think

Take the time to read this. Might explain a lot about the grumpy faces.