The Capital Road Culture

Knowing your way around in Delhi is a matter of prestige. People actually call you from distances to ask you ways and you might be in the busiest of the meetings or in the middle of some very sweet moments of a date but you would just get out of whatever you are in middle of and proudly route the caller to his/her destination. And this prestige is attached to a lot of guys (and no women that I know of). So, this is one of the things that form part of Delhi’s daily life.

Just like any other metro in India, Delhi has its own share of traffic problems, specially for people travelling to/from Gurgaon or Yamuna paar. Its really interesting to observe human behaviour on roads. It seems to say more about a city’s basic nature alongwith the atmostsphere in public places of a city than any other thing like city’s annual events or whatever. I was watching a show on Discovery Travel & Living last night which said if you enter a restaurant in a city in England – you would hear people laughing, Germany – you would hear people talking, Italy – you would hear people shouting, Spain – you would see people watching soccer. The point is the behaviours are specific to countries or cities as they are correlated to the culture of the city – the way people there live their lives and spend their days.

I have spent time in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi but I am out and out Delhi specialist without a doubt. I love the life here and wouldnt trade it for any other city in India (well, may be Pondicherry if there was a Punjabi Dhaba there). Talking about road behaviour in Delhi, I was driving my sister to her college yesterday morning which is around 30 km away from my place and across the river Yamuna and got stuck in this huge traffic on the way back (listening to Aerosmith & Berlin) when this guy in a car right in front of mine got out of his car, tucked in this shirt at different places to hide his belly, stood up on the divider and looked on to find out if there was any bottleneck due to any accident or anything else. Not that I doubt the good sight of a 40-something gentleman, but cmon dude, how are u supposed to see an event 3 miles away through all this traffic inbetween. Anyways, guy got down from the divider notting as if he just saw the traffic standing still for another couple of hours and starting taking off his shirt to beat the heat, and in the meantime, a dozen others had gotton out of their cars and were already on top of that damn divider look onto the same scene that our dude just concluded was hopeless. Each one of them was trying to stand the tallest on the divider and get a better view of nothing apparantly. Or may be not each one, this guy was actually looking elsewhere, ohh there he goes.. he actually was looking for a panwala, and got a welcome break to get a smoke… hmm interesting.

Not long before the traffic opened up and we started moving, and our dude was right alongside me looking desperately to move ahead of the cars around. You know how it is when you are in a bumper-to-bumper traffic and moving ahead of each car gives u a bit of satisfaction, how it feels when your lane is moving faster than the ones around. So, this guy was all proud and satisfied when suddenly his lane stopped dead and the other lane moved all across his face to a mile ahead. I remember the look on this face, he was completely frustated and desperately trying to find a way to fit in the next lane doing which he ended up bumping into another car.

Thats how people in Delhi are on road, competitive and in a hurry. When in a car, they crib the bikers getting into their lanes, and when on a bike, they crib the cars splashing water onto them. Bus drivers are even more competitive, they gotta beat the other buses on the same route to get that sweet spot on the bus stop, one bus stop after another. They wouldnt mind driving crazily to the other side of the road to get that extra mph and henceforth, the blocking sweet spot at the next busstop.

But, the biggest story of these all is the one about parking spot. Oh yes, its of utmost importance. Whether its outside your house, or office, or in a market parking. Not sure if you would have heard of a similar rule anywhere else, but in most parts of Delhi, a tenants cannot park his car in front of his house but has to park is elsewhere – may be in the backstreet or some other place, the front parking in most residential colonies are reserved for the house owners… interesting, aint it ? Not just that, parking spots outside office (on the service road) are strictly reserved for the cars belonging to the people working in that office (who might never show up). So, people reach office early just to claim one of those limited parking spots outside their office with an added advantage of avoiding traffic. Now, there are place around offices and houses, which are so to say the unclaimed parking spots. We have one such spot. Its a blue building couple of offices away which isnt occupied and has a capacity to park 4 cars. Now, you can make out from the smile on someone’s face in office that he got the blue building parking spot today and its like a game we play everyday. Those spots have become more important than parking the car in office parking nowadays. And, a gentleman in our office, if needed to go out for some work in the middle of the day, would take an auto to travel rather than taking his own car out just to hold on to that spot till the end of the day.

Thats how road culture in Delhi is… sounds fascinating ?


The Capital Cuisine

I have written a bit about the culture of my city earlier. This time I would be discussing the places and things to eat in Delhi – some of which are Delhi’s speciality. Delhi has restaurants and eating joints for all kind of cuisines, from Punjabi to South Indian, Rajesthani, Chinese, Italian, Nagapuri, Bengali, Gujrati.. all kinds. But the places and food I am discussing are Delhi’s very own.

Kachori Sabji – This Kachori with Aloo Sabji (Potato curry) can be eaten in and around almost all the commercial places in Delhi, its more like a heavy snack and is really popular, especially amongst people who work in the field in these commercial places all day long.

Kulfi Faluda – This is one of Delhi’s favorite desserts. One of the good places to have it would be Roshan Di Kulfi in Karol Bagh.

Aloo Chat – These are hot fried pieces of potatoes served with lots of spices and chutneys all around the city and people love it.

Chhole Bhature – Although these are popular in most parts of Northern India but in Delhi is like a first choice alternative breakfast if you are planning to not cook at home on a weekend. You can see long queues waiting for getting their parcels of Chholle Bhature at every other corner of the street.

Chholle Kulche, Central Mkt – This guy sits under a tree in Central Market, Lajpat Nagar and is out of stock in no time every single day. Never had Chholle Kulche this tasty anywhere else in the world.

Some of the popular old places in Delhi to eat out are…

Kake Da Dhaba, CP – A very small dhaba in the outer circle of Cannaught Place is damn popular for its non-veg preparations. They still serve in those small while plates in the very traditional Dhaba style. The food is so tasty that you really cant help licking your fingers. And the prices are absolutely reasonable considering you are eating in a place bang in the most expensive commercial surroudings of the capital.

Pandara Road – A popular place to eat all kind of Paranthas 24 hours a day. Again, in the center of the city and a hub for late night freaks to catch a bite.

Chandni Chowk & Fatehpuri – These places are more known for shopping than meals. Also known as “Purani Dilli“, these places, which by the way are quite next to each other, offer great snacks and meals for a typical north indian food lover now being popularized as “Purani Dilli Ke Chatkare“. This ranges from snacks like Aloo Chat, Tikki, Dahi Bhhalle to sweets like Jalebi and beverages like flavored milk shakes and faluda especially with those huge glasses in which they are served. The taste of all this stuff is so authentic to Purani Dilli that people visit these places from miles away just to have a few snacks. Also, you can find amazing meals at dhabas which serve bread as big as you can think of. Dont bother ordering more than one. This is also the home of the much popular HALDIRAMS. A TIP though for visiters, to avoid crowded markets and enjoy just the snacks, visit on a Sunday.

Dhabas in Mayapuri Industrial Area – These are small eating joints which are not very popular being in Industrial area. However, amongst the businessmen and salesmen who travel to this part of the city and have eaten in any of these dhabas, they are very popular for their Amritsari Naans and the way the are served. For me, they surely form part of Delhi’s culture and cuisine.

Rajma Rice, NP – Nehru Place is one of the busiest commercial places in Delhi and is a IT hub as well. It has a no. of small eating joints which offer fast mails like Rajma Rice, Daal Rice, Chicken Curry Rice etc which are (not really hygenic but) very tasty and served within a minute with the green Pudina Chutney… yummmm.

Caventers & Wengers, CP – Caventers is a fantastic place in Inner Circle, CP to grab a quick bite and a flavored milk shake which is very filling by the way. And just around the corner is Wenger’s which is an amazing bakery with their unique varities of candies, pastries, cookies, jellies and what not.

Haldirams – For the localites, its one of the coolest places to take your family out for dinner. Its fun, their variety drives you crazy and you end up ordering a bit of a lot of things. Located in various locations like Mathura Road, Lajpat Nagar etc, its a damn popular for its hygenic snacks, thalis and sundaes.

Moolchand Flyover – This is a place which is very popular for its paranthas as well just like Pandara road. It used to be open late nights, however, nowadays, it closes down by midnight or so :(. The best part of this place is the masala mirchi they put on the paranthas. Egg parantha here is one of my personal favorites.

Khan Chacha, Khan Market – You surely cant get better non-veg snacks or rolls anywhere else. Put your calory concious mind at home while visiting this place. This is a small place which is so popular that I gets its publicity from word of mouth over radio as well.

UPSC, India Gate – Near India gate, outside UPSC office, you would find this place where you can have the most spicy chats you would ever have eaten and its a hot place amongst Delhi University students. (Atleast the ones I have been around with)

I guess I am, more or less, done with this list. I would really recommend any of you visiting Delhi to drop down at these places and get a taste of real Capital (take me along if you want).

PS – I have specifically kept out all the popular restaurants in Delhi out of this list. Although there are a couple of mentions of restaurants but they really form part of Delhi’s culture so much that it was hard to keep them out.

The Capital Culture

The thing I enjoy most about a weekend is that I am in the city that I love so very much. Its not just the fact that its our capital, its everything about it that drives me crazy – the people, the places I visit, the streets, the cuisine. Everything.

Delhi has its own cuisine and the people who have been here long enough would know exactly where to find the best food of Delhi’s own cuisine. I love going out specifically to eat out in a place that I have been visiting since forever. Early morning today, I went to drop off my sister to her office in CP and just when I was about to turn back home, it struck my mind that it was a perfect oppurtunity and time of day to get my favorite milk shake in the whole world. Its a little place called Keventers in the inner circle (those who have never been to CP should know that its a circular huge commercial place with a park in the center and an underground street market in the basement as well). I reached the place at around 9 and the guy sitting out there told me how the place opens at 10 and 8 every alternate week and this was a 10’oclock week. I decided to spend an hour there with the street hawkers waiting for the shop to open and get my drink. As usual, I got along well with the people on the street which included a panwala, a paniwala (these are the guys in Delhi who sell glasses of water and lemonade on the streets), a parking guy, a shoemaker and a couple of other guys who essentially looked small time street workers. The parking guy even let me off the parking charges for my car. 🙂 Finally, a middle aged flamboyant man with less no. of buttons on his shirt than the no. of gold rings he was wearing drove in and threw a set of keys to one of the street guys who pointed back to him and told me, “He owns this place“. And I got my flavored milk shake. Heaven !!!