The temperatures in Delhi right now is hovering between 40 and 44 degrees C. It is difficult to get out into the open and walk around. The sun rays hit you with a vengeance and the hot and humid air treats you like hot oven. A 10 min walk would drain out the entire water from your bio-system!!
Amidst all this, there is reason to be happy. When I do venture out in the early morning for a quick walk, what delights me most these days are the yellow flames of fire! Yes, Delhi streets are dotted with these golden yellow coloured trees called Amaltas or the Cassia fistula tree. It springs up on you as a sudden surprise.
It is a beautiful sight to behold. The bunches of yellow flowers drop like raindrops, hanging and filling the entire tree. It is such a cool sight to behold in such hot times.
However, these flowers bloom for only a very short while. In about a week’s time, the color fades and almost becomes an off-white color and ultimately just drops off in huge yellow piles below the trees. And that is why I specially love going out these mornings to witness and gather in this beautiful sight.
The tree also called the Golden Shower tree however, apart from exuding this beautiful elegance is supposed to have a whole host of medicinal value.
The leaf and fruit are used in various ayurvedic and medicinal preparations and is considered to be good for skin treatments, cancer, constipation, diarrhea, etc.. Well, it does have a soothing effect on my eyes!
Odissi & Sharon Lowen
Sharon Lowen is one of the most popular faces in the sphere of Indian dance art forms like Odissi, Manipuri or Chau and is one of the most internationally recognized Indian Arts performer. Trained by well-known Guru’s, she has taken these art forms to greater landscapes and performed in languages like Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil and Oriya.
She has worked relentlessly in popularizing Chau dance in India and abroad presenting it on Doordarshan’ s National Broadcasts and international diaspora’s.
She has broken many barriers. Being the first woman soloist of a previously all-male form was no mean feat in India. She was also responsible for introducing Mayurbhanj Chhau to the United States at the 1978 Asian Dance Festival in Hawaii and later at the Olympic Arts Festival of Masks in Los Angeles.
Sharon has been trained since 1975 in Odissi by the doyen of the art, Padmavibhushan Kelucharan Mohapatra; in Manipuri by Minati Roy from 1969 through 1971 and from 1973 by Guru Singhajit Singh in Delhi and Ranjani Maibi and Thangjam Chaoba Singh in Manipur; in Mayurbhanj Chhau by Late Guru Krishna Chandra Naik and in Seraikella Chhau by Guru Kedarnath Sahoo.
Sharon Lowen was born and brought up in USA and is a Fulbright Scholar with a Bachelors and Master degree in Fine Arts and Humanities, Asian Studies and Dance. However, from the time she has come down to India in 1973, she is more Indian than people born and brought up here.
Details of her performances and achievements are given in her website : www.sharonlowen.com
Travelling in buses has always been a happy experience for me while I was growing up in Delhi. It was difficult, but those close encounters with different kinds of people travelling together, jostling and trying to make it to their destination amidst the cacophony of blaring horns and whirring sounds of buses, scooters and all other vehicles, I learnt what life is all about. It was fun watching how people behaved in different circumstances – there were angry aunties, chilled out grandpa’s, ogling youths, chatty middle aged women, giggling girlies, serious ad purposeful office goers. Some of the routes would have regular people going at regular timings and then they would become friendly and chat their way to their destination.
There used to be such a hurry and scurry of people to get in and grab a seat in the bus. Sometimes it used to lead to shouts and angry fights. As children, it was always fun to see and experience these incidents. It was fun going as a group – laughing and chatting all the way. There were also times when it used to be extremely uncomfortable with smelly sweaty people coming and standing close and grazing your body.
The situation has changed now. Instead of those Green and Yellow DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) buses, there are a whole host of choices in buses. Metros have made life quite easy. But even when it comes to DTC buses, an increase in the number of buses has made travelling very comfortable. There are green low floor buses and red coloured A/c buses for a nominal upcharge in the fares. In extreme weather conditions of Delhi, most of the people prefer taking an A/c bus.
Then there are other buses too – like an Orange bus, Metro Feeders. If you want to really pamper yourself with a ride by yourself, Autorickshaws, Ola’s and Uber’s are always available.
Off track and off the radar but definitely worth a visit!
Majnu ka tilla – A very odd name for a place! That was my first reaction when I heard about this place. It evoked a different kind of feeling and imagination in my mind. The name Majnu is generally associated with the lover of the Laila Majnu fame. So, I kind of googled around to see how the name came to be associated with this place.
I got to find out that this name came from an Iranian Sufi bhakt who used to stay at this mound near the Yamuna river. He was called Majnu because of his intense love for God. He was a seeker and wanted to find the true meaning of God. In that quest, he met with Guru Nanak at this bank. Guru Nanak also stayed at this place for a few months. He was very fond of this Sufi sant and this place came to be called as Majnu Ka Tilla from that time onwards. A Gurudwara was later constructed to commemorate Guru Nanak s visit.
However, what this place is famous for today is neither the Sufi Sant or the Gurudwara but a small settlement of Tibetan community from 1960s. There are some monasteries and a thriving market that belongs to this community.
The place is small and the lanes narrow, but it has a feel of Tibet when you walk into those alleys. There are shops selling Tibetan handicrafts, paintings, books, jewellery items, beads for prayer, clothes and fabrics that is very very Tibetan in nature and form. It is a little Tibet in all its colours and art forms.
Eating joints of all kinds – street food to restaurants serving authentic Tibetan food is available and you can have your pick. Sha Phaley, Momos and all the other varieties that you might want to try is available at these junctions and joints.
We could also see a lot of monks wandering around, some visiting the monastery here and others who are probably staying in these.
Tibetan Prayer Wheels with mantras written on it was visible around the monastery area.
February is a beautiful month to be in Delhi when winter starts retreating and the spring season is set to emerge in full splendor.
The indications of a full bloom is everywhere – parks, gardens, busy traffic roundabouts, homes, etc.. Small bushes with budding flowers are waiting to bloom forth in full glory!
It is definitely a season to be out in the open enjoying and experiencing these new beginnings. It is a sight to behold as the buds are impatient to gush out of their cocoon and show off their beautiful shapes, shades and colors that God has beautifully conferred upon them.
Basant Panchami which initiates the spring festive cycle was celebrated on 1st February. It literally means fifth day of spring (Basant – spring, Panchami – fifth). The other festival that people await very eagerly in Delhi to celebrate the spring season is Holi. It falls right in the middle of the spring season in the first week of March (March 13 this year!) and people eagerly await this festival to play out the different colours to match the natural background.
Some worship Goddess Saraswati on this day. In ancient Indian literature, this festival is associated with Shringara Rasam which is associated with love, beauty and attraction. People honor Kamadeva with his wife Rati and his friend Vasant on this day in some parts of the country.
People wear yellow dresses and display or wear yellow flowers to mark this spring festival. Yellow mustard flowers bloom across the Punjab belt of North India and is a beautiful sight.
Surrounded by huge and towering buildings, this set of architectural structures stand for some long forgotten magical spell as the name suggests!!
Jantar Mantar is the oldest of a set of unique observatories built by Jai Singh II around 1724. There are mantras and yantras that Jai Singh created amidst these structures that give accurate tables for study of time and space to give astronomical insights.
The Misra Yantra is believed to be constructed by Maharaj Madho Singh designed to be accurately measuring the longitude of celestial objects like moon and can measure close to the minute of an arc.
One of the main structures is the Samrat Yantra which is also called as ‘King of Instruments’ that measures solar time or local time of a place and the sun’s declination.
The Jaiprakash Yantra (means Light of Jai) is named after the Maharaja Jai Singh who invented and constructed this hemispherical sundial system used both in day and night observations. The position of the sun was indicated by the shadow of the cross wires inside this hemisphere.
It has always been an enigma to me. I have tried to understand the way these things work, but haven’t got a clue looking at the structures though!!
A video on how the sun moves across different time spheres is given at http://www.jantarmantar.org/
With all the big brands showrooms occupying the prime space in connaught place, the market is designed for those who are looking for premium products and ambience. Set in the old buildings built during the British era, refurbished and renovated to suit modern tastes and choices, this place is busy as well as quiet with an old world charm around it.
This place is still called by its old name inspite of being renamed as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk. It has been one of my favourite haunts and I could roam around alone along the corridors and collonades of this beautiful shopping paradise for hours without getting bored. There is always a passive humdrum of people around. When I don’t want to buy anything, it gives me the simple pleasure of looking around and do a bit of window shopping. There are a variety of things that one could buy outisde of these showrooms too. Small shops with Indian handicraft items, books, posters with beautiful quotes, little trinkets are all sold along the paths.
Most of these buildings have been built by the Britishers but there are some little buildings from the Mughal and the Indian Rajas also around. The big roundabout of the Connaught Place covers a circle of multiple layers of buildings. There is an outer circle, middle circle and inner circle of buildings. Apart from the showrooms, these buildings houses offices and corporate houses of different organizations. There are banks, restaurants, panwalla’s, coffee shops, travel agents, etc.
The offices and business houses around this place ensures a regular flow of people into this area from all around Delhi.
It is also the central part of Delhi and all roads from every direction in Delhi come and converge at this point. In the centre of these circles is a huge round park which has recently undergone a huge makeshift from the park I knew of some 10-15 years ago. The Rajiv Chowk Metro Station and Palika Bazaar lie below this park.
This park now has a huge big Indian Flag with a small amphitheatre built-in the centre. People from all around come to take a little break and relax in the sun during winter days.
On Sundays too, when the market is closed there are people in huge numbers occupying this place.
This has turned out to be more than a shopping place – a tourist attraction, picnic spot and a place where one can just spend sometime with the loved ones!!
I think i’ve missed this spectacle at this intersection earlier in my commutes but recently when I was crossing this place I saw a huge flock of pigeons flying around.
In a tiny little triangular land wedged on the end of Malak Ram Issar Marg between the busy traffic square of Pamposh Enclave and Chittaranjan Park also called as C R Park, I saw hundreds of pigeons gathered and flocking around people feeding them.
There were 2 or 3 sellers sitting at each corners of this triangular median with grains for people to buy and feed these birds.
It was delightful to see so many pigeons gathering up and scampering towards the people who were throwing out corns and other grains at them. They looked quite content and peaceful.
It was a pleasant sight and nice to see people feeding birds but there are very differing views on bird feeding. Some people do these out of religious sentiments and some for their emotional and spiritual gratification. It is supposed to bring good luck and success according to some religious and astrological views.
However, environmentalists and ecologists are of the opinion that this is harmful to the natural eco system and only promotes the birds to lose their natural instinct to prey and survive. The population of pigeons in the city therefore increases to a larger proportion than it ought to be. Since they are fed on only grains day in and day out, they lose on important nutrition from other sources that are very essential for their survival.
Another New Year looms. And the accompanying resolutions have started nibbling away at the recesses of memory, forcing them to come to surface like long held bubbles fleeing the clutches of time and popping into relevance. The usual suspects are the largest bubbles; exercising, going for a walk, defying the urge of the electronics, dieting and the rest. There are a few smaller bubbles that are growing in size as they race towards the surface of relevance by combining their power. The responsibility of a parent subsumes the bubble of prudential spending which in turn had merged with systematic investing. Gifting oneself with a holiday, going on short travels to places of interest also join the bandwagon.
However, as with previous experiences, I am quite convinced that these are annual trips to wish town and the long drive back to practicality will be on the highway of routine.
We all wish a drastic change to the predictable mundane. But since it always involves a degree of discipline, the change remains a phantasm that fades away into oblivion under the incessant onslaught of monotony.
Thus lives are existed, corroded, maimed and psyched. And yet the new year offers a glimpse into the possibilities, since circumstances change, fortune beckons and opportunities arise. Not always in the form one desires, but come, they do. And fortunate is the person who can catch it by its vicious horns and ride to fulfilment. It’s a short life filled with nobleness. Let’s pledge this year to identify and enhance it.
Happy New Year 2017, slightly in advance.
[Video credit – facebook post]
I came to stay in Delhi about 34 years back (sounds like I am ancient!) with my parents. My dad working at that time with the Defences was posted here. We kept moving from one place to the other in Delhi in search of a better place to stay, study and work in that order and I have to now say that we’ve covered almost all the corners.
Delhi is big and there are so many places to see in and around Delhi that it is overwhelming. If a person comes to Delhi with the pure intention of sight-seeing, then it could take them anywhere between 3 to 4 days or even a week to cover all the monuments and parks and the important sightseeing places.
Delhi has been a place of action and centre of politicaland cultural hub for many centuries and history is embedded in each and every part and structure. The heritage, the culture and the traditional architecture are living proofs that showcase a very interesting and exciting past.
It is believed that Indraprastha mentioned in the Mahabharata was Delhi. This place was ruled by the Rajputs under the Tomars and Chauhans when the Afghans attacked them and captured Delhi. From then on, it fell into multiple hands – Lodhi’s, Tughlaks and Mughals. Finally when Mughal empire was established across India Shah Jahan established Old Delhi as the capital from where he ruled.
The monuments, tombs and forts scattered around Delhi are tourist attractions. These showcase distinct designs and architectural lineage to the heritages. Still standing tall and preserved from each of these era, these buildings give out an eerie feeling when we step into them of having traversed unknowingly into that period.
The tourist attractions are Red Fort in Old Delhi (was part of Shahjahanabad), Jama Masjid (the Royal court of Mughals), Qutub Minar at Mehrauli (from the Slave Dynasty), Lodhi Gardens which houses tombs of Lodhi dynasty rulers, Humayun’s tomb, Zafar Mahal and other tombs around Mehrauli from the Mughal Era, Raj Ghat, India gate from British era, Lotus Temple and Akshardham Temple are fairly new additions after Independence.
So when one goes visiting these tourist attractions, one needs to have a little bit of the background. It is intriguing to find out that there is so much history behind all these places.