Posts Tagged ‘gurgaon’

Part III – Under the Divine Spell

June 1, 2010 3 comments

Kakuji seemed to be in a good mood. No vestige of the sullenness that had besieged him yesterday. We started for Kalpa at 9.15 in the morning, retracing our onward route till Karchamm where we left the foaming Baspa and turned towards Rekong Peo, along muddy Satluj. The vertebrae shattering road cut across deep gorges and looming crags. Beyond Shong Tong we traversed as series of switch backs and reached Peo at noon. From then on the towering summits of Kinner Kailash range held us in their unflinching gaze all the way to Kalpa.

At HPTDC Hotel Kinner Kailash, our room offered an unhampered view of the snow bound pinnacles. But, before anything we desperately needed a bath after the night spent under filthy blankets at Chitkul. Post shower we went to the hotel restaurant; an elegant, spacious wooden structure on the first floor of the main building. Dark clouds obliterated the mountains as we sat down to lunch. Rain drops borne on a strong wind fell aslant on the windowpanes. Weather is capricious in the mountains. By the time we finished lunch the it had cleared, leaving moist grass, dripping leaves and a washed out sun. Cuddled against the mountains, the freshly laundered valley reposed under the lengthening shadows of the afternoon sun, glistening with a languorous allure.

Evening we visited the quaint old village of Roghi, 5 Km from Kalpa. Groups of school children giggled past us as we climbed down stone steps. We bought chocolates for them from a local shop. As we wandered about trying to locate the ancient temples in the village a voice cried out from behind us “Temple is that way!!”. We turned around and found a wide eyed school girl, probably 10 years old, in a frayed red pullover over her blue uniform. Renuka took us under her protection and guided us to the temples. Grimy, happy children playing in the temple courtyard made faces at us and nimbly snatched away the chocolates we proffered. Within the gloom of the temple sanctum, a deity wrapped in red silk cloth was barely visible.

Renuka wanted a print of the photographs we took of her. When we expressed our inability to send them without her address she wanted us to frame and hang it in our home in Gurgaon. She didn’t want us to forget her. She desired to be remembered. I feel ashamed that I haven’t abided by her request so far. Before parting she asked us if we were hungry. She wanted to offer us food. The directness and innocence of the question surprised and overwhelmed us. When we smilingly refused, she took out a bunch of walnuts from her jacket pocket and thrust it into our hands. Renuka practiced what we paid lip service to. She gave without expecting anything in return. It was an important lesson.

On our return to Kalpa we got off midway and walked down narrow, sinuous tracks bordered by stone pile walls to the town centre. Apple and Chuli trees dotted the terraces of paddy. The trees were overhung with flowers which caught the sunlight in a ruby haze.  At a roadside restaurant, we sipped butter tea flavoured with milk. The Buddhist monastery was closed, but we met the care taker of the orphanage next door. She was originally from Shimla, but found Kalpa peaceful and serene. It was relatively prosperous too. Tourism was picking up. The valley was very fertile and yielded plenty of fruits and vegetables. She was happy to be there. We too wanted to stay in Kalpa forever and after, under the watchful eye of the majestic Kinner Kailash, under its ever changing hue, under the divine spell.

Hotel Kinner Kailash
Kalpa, Kinnaur Dist.
Himachal Pradesh
PIN – 172108
Contact: 01786- 226159

Note 1: Check out Batu Kheer (made of Chalayi), a Himachali speciality served at the hotel restaurant

Note 2: During July – August devotees trek to the natural Shivling on top of Kinner Kailash. Trek duration: 2 – 3 days.

Part I – Sarahan: Click Here, Part II – Chitkul: Click Here, Part IV – Shimla: Click Here

Photo Courtesy: SV

HPTDC brochure of Kalpa

Categories: Totternama

Bheja Fry!!!

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Meet any one on the street (if you can find any) and the conversation inevitably kicks off every time on the same note. HEAT! This summer, and it has only begun, it feels like living inside a Wok. Yesterday’s maximum recorded temperature was 47.6 degrees, enough to ignite your hair. You don’t have to colour it brunette anymore. Take a walk at noon and a crimson flame will erupt on your head. Spontaneous combustion!!!

You see, it all began with Carbon. That miserable molecule, free or in the company of Oxygen (that thing we breathe), it hangs around and blocks all these sun rays on their way back, the slow moving infrared rays, just blocks them all. We don’t like this policing, we would rather let go these desperate infrareds, they are not communists, are they? But Carbon; Carbon just don’t let them off so easily. As if that is not enough, what does the atmosphere do when we pour a wee bit more Carbon into it? Why doesn’t it just sneeze and send it all away, vamoose, out into the empty universe. It doesn’t do that. Soft-pedaling when it comes to Carbon, that’s what atmosphere does. Of course, I don’t want to blatantly accuse it. There is gravity to contend with, I agree. If only God hadn’t created gravity, if only Newton hadn’t discovered it. Then atmosphere could have sneezed and got it all out of the system. But, nope, we are stuck with all that Carbon, whirling right round our heads and poking into our noses. Happy, free, emancipated Carbon, that infidel, hanging around and trapping all that poor, innocent infrared radiation and heating up the atmosphere and making us run our air conditioners round the clock, piling up the electricity bill and making lives miserable. Screw Carbon. Dammit. I’d like to declare a Fatwa on it.

But, hey, coming to think of it, I’m made of Carbon. Right from an amoeba to this pinnacle of evolution, this supreme being, this I, me and Myself – made of Carbon. Hic!!, Humbug. Didn’t evolution have any sense? Was it blind? Couldn’t it have foreseen it all? What was God doing with all that omniscience and omnipotence? Couldn’t IT have seen it all coming and made some contingency plans? It is time someone knocked some sense into God and this whole rigmarole of creation. If only we were a zirconium based life form, we could have done away with Carbon and all this mess. But we are bonded with Carbon, for better or worse. Oh, we can control Carbon emission, but then you would ask; can we stop breathing, can we stop our cars, our air conditioners, our factories, our….You must be joking.

Our government, can’t it do something? It is for the people, by the people, of the people, isn’t it. Can’t it enforce some law or something, legislate all those infrareds out of Carbon’s sinister custody? Or maybe they can travel cattle class, reduce “Phoren travel”, save forests and cut emissions. Or maybe capture all that Carbon and throw them in jail, kinda sequestrate? That was on the cards, wasn’t it? Instead the government is planning to send more Carbon up in the air by constructing almost 300,000 MW of coal powered plants within the next few years. Can’t blame the government. Their hands are tied. We, the people, the vote bank, are clamouring for power, more and more of it. We need it to support our lifestyle, our consumption, our comfort. So what can the government do? It just goes and pretends to appease us. If people want power, pile it on high, election is round the corner! Does it mean that we are to blame? I don’t like blame games, let me make that loud and clear. Blame it on nature, blame it on devil, blame it on Carbon, but leave me out of it. I do my daily prayers, perform the Puja, visit the temple, do my pilgrimage, worship a million Gods, feed the cows, vote in every election, hoot for Sachin – what more can you ask for? Don’t ever try to sully my reputation. Carbon or no Carbon, my honour, that is impeccable. I’ll never let you fiddle with it. The sky will split asunder and oceans shall rise up and swallow you. Don’t you dare?

Oh, well, did you say renewable energy? Government has ambitious plans for that too. But only on paper. January; this January, in its boundless enthusiasm the government revealed to the asinine public, yes, you, me, to us all, a plan, mind you, a PLAN!!! to build solar power plants, 20000 MW of it, by 2022. Long term planning you see. Since it is a plan, and since plans are not as evolved as we are, they are still languishing in sheaf’s of paper, waiting for the distinguished and enlightened minister, whenever he/ she/ it has time to spare from the arduous schedule of personal aggrandizement, waiting for this minister to put a signature, and thus bring it to life, so that it can pull itself out of paper and transform into Photovoltaics etcetera and stare at the sun and soak its rays and turn into electricity and connect to grid and flow into our living rooms and pubs and theatres and shopping malls and office complexes… All that is possible, and probable and yes, of course all that costs money. But we, the proletariat, we the larger public, are we willing to pay up? Nope, that is totally unacceptable. It doesn’t cut ice, you see. Power should be free. It is God’s gift. Thank you Volta, thank you Faraday, thank you Lord God, but we don’t want to pay. We don’t mind pilfering it, but we don’t like to pay for it. Who in their right mind would want to pay extra for solar power, this daily benediction of Sun god, this manna from the sky; it should be free, free, free like freeware. Hey, can’t some geek crack the code and supply it for free, we like it FREE….

Only the air conditioner manufacturers seem to have a correct vision of the future. Off late they have begun rating the a/c’s to work at 60 deg C. If that is any indication, we are gonna have it, full and square. In the face, right hook, left hook, full punch. Knock Out!!! And we are gonna be sizzled, fried, charred!! And return to Carbon!!! BELCH ON, WORLD!!!

Read the previous post – Carbon – The Kernel of Life

Categories: Planetwatch

Something sure smells FISHY here…

May 10, 2010 Leave a comment

As usual, finding a place for dinner that suited everyone’s preferences was a dilemma. After trawling through Foodiebay we finally decided upon Swagath. It wasn’t too far from home and fairly out of way of rush hour traffic. When we reached around 7.15 PM parking was still available in the small space in front. Most tables were occupied by late evening office party crowd interspersed by a scattering of families. The restaurant was quite spacious; more than 100 covers for sure. Dark brown slats segmented the space while modern art, large and small, relieved the uniform beige decor that shrouded the walls, tables and chairs and even sneaked into the uniform of waiters.

Our table which stood bang in front of the bar offered a clear view through a swing door to the restaurant innards. The serving brigade comprising captains in black suits, waiters and busboys in beige n white and cleaning staff in green bustled about us. A procession of dishes piled with interesting stuff (that made me drool, needless to say) issued forth from the kitchen and made their way to various tables; to be scrutinized, commented upon, piled into plates, scooped into mouths, smelled, tasted, chewed, swallowed and eventually digested. From the bar came the clink of countless bottles of Kingfisher beer. The parade of tall glasses filled with enticing pink and green liquid topped with lemon and cocktail umbrella commenced their journey from the bar counter, meandered among the tables, caught the attention, elicited the admiration and excited desire of many before finally disappearing down thirsty gullets clamoring to be quenched.

The menu offered umpteen choice of vernacular cuisine – Manglorean, Malabari, Sawantwadi, Konkan, Chettinad – most of which featured fish, prawns and lobster; a dream come true for a fish  fanatic like me. The trouble was matching the menu to our budget. We pondered a bit and finally placed an order for Tomato Soup, Surmai Fry, Fish Biriyani, Neer Dosa and Veg Gassi.

Soup didn’t take long in coming and was drained in fraction of a second. We watched expectantly each time the swing door opened and a waiter emerged carrying yet another pile of mouthwatering food. The passive act of observing this kaleidoscopic tableau of food and drinks actively worked up our appetite. Our stomachs were screaming at the top of their voice by the time the food arrived. Surmai fry had a large centre portion of fish almost occupying the entire plate; succulent pieces of fish buried under a substantial heap of orange and brown Basmati rice constituted the Fish Biriyani. Infusion of turmeric and red chilly marinade gave the fish fry a distinctive taste as we chewed though the white fibrous flesh. The taste and odour of fish dominated the Biriyani, overpowering the flavour of spices. The plate of Neer Dosa had four tender rice n coconut milk Dosa’s that went wonderfully with the thick brown gravy of Veg Gassi.

Our collective sigh of satisfaction as we scraped the last bit of Biriyani and Neer Dosa out of the plate was proof of a thoroughly enjoyed evening (to be soon spoilt by a whopping bill).

Plot No. 16-17, Sector – 29, Gurgaon
Contact: 0124-4760600, 4760601

Cuisine: Mughlai, Chinese, South Indian
Free home delivery available

Cream of Tomato soup – Rs.105.00
Surmai Fry – Rs.275.00
Fish Biriyani – Rs.405.00
Veg Gassi – Rs.155.00
Plate of Neer Dosa – Rs.100.00 (4 Dosa’s per plate)
The tax guillotine: VAT – 12.5%, Service Charge – 10%, Service Tax – 12.5%, Surcharge – 5%, SCH – 5% (god knows what this one is!!)
BORN FREE, TAXED TO DEATH!!! (so goes my Tantra T-shirt logo!!!)

Ambience – 7/10, No great shakes. The place is roomy and clean
Service – 7/10, Considering the rush, a few lapses here and there are pardonable.
Food – 8/10, Taste is better than average. I really appreciate the variety on offer.
Overall – 7/10, Pretty good. Worth a visit.

Swagath Menu at Foodiebay: Click Here

Categories: Gastronomique

Stay Foolish, Stay Hungry!!!!

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday, while browsing Google Earth, I was surprised to see large swathes of yellow and brown near my home in Kerala. My impression, from a ground zero perspective of our hometown had always been of uninterrupted verdure. The satellite image was a revelation. It clearly showed that concrete houses and pineapple plantations had supplanted trees and vegetation.

Over the past few years the landscape has changed much and so has the mindset of people. This is of course not a phenomenon limited to Kerala; one finds it everywhere. In most homes, children, after education, have migrated to cities leaving behind the old to tend the farmland. Meanwhile, exorbitant labour charges, scarcity of  fertilizers, vagaries of climate, poor yield and thinner margins have rendered farming unprofitable. While traders and middlemen rake in enormous profits, farmers are left high and dry with hardly an incentive to pursue agriculture. The downturn in farming has come at a time when burgeoning population has lead to unprecedented demand for real estate, especially within commutable radius of major cities.

The nonviability of agriculture coupled with skyrocketing real estate prices have tipped the scale, converting large tracts of farmland to commercial or housing complexes. Concrete, steel and glass have substituted chlorophyll. Gurgaon is the best example of this kind of skewed development. Farmers who sold their land to the real estate mafia became millionaires overnight, owning expensive cars and sprawling mansions. They now provide car rental and real estate services to the new landlords – call centres and multinational corporations.

The rapid deterioration in extent and quality of farmland is among the root causes for the high food prices, water scarcity and extreme temperatures that we face now. These problems can be overcome only by effectively addressing the underlying causes. Dharna’s, Bandh’s, Hartal’s and Rasta Roko’s does not answer the problem at all. However, with an opposition focused on booby trapping the government to derive every miserable political mileage, we are likely to listen to more high decibel rhetoric in the days ahead, with scant attention paid to the real issues.

We are right now teetering on the brink of several crises which can blow up big and hurt us badly, unless appropriate action is taken now. What is at stake is the survival of civil society. A food scarcity can quickly dissipate our civilizational pretenses, turning us into savages. The images of stampede that we see on TV when food packets are distributed during natural calamities could very well become the order of the day. To avert such a calamity, we need to come out of the coma induced by the daily dose of morbid scandals dished out by the political, Bollywood and cricket celebrities and recognize the issues that need urgent attention. Political parties must forget their differences and forge together workable plans to tackle the problems. The need of the hour is not partisanship but partnership.

Image courtesy:

Categories: Planetwatch

Gurgaon Potpourri

February 6, 2010 3 comments


The restaurant menu was loquacious over Kashmir.
It explained Kishti as “flat-bottomed boat or light skiff used for quick transport over the waterways in Kashmir”.
The lengthy menu preamble was encyclopaedic:
“When Timur invaded India in the 15th century he unknowingly introduced to the country a cuisine that is perhaps unrivalled in the world – Wazwaan. For the first time ever, the exotic treasury of secret recipes from the renowned family of Wazwa – the master chefs of Kashmir – are made available to all those who love the cuisine of the beautiful valley. The preparation is considered an art and is traditionally done by a Vasta Wazwa, or head chef, with the assistance of a court of Wazwas, or chefs. The Waswaan is most often prepared for a big event, especially marriages. Guests are grouped into four for serving of the Wazwaan“.

With all that eloquence, my expectations soared, but fell flat in the face of incompetent service.

The restaurant was a 30 seater on one of the labyrinths of Qutub Plaza. Not really spacious; one harried waiter served all tables.

Our starter – Rista Kanti, hand pounded mutton balls shallow fried with fresh onion and spices -arrived after an interminable wait which made me wonder if the Wazwas were chasing goats out there for their balls. It eventually appeared drenched in oil and sinfully tasty. The meat had a crunchy-chewy feel marvellously augmented by supple sweet onions. My rating index which was scraping the bottom till then went up several notches.

However, our main course proved a near disaster. Roti with Lal Maas. A sudden bout of sheer stupidity made me order it, a Kishti chef speciality according to the menu. I fell for the descriptive flair – fiery hot Rajasthani meat stew gently simmered in a red chilly & spices paste, finished with desi ghee and ginger. Whoever wrote it had copious imagination and considerable genius for writing. The Lal Maas when it came was hot and fiery for sure, almost sanguinary, with thick gravy – all onion and tomato and every spice on earth; with an extra measure of salt thrown in as bonus. The mutton pieces were disappointing too. Whenever I order a mutton dish I am prepared for bones. But this one was all bones and very little meat. Clearly we were devouring the leftovers of a hunt. Mea Culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I should not have ordered a Rajasthani dish at a Kashmiri restaurant.

It is not all doom and gloom though. The silver lining is that the restaurant’s Kashmiri oeuvre definitely passes muster. But for the clumsy service, Kishti is a decent restaurant by our standards. By all means check it out. But stick to their Kashmiri fare. Core competency – see what I mean. Never stick out your neck and try the others. Or else…

Rista Kanti – Rs.165.00
Lal Maas – Rs. 230.00 ($$$)
Plain Roti – Rs.7.00 each

H-10, Qutub Plaza Market
DLF Phase – I, Gurgaon
Contact: 0124-4051991, 3020044, 3020045, 9311879607, 9310152559
Free Home Delivery Available

Kishti Foodiebay Menu: Click Here

Pind Balluchi

Pind Balluchi (see my earlier post) has an outlet within the concrete canyons of DLF Cybercity, underneath building no. 9A, opposite Mainland China. Rustic setting, earthen walls decorated with Rangoli, strategically placed musical paraphernalia – Ektara, Dhol, Tabla and flute, a corner decked in bangles, a giant plastic tree reigning over the floor, an open air Tandoor, brass studded king size chairs and tables… Inside a glass bell jar electric arcs jab a bottle of Kingfisher Premium lager beer.

Service is prompt. Much rush at noon time. To be on safer side better book a table in advance if there is a large group. But I guess one can walk in and find an empty table or two any day if you reach early.

Be sure to check out these delicacies:
Murg Malai Tikka – Succulent, drool some… (Rs. 160.00 – Six pieces)
Mushroom Kurkure – My concession to veggies. Yet Outstanding!!! (Rs.150.00 – Six pieces)
(Ever watched Inspector Clouseau’s (Steve Martin) first encounter with a hamburger in Pink Panther (2006)? This is close!)
Dahi Kebab – Finger licking good… (Rs.120.00)
Mutton Kheema Masala – Passable (Rs.180.00)
Chicken Biriyani, served in a clay pot – Passable (Rs.180.00)

Pind Balluchi
Contact: 0124-4218880
Address: Ground Floor, Building No. 9A, DLF Cybercity, Gurgaon

Pind Balluchi  Foodiebay Menu: Click Here


Apni Rasoi
This one is a little way from the DLF Cybercity office complex, but well worth dodging all those rushing cars, flying spittle and billowing dust if you are intent on a healthy vegetarian meal.

Located in one of the by lanes of Sector-31, the Rasoi is popular among locals and the singles.

Mud walls, bamboo screens, thatched roof…

Spacious, airy and clean, this place with no pretensions dish out excellent North Indian fare and very good Thali’s. It cast a vegetarian spell on a hardcore non-vegetarian like me. Even though the seating capacity is fairly large evenings here can be crowded. So be sure to reach early…

Special Thali (Dal, Paneer dish, Sabzi, Raita, Papad, sweet, rice, 4 Tawa Roti’, salad) – Rs. 70.00 (Value for money!!)

Apni Rasoi
Contact: 0124-2566088, 9873111724, 9716008892
Address: U-71/4, DLF Phase-III, Gurgaon
Accepts Ticket restaurant and Sodex Pass coupons as well.
Home delivery available.

Apni Rasoi  Foodiebay Menu: Click Here

Categories: Gastronomique

Analysis Paralysis at – did you say – Food court!!

December 21, 2009 1 comment


Food courts are a relatively novel concept in India although they have been prevalent abroad. The greatest advantage of a food court is the variety of choice which, to me, is both a boon and a bane. If you don’t have a food fixation, a food court lets you to explore and choose from a large spread, suiting every taste and budget. On the flipside, the smorgasbord of cuisines leave you vexed for choice. In a large group, thrashing out an agreement for a meal menu, pandering to every taste can be gruesome. While it has been a pleasure eating out at food courts, I have found it impossible to achieve a harmonious blend of dishes that complement each other. More often I end up with an incongruous mixture, of items that caught my fancy as I checked out various counters.

The food court at third floor of Ambience Mall is one of the largest in Gurgaon. On weekends the atmosphere is noisy and festive. From the lunch table you can watch a swirling farrago of activity play out like a movie clip – shrieking children on a carousel with kaleidoscopic blinking lights, agitated mothers, starry eyed teenagers, amorous couples, septuagenarians, young, old, high class, middle class, aspiring class, tiffs, shouts, surreptitious glances et al. There are a bewildering array of counters offering anything from burgers, street food, dosa, pizza and kebabs to wraps, noodles, sushi and gelato making it tough to reign in one’s greed.

This weekend we sauntered from counter to counter to finally assemble this totally incompatible mix.

– Slice of stuffed vegetable pizza and a plate of baked potatoes from Sbarro, the Italian counter – Total Rs. 167.00
– Vegetarian combo with noodles, Thai red curry, spring roll and dip from Sala Thai – Total Rs.100.00
– Crispy vegetable wrap and Crispy chicken katsu wrap from Sushiya, the newly opened Japanese counter – Total Rs.145.00
– Tropical Banana Walnut ice cream from Fruzen – Total Rs. 39.00

Stuffed with paneer, sautéed onions and a smattering of tomato puree, the pizza tasted good even though it did not contain any vegetables. I was grateful to Sbarro for providing good quality plastic fork and knife. Crisp and medium spiced, the baked potato was savory too.

The Thai red curry went well with noodles, but had a faint ‘fishy’ whiff enough to put off vegetarians. The spring roll was crunchy. Nothing to write home about, but the combo lived up to our modest expectations.

Sushiya, the Japanese counter had opened only a week back. They had vegetarian sushi priced at Rs.25.00 each.  When I went to the counter to check, the sushi appeared tiny and not particularly appetizing. I struck up a conversation with Benny, the counter manager and found that Sushiya had seven outlets in Delhi already. Founded by Varun Modgil, the chain offered various combinations of sushi including ‘cosmopolitan zed’ (I guess, this meant modified for mass consumption) versions. Wasabi, the pungent accompaniment of sushi was imported by Sushiya from Japan, assured Benny. Anyways, in the end, we took wraps. The vegetarian wrap with large onion chunks and generous vegetable stuffing was delicious. The chicken wrap, with a substantial bulk of katsu (deep fried chicken strips) and salad dressing was also outstanding. It could give a run for your money to KFC Twister any day. Guess I’ll be back for more, sooner than later.

The tropical banana walnut ice cream from Fruzen is one of my personal favourites. I have had it countless times and ennui is yet to strike.

Despite the ludicrous combination, the meal was satisfactory. The food court by juxtaposing the most unlikely cuisines, in my opinion achieves a surrealistic eloquence a la Salvador Dali or Gaudi. Grotesque, bordering on the ridiculous, yet infinitely sublime. Am I going overboard? Happens to me, especially after screwball meals…

Click the link to visit Sushiya: Link
Foodiebay link to Sbarro menu: Link
Foodiebay link to Sala Thai menu: Link

Categories: Gastronomique

Instant Gratification – Guaranteed!!

December 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Consider this hypothetical scenario:

You have been working all morning. You have forgotten to bring lunch. It is 1.00 PM. You are on planet Earth. You are in the Republic of India. You are in Gurgaon. You office is in DLF Cybercity. And there is this sudden irrepressible craving for biryani welling up from your abdominal abyss.

You bring up Google maps, type Hyderabadi Biryani and click locate. This is what you got.

Did you say ‘voila’? Probably, not. You realize, with a jolt, that Google cannot provide you all the answers. QED.

How will you cope up with this existential dilemma? What will you do next?
Here is what you can do. Grab you wallet and walk over to Dhakshini in DLF Cybergreen food court. And what would you find there? An ocean of bowed heads wolfing Hyderabadi Biryani, yes you heard it right, ecstasy and deep spiritual contentment etched vividly over their faces. So you walk over to the counter, pay a hundred bucks, collect the steel thali with its round plantain leaf and a large bowl of biryani with an aromatic chicken leg delicately poised on top, a half moon of an egg beside it and two small bowls – chicken curry and raita on the side, make way through the human wall and pounce on an empty chair. The universe awaits in hushed silence as you transfer biryani to the plate and with infinite delicacy, scoops a large spoonful into your salivating mouth. 3 seconds elapse. Big Bang! Birth of cosmos, an explosive decompression of space, time and gravitation sends you reeling across the floor. You recover and the same eternal bliss you noticed on others, permeate you. As you fork the last grain of rice off the plate, you thank providence for granting life next door to this biryani paradise.

Let me assure you, I’m not kidding. But again, it was just a hypothetical scenario and you know where they eventually lead to – gastronomic hyperboles!!!

Had enough of hypothetical scenarios? I am dying to give you another… Maybe another time…

But I cannot leave you without a mention of the ultimate momo experience in Gurgaon. This one is ‘Cheap and Best’. And you would go back for more, I assure you. I have been doing it for the past five years… Check out chicken and veg momos at ‘Cj’s MOMO’ outside Big Bazaar food court at Sahara Mall. It is a momo benchmark. The dark red chilly dip sends tear drops splattering to the floor and your hand-to-mouth co-ordination falters as each momo sets your head spinning… More like a hallucinatory experience… Go for it…

(A Unit of Andhra Bhavan)
KF-10 & 11, 1st Floor,
Foodcourt, Tower-C,
DLF Cybergreen,
R-Block, DLF City,
Gurgaon – 122002
Tel: 0124-3224441
For Delivery Call: 9311953179
Dhakshini also serves other exotic dishes such as Chicken Dosa, Keema Dosa and Egg Dosa.


Big Bazaar, 2nd Floor,
Sahara Mall,
Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, Gurgaon
Tel: 9811301499/ 9810869608 – Call only after 12.00 Noon


Categories: Gastronomique

Vada Pav & Volcano on a Friday Evening

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Friday evening, unable to resist a sudden craving for junk food, we landed up at DT Mega Mall. The food court used to be a lively place, but seemed poorly lit and dull this time around. Some of our favourite counters, “Lemon & Thyme” and “Simply South” had shut shop. Apart from the usual suspects – “Subway”, “McDonald’s”, “Dominos” and “Lavazza”, the other surviving members of the original cast were “Salad Bar”, “Sip’n Bite” and “Viva Hyderabadi”. Among the new counters scattering the floor, one served crêpe and another Vada Pav, the quintessential, lip smacking Maharashtrian benediction to mankind.

Amchi Mumbai Vada Pav sold varieties of Vada Pav ranging from regular to cheese and paneer versions as well as Vada Pav combos. We took a regular one with Brown Bread. The Vada was promptly fried before our eyes and handed over sizzling hot stuffed inside Pav with a smattering of dry red chutney and a lightly sauteed green chilly. Can’t say it was a match to the bona fide Mumbai edition, but came pretty close. I felt the Vada Pav of Ashva’s Fast Food (Check my previous blog – Serendipitous Delights) was better, particularly since it come with oodles of coconut chutney. But, Amchi Mumbai was right around the corner whereas Ashva’s was way too far to be bothered for a quick Vada Pav snack.

The Vada Pav only stocked our appetite. So we gathered a potpourri of dishes from different counters and finished dinner. Finally, to top it all, we went and ordered a Choco Lava cake from Dominos which proved to be the nemesis of a perfect evening. The very first scoop erupted in my mouth; seismic sugar waves surged through the blood stream as the viscous chocolate lava trickled down my gullet. It was nauseatingly sweet. Do not offer this to friends; reserve it for your enemies – it can be the sweetest personal vendetta.

Epilogue:-Avoid this hellfire confection, period!!!

The food court also featured Go Chaatz, a Semi-Americanized version of Desi Chat. I found their signature item, Papdi Popper quite good. Recommended…

Categories: Gastronomique

Swiftly Down the Ganges

December 9, 2009 2 comments

Whitewater rafting had always fascinated us. When our friend proposed a rafting trip, we quickly made arrangements with Mercury Himalayan Explorations (MHE) who ran a river rafting camp near Shivpuri, 14 Km from Rishikesh.

Late evening last Thursday we caught the Delhi Metro to Chandni Chowk, crossed the underground passage to Old Delhi Railway Station and boarded a crowded and noisy Mussoorie Express to Haridwar. Next day morning, sleepless, bleary eyed and late we proceeded by taxi to the camp. The road between Rishikesh and Shivpuri was dug up for road widening which further delayed our arrival. We got our first taste of a rapid as we boarded a raft (middle oar type) to cross over to the opposite bank of the river where the camp stood perched along a stretch of sandbar below a cliff. Once ashore, we were showed to spacious, well carpeted twin bed tents.

As soon as we finished breakfast, the taxi took us 11 km upstream to Marine Drive for our first rafting trip. The crew helped us into wetsuit, life jacket and helmet. Rajan, the veteran raft captain from Nepal with a scintillating smile instructed us on rafting basics. Our raft was bright yellow, NRS (“Not Really Safe” – joked Rajan) make self bailing type. Once all were comfortable with raft safety and commands (forward hard, forward easy, left back, right back, get down, stop etc) we went midstream and practiced paddling for a while before taking off. A one man safety kayak followed in our wake.

Soon we hit the first rapid, ‘Investment’, a relatively tame one over which we swayed along coming to terms with rafting techniques. On the second rapid, supported on paddles, we stood up on the raft. It was exciting to feel the jerk and pull and lurch of the raft precariously balanced on the edge. Between rapids we drifted serenely along calm stretches of river, gently paddling forward, chatting and taking in the scenery. We could hear the gurgle of mountain springs. Cormorants sunned on enormous black boulders; a bird or two flitted by. There were numerous camps along the shore. At times someone shouted and our raft crew answered back.

Near each rapid we braced ourselves for the wallop and paddled furiously to obtain the optimum angle of the raft to negotiate the rapid. Rajan barked commands from the rear and steered us expertly over rapids as spray fringed walls of water crashed into the raft drenching us. We closed our eyes and dug in the heels as wave after wave slammed into our faces. The rush of adrenalin, the fright and the sense of accomplishment one feels upon crossing each convulsing rapid is indescribable.

At the body surfing rapid, we jumped off the raft, swallowing mouthfuls of (holy) water and clutching the raft for dear life. Once we let go off the raft, we floated down river, buoyed by the life jacket. The water was cold and scary, but the proximity of the raft and safety kayak was reassuring. Borne on the gentle current, we floated face up watching clouds, passing hills, dark menacing scree, blanched sandbanks and overhanging trees, swimming occasionally and listening to hushed ripples, sporadic bird calls and the pervasive silence of the forest. When we signaled, the crew hauled us back on the raft by our life jacket.

More rapids, bearing exotic names – ‘Black Money’, ‘Crossfire’, ‘Terminator’, ‘Three Blind Mice’, left us breathless. By the time we crossed ‘Back to the Sender’ and returned to the camp, we had completely forgotten the lack of sleep and exhaustion and had become die hard whitewater rafting fanatics.

After lunch we did a bit of kayaking. Balancing the one man kayak with the back erect and paddling from side to side was difficult. It took a while to learn the way the kayak responded to paddling. Even with the safety raft present, it terrified us to thrust the kayak into the tail end current of the rapid. Kayaking was followed by tea and adventure activities like flying fox, valley crossing, Burma Bridge and rappelling under the constant vigil of camp staff.

The evening camp fire was enlivened by snacks (chilly chicken, peanut salad and potato fingers) and rafting/ trekking stories. After dinner we came back and sat around the smoldering embers of the camp fire. The somber stillness of night was shattered by the roar of the river; shafts of vehicle headlights intermittently swept across black hills. Conversation petered out as the faint glow of stars, the scarlet radiance of hot embers and the rhythmic flow of the river threw a blanket of reflective silence over us. We found hot water bags under the blanket when we returned to the tent. Lulled by the warmth, I soon sunk into deep slumber as a few confused images of the day flashed across my mind.

The camp site was part of Rajaji National Park. Early next morning we went for a nature walk and trekked across the surrounding hills for about 3 kms till the river bank. Curry plants dotted the trail. Occasionally we heard barking deer. Every forest has a ghost story to tell. Tanzin Angel and Surender from the camp who accompanied us on the trek showed us the house of Sikander who was murdered by villagers. His widow, unable to bear the pain committed suicide. The camp site and surrounding forest are supposedly haunted by the ghosts of this tragic couple. Thankfully the spirits were in abeyance during our visit.

After breakfast, we rafted down from the camp to Nim Beach (near Laxman Jhulah).There were grade III and grade IV rapids in this lap – ‘Double Trouble’, ‘Roller Coaster, ‘Tee Off’, ‘Golf Course’, ‘Brahmapuri’ and many others. Our safety kayak capsized while crossing ‘Golf Course’. Fortunately, the kayak was quickly recovered and soon we were underway. At ‘Any Session Body Surfing’ rapid, we jumped off the raft and body surfed for a while. Cliff jumping was the scariest part of this adventure. I was in two minds as I stood on the cliff edge and looked down into the river. Finally, egged on by the crew, I jumped off the cliff looking straight ahead, arms close to the body and clutching the life jacket. The experience lasted only a few moments, but was sufficient for a lifetime.

After lunch we bade goodbye to the camp, thanking the staff profusely for their bounteous hospitality. Back in Haridwar to catch the train! Another weary night on the crowded and filthy Mussoorie Express and we returned regretfully to our encumbered lives.

The trip was a uniquely thrilling experience. The spirit of camaraderie and shared adventure was beyond comparison. For once, Ganga, the holy river, instead of quenching our thirst left us craving for more.

We were afraid that December would be too cold for rafting. Surprisingly, it turned out to be pleasant, thanks to global warming. Indiscriminate tree felling and rampant construction is taking its toll of Rishikesh as well. But we found a ray of hope in the following scene. Truly, India Shinig….

The title is an adaptation of Eric Newby’s book “Slowly Down the Ganges“.

Adventure Gear recommended by Mercury Himalayan Explorations:
Shorts/tights for trekking
Sun hat/cap
Track pant
Floaters for rafting
Sun glasses with case
Torch – There are hurricane lamps along every path in the camp. But it is better to carry torch if you do not want to stuble and fall.
Water proof sun block lotion
Personal first aid kit (also available in camp)
Personal toileteries
Do not carry more than one bag per person.
Do not carry hard suitcases. Carry only soft bags.

MHE offers 3 river rafting packages at Shivpuri
Package 1: 1 Night, 1 Day. Rs.2900/- per person. Includes 1 rafting trip
Package 2: 1 Night, 2 Days. Rs.3500/- per person. Includes 2 rafting trips
Package 3: 2 Nights, 3 Days. Rs.5200/- per person. Includes 3 rafting trips
Local Transport for drop at Marine Drive and pickup from Nim Beach – MHE can arrange but will charge Rs.200/- per person
Taxes Applicable
Camp is closed from mid June till mid September
MHE New Delhi Contact Details:
Mr. Sharfaraz Choudhary
Mercury Himalayan Explorations
Jeevan Tara Building
Parliament Street, New Delhi – 110001
Phone: (+91-11) 23340033, 23346209
(M) (+91) 9990037336

MHE Beach Camp Contact Details:
Mr. Ramakant
Phone: (+91-1378) 261615
(M) +91-9410367492

A very reliable taxi service:
Mobile: (+91) 9410560099
Deep Tour & Travel
Near Gujrat Samaj, Jessa Ram road, Haridwar – 249401
Alternate contact numbers: (+91) 9412072550/ 9837022236

Particularly helpful Camp Personnel:
Tanzin Angel: Currently runs a camp near Keylong with his brother. Aspires to setup his own camp at his native Lahaul in the next 6 months.
Contact details – You can find him in Orkut.
Mobile: (+91) 9418361559

Surender: Another Lahaul native. Adventure freak.
Contact details – You can find him in Facebook.

4041/ 4042 Mussoorie Express: We goofed up on our choice of train. Please do not take this one. It does not run on time.
Mussoorie Express starts from Old Delhi Railway Station (Station Code – DLI). Chandni Chowk Metro Station has an underground passage which connects to the Old Delhi Railway Station.

Categories: Totternama

Pauri – Demure Virgin of Garhwal

December 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I rate the journey to Pauri as a milestone in our travel escapades. Pauri was 1814 meters above mean sea level on the slope of Kandoliya hills in the Pauri Garhwal ranges of Uttarakhand, over 400 kilometers from Gurgaon.

I was deeply apprehensive about driving in the hills and my wife had a hard time allaying fears and prodding me into action. However, upon hitting the road, all fears evaporated and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

Khoh River

We started off early morning from Gurgaon, touched Ghaziabad in an hour, took the meticulously hidden turn to Meerut, climbed a flyover, got on to GT Road and raced down NH58. Meerut was chaotic – pathetic roads, lumbering tractors, baffling signage. Sympathetic passersby helped us to negotiate the labyrinthine streets and guided us till Mawana/ Bijnor road.

Chir Pines

Where the road bifurcated to Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor, we stopped for tea and a quick bite at Monty Million restaurant. Beyond Bijnor, we passed several small towns, Kiratpur, Najibabad, crowded with people and cattle. Soon the straight roads lined with paddy and maize fields gave way to winding roads. Far ahead, the Garhwal Himalayas swung into view and formed a constant back drop to the panorama.

We entered Kotdwara hungry, expectant and anxious of the mountain terrain. ‘Eats’ restaurant where we lunched served us Parantha, special Dal and tea along with detailed directions for the onward journey. We filled fuel at Kotdwara and climbed along the milky white Khoh River for a while with eyes riveted to the road dodging speeding jeeps and skirting potholes. At Dugadda a branch road led to Landsdowne. The majestic splendour Shivalik mountains unfolded over a hazy grey horizon, rolling hills and terraces of paddy as we edged past Gumkhal village and gently descended to Satpuli town.

Bad news! The regular route was closed for repair. We crossed a bridge, went past the toll gate at Banghat and took the alternate route via Kanskhet. Bilkhet, Banekh, Ghandiyal, Banjkhal, went milesstones announcing roadside villages. The silver trickle of a river meandered through the valley to our left, flanked by fields in varying shades of green and yellow. Distant peaks shimmied in a play of light and shadow under the slanting afternoon sun.


Evening advanced upon us sooner than expected. Nervous, we eagerly watched each milestone, counting the remaining distance to Pauri. As we emerged from the forest into the faint crimson afterglow of the setting sun, the town sprung upon us. We breathed a huge sigh of relief as we reached the GMVN guest house overlooking the valley at quarter to seven.

Kyunkaleshwar Mandir

 A spectacular daybreak! I lazily watched snow bound peaks of Neelkanth and Chaukhamba floating over cotton ball clouds through diaphanous curtains. The morning air was crisp, fresh, exhilarating. After breakfast we set out for Khirsu, driving through a breathtakingly picturesque vista of oak and deodar. After lunch we visited Kandoliya Mandir, the temple of the local mountain goddess located high-up on the mountain with amazing views of the town and valley and Kyunkaleshwar Mandir, an 8th century temple complex with splendid vernacular architecture.

Alakananda River

Next day, we went to Srinagar located downhill of Pauri, by the river Alakananda. Being on the pilgrim trail, the town was busy, noisy and hot. After a brief visit to the river we returned to Pauri.

Pauri has been spared the inevitable tourist commotion and associated distractions since it doesn’t figure prominently in the tourist circuit. The forests are still pristine, unmolested by tourist litter. People are hospitable and sport a ready smile and an eager helping hand.

With our recollections flavoured with a sense of adventure, achievement, elation and serenity, we departed from Pauri early morning retracing the trail to our wound up, preoccupied lives.

Contact Details
GMVN Tourist Rest House, Pauri 01368-222359, Mr. Joshi

For GMVN Rest House booking contact main office at Rishikesh: 0135-2431793

Photo Courtesy: Subha Varma

Categories: Totternama