To live in Delhi doesn’t necessarily mean that you know it as well. India’s capital and the melting pot of multiculturalism, Delhi is a historical city. Best described in the words of proverbial ‘dirty old man’ – writer and historian Khushwant Singh in his celebrated novel ‘Delhi’, Delhi is the land of saints and sultans, still living in the shadows of colonial hangover and power-hungry politicians.
For all those young and restless yuppies, who are itching to know the best watering holes of the city, Mayank Austen Soofi’s (the man behind Delhi Walla blog) three-part series city guides offer a kaleidoscopic view of Delhi in all its hues.
According to Khushwant Singh, “If anyone knows and loves Delhi, it is Mayank. He has the knack of bringing out the unusual from the usual, and presenting the city in a different light.”
Collins Publishing production, ‘The Delhi Walla Hangouts’ is short, sweet, playful and lucidly written in an insightful manner which will appeal to Delhiites as well as foreign backpackers who wish to discover the city’s hangouts. The book is neatly divided into seven parts – Shop, Stroll, Play, Eat, Breathe, Muse and Explore, which gives a fair idea about the city retreats – right from vintage Chandni Chowk to the up-town Select Citywalk.
The first part of ‘The Delhi Walla Hangout’ is dedicated to shopaholics. Keeping in mind the cosmopolitan nature of the city, Delhi has plenty of shopping centres which cater to various income groups. Right from those who belong to the higher echelons of society to the middle-class babus, Delhi does not discriminate and welcomes everyone with open arms. When in the hub of Delhi - Connaught Place, don’t miss Delhi’s first air-conditioned underground market Palika Bazaar, Janpath’s flea market and the dimly-lit @Live Bar and Blues – a favourite music joint.
In Khan Market, the star attractions include Good Earth home decors, Fabindia clothing house, Big Chill, Cafe Turtle, Chonas, Blanco and Choko La eateries and Bahrisons Booksellers and Full Circle bookshop.
For art conscious aesthetes, South Delhi’s Dilli Haat is the hub of exotic crafts which looks like a North Indian village with a melange of folk art, Madhubani paintings, Kullu shawls, Punjabi jootis, Rajasthani cholis, Kohlapuri chappals, brass statues, wicker chairs and lot many other things. Do visit Dilli Haat during Dastkar Mela or the Delhi Utsav and savour delicious food in the stalls.
A haven for bargains, Sarojini Nagar market is an open-market, a “people’s bazaar” which dishes out all unimaginable stuff at one place.
For the up-town savvy shoppers, ritzy ‘Select Citywalk’ is the right place to “buy jeans from Zara, tote bags from Mango and shirts from Promod.” Spread over three floors and armed with twenty one eating joints and one forty apparel stores, Citywalk is a dream come true for shoppers.
If you are on a trip to Basant Lok market, check out Punjabi by Nature, Choko La, RPM and Turquoise Cottage.
Coming to central Delhi, Karol Bagh is the perfect shopping destination. Right from the clothing stores of Ajmal Khan Road to the electronics haven Ghaffar Market, Karol Bagh bursts with shoppers from every part of the city.
Delhi’s fashion frat is a regular at Shahpur Jat – an “artsy, boisterous, chaotic, dusty and historical” place known for its fashion boutiques and tailoring shops.
The second part of ‘The Delhi Walla Hangouts’ is dedicated to Strolling places such as Hauz Khas Village, Majnu Ka Tila, Paharganji, Matia Mahal and Chandni Chowk.
While at Hauz Khas, make sure you visit the famous Kunzum Travel Cafe, Cottage of Art and Jewels, Indian Art Bazaar, Gung Korean Royal Gallery, Yodakin bookstore, Cotton Curio’s clothes store and draperies, Naivedyam and Gunpowder restaurant and The Living Room Cafe and Kitchen aka TLR.
When on a visit to Majnu Ka Tila - “Delhi’s Little Lhasa”, do check out the Dolma House for its steamed momos, thupkas, thenthuck and strawberry lassi. Another interesting place is The Coffee Shop which bursts with “Tibetology” and young and vibrant crowd.
“A haven for Western backpackers, Paharganj encapsulates the essence of white man’s India.” When in Paharganj, do visit the Appetite restaurant, Sam’s rooftop cafe and the German Bakery. Imperial Cinema and Jackson’s bookstore are equally famous.
Matia Mahal bazaar “is straight out of the Arabian Nights” and is famous for its Mughal era charm. It’s a gourmand’s delight with places like Kalan Sweets, Karim’s, Al Sahi Chicken Corner and clothing stores like Amaan Garments and Fashion Zone.
When at Chandni Chowk, one cannot afford to miss the “secular” view of India with Hindus and Muslims walking alongside each other. Must visit places include Digambar Jain Mandir, Baptist Church, Seesganj Gurudwara, Fatehpuri Masjid, Old Famous Jalebiwala, Haldiram and Amritsari Lassiwalla.
The third section of ‘The Delhi Walla Hangouts’ is dedicated to all those squirmy kids, who are waiting for some unadulterated fun. For kids, Delhi can be fun; do check out the National Science Centre, Delhi Zoo, National Rail Museum and Adventure Island.
The fourth section is a gastronome’s delight for it includes Delhi’s choicest eateries like Cafe Turtle, Indian Coffee House, Big Chill, Everest Cafe, Route 04 and 4S.
Khan Market’s Cafe Turtle is a retreat for jazz enthusiasts – armed with pure vegetarian cuisine, soft interiors with black and white pictures of Jazz artists splattered on the wall, Cafe Turtle steals the show.
Connaught Place’s Indian Coffee House reeks with nostalgia of a bygone age. Established in circa 1957, stewards in Indian Coffee House wear uniform and tea is still served in a teapot. Albeit, the Indian Coffee House has a languid, yet addictive charm.
Khan Market’s Big Chill is celebrated for its blueberry cheesecake apart from its milk shakes, baked potato, pasta and pizzas. It’s a perfect place to celebrate birthdays, dates, lunches and even “gluttony.”
Paharganj’s Everest Cafe has a Nepali connection as its owner hails from Nepali descent. Right from the cuisine and ambience, Everest Cafe is a mini Nepal. Check out its Nepali thali and flip pages of classics like ‘War and Peace’ and ‘David Copperfield’.
Route 04 and 4S are situated at Khan Market and Defence Colony respectively. Route 04 has a 90s feel, complete with cheap booze and rock and roll theme while Defence Colony’s 4S is more popular with 80s generation.
Okay, in case you are tired of all the shopping and sightseeing, it’s time to catch some fresh air and take a walk in Delhi’s parks: CP’s Central Park, Lodhi Garden, Hauz Khas’ Dear Park, Chanakyapuri’s Nehru Park, Dhaula Kaun’s Buddha Jayanti Park and Ring Road’s Indraprastha Park. Some of the other interesting places to chill out include Hailey Road near Barakhamba Road, India International Centre at Max Muller Marg and tonga rides near New Delhi railway station (Paharganj).
The second last section of ‘The Delhi Walla Hangouts’ is dedicated to the intellectuals and artistic people of cultivated taste and manners. Muse includes National Museum, NGMA, Mandi House, Timeless Art Book Studio and India Habitat Centre.
With over two lakh exhibits and five thousand years of history, the past once again becomes present in the National Museum. Do check out the galleries dedicated to Harrapan period, Maurya dynasty, Mughal dynasty, Satvahna art and Buddhist relics.
When at NGMA – National Gallery of Modern Art, feast your eyes over Arturo Pacheco Altamiran’s Ships at Anchor, Mesard Berber’s Chronicle of Sarajevo, works of Amrita Shergill and assorted art of Indian contemporary artists like Satish Gujral, Tyeb Mehta, FN Souza, SH Raza and MF Hussain. Don’t miss the photographs of Raghu Rai, Ketaki Seth and Dayanita Singh.
Mandi House is a paradise for talented performers. Triveni Kala Sangam is Delhi’s most coveted venue to exhibit paintings and photographs. Kamani Auditorium showcases Bharat Natyam performances to Shakespearean comedies and Krishna Lila. The National School of Drama is school for actors, playwrights and directors. Other cultural places include Rabindra Bhavan, Shri Ram Centre of Performing Arts, FICCI Auditorium, Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Academy, Sapru House Library, Sangeet Natak Academy and Meghdoot Theatre Complex.
South Extension I’s Timeless Art Book Studio showcases the most expensive coffee table books under one roof. Well, this is not just any ordinary coffee table bookstore, it has a plasma TV, lecterns, love seats, rocking chairs and “hold your pyjamas” – a double bed!
Lodhi Road’s India Habitat Centre is the cultural hub which is popular for dance performances, music concerts, book readings and art exhibitions.
The last section of ‘The Delhi Walla Hangouts’ is dedicated to Sufi spaces, Daryaganj book bazaar and gay hangouts. For spiritual seekers, Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Bibi Fatima and Matka Pir’s dargah attract people from all over India. Then there is Khwaja Baqi Billah’s shrine in Sadar Bazaar and Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki’s dargah in Mehrauli.
Daryaganj’s weekly book bazaar is a treasure trove for the lovers of classics, memoirs, quiz books, pulp fiction, coffee table books, art books and foreign magazine which come at cheap price.
Lastly, if you are happy and ‘gay’, the most happening watering hole Pegs N’ Pints is waiting for you and so are the likes of Cibo in Hotel Janpath, Ai in MGF Metropolitan Mall and Baci in Sundar Nagar.
Enjoy your date with Delhi Walla and know more about amazing places of your city, our Delhi.