Thursday, June 02, 2005

There Is Absolutely No Place Like Home

Berlin was the last bit of the ride with my job. As my earlier post mentioned I am now jobless and trying hard not to be aimless as well. Tough when one can wake up at 11am without a pang of guilt, but hey, what’s a gal to do!

So India……every time I go to India, no matter what the season, I fall ill. It’s only ever fever – something to do with change in temperature from the insipid weather here. In September 2003 I had 104 deg fever for 2 days. Even then deliriously high fever did not stop me from an enjoyable evening with friends at that time. Well this time as if on cue I developed 104 degrees temperature within 4 days of joy and merriment in Delhi.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Almost every Indian (currently NRI) couple we meet come back from their holiday in India with tales of the marvellous shopping, posh places to eat in their hometown, enjoyment of being home, fights with the pollution & dust and the endless mineral water to keep away from germs. Armed with all this ‘current’ information, 1 and ½ years in which to process it and a slightly overactive imagination, I landed in Delhi with tears in my eyes (living away and growing older - the two ingredients for sentimentality). It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away or what weather you’ve got used to, home is always home – and for me DELHI spells HOME.

My 104 only lasted 2 days and neither of those did it stop me from venturing out and exploring my city. This bout of fever confirmed my suspicions – I fall ill the minute I see my mum. No, no I don’t mean that in any rude way, rather as flattering compliment. In all my time in the UK I have fallen ill very rarely, just one bout of flu last year. No colds, scrapes, muscle pulls etc. With this second set of fever, one on each trip to Delhi, it’s confirmed – my body only allows me to fall ill when it knows my mum is around to tuck me into bed, put a cold compress on my forehead, feed me soothing soup and comforting words. I know it all sounds improbable and is probably coincidental but psychologically its comforting that I need my parents and that despite my home now being in London with V, Delhi continues to be my home and not just my parents house…..

Delhi is well on its way becoming a world class city. The nanosecond of apprehension as to the germs and pollution were wiped away in a blink. I regularly define myself as someone born and brought up in Delhi and being a foodie I had a long list of things I had been warned about – don’t eat on the side of the road, chaat is made from ‘kharab’ paani, drink mineral water, eat malaria tablets, only eat home cooked food you can trust etc. I ignored every single warning. Beside 3 meals cooked by my mom I ate every single meal out – with my parents, my best buddies, my brother-in-law and his wife (who came all the way from Bombay to see me - YAY!). Delhi is fast becoming a city of flyovers each one ironing out the crinkled, crumpled mess on the roads. Construction of the Metro in congested Connaught Place has made things difficult for the moment but only a moment (yes, breathe deep and think of it as a blink in time) and when its all done they will wonder how they lived without it. Vasant Kunj and Gurgaon are no longer the ‘burbs’, instead very much part of the buzzing South Delhi area. And restaurants – where do I begin – new ones have sprouted up in every corner. Name the cuisine and there it is. I had loads of memorable meals, including chaat in Bengali market and momo’s from a childhood haunt side-of-the-road van, neither of which made me fall ill. It's confirmed: my stomach is a desi stomach, lined with iron!!!

Shopping was very much on my list but I ended up not buying too much stuff. It was not restraint in any form, just me being completely dazzled but the range of choice. There is nothing you can no longer get in India. Everywhere I went the city seemed to be buzzing, teeming with people eager to spend their moolah and time and no dearth of places to spend it on. Every brand, every product – it’s all available. At the other end there are lovely hand made things, crafts, jewellery art – all ethnic and oh so beautiful. I loved it, every minute of wandering in Delhi was like being in a new city. I saw everything with new eyes. It is true that you appreciate all the things you took for granted when you no longer have constant access to them – distance does make the heart fonder!

So here’s where I ate, with a line or two of 'opinion':
Olive Bar & Kitchen: One Style Mile, 6-8, Qutub Haveli, Sarai Kalkadass Marg
New Delhi – 110030
Lovely evening under a banyan tree in the courtyard in Olive with 3 friends and my parents. Magical with candlelight, cool breeze (yes, at the end of April!) and scrumptious food.

Bauji ka Dhaba: Metropolitan Plaza, Gurgaon
V and I were frequent visitors to original Bauji ka Dhaba in Hauz Khas. Went there to eat lunch after watching ‘Hitch’ at PVR. And although this one in Gurgaon is done as tastefully as the original, you can’t get away from the fact that it is in a very busy mall and lacks the village (albeit fake) charm and pace. The food also seemed rushed and not nearly as good. For the original stuff go to Bauji ka Dhaba, Hauz Khas Village, Near Deer Park, New Delhi 110016

Thai Wok: 1091/1 Ambavatta Complex, Mehrauli, New Delhi – 110030. Tel: (011)2664-4289
Excellent Thai food and a grand view of the Qutab from the roof terrace. Unfortunately it was two hot to sit out in the middle of the day, but since I’ve done that before I can safefly say it’s a grand experience. The food was outstanding as always.

Bengali Sweet House: 27 - 37 Bengali Market, New Delhi – 110001. Tel: (011)3311855/ 3319224
Still the best chaat in town. The only problem is the crowds. Small, cramped tables and endless people (who obviously had nowhere better to be on a weekday mid-morning) standing around your table watching your every bite as if to goad you on. The chaat is as delicious as ever, and I guess the atmosphere would be shot if it changed and became some up market boutique type thing. So I take back the problem bit; it is not to be missed.

Saravana Bhavan: 46 Janpath, New Delhi 110001. Tel: (011)2331 7755
This is new to Delhi but familiar to me from my days of living in Madras. This one lives up to its reputation and serves up world class South Indian food in a clean, air conditioned prime location. Ate the thali and loved it! Delhi has 3 now and London has 2 branches. We have yet to try it out. It’s on our list for next weekend!

We also ate a super Chinese restaurant near home but the name evades me. Needless to say I’m back in London and slowly hunting for a job. Had terrible flu all of last week – fever, sore throat, the works. That was just to prove my mom-loves-me-and-I only-have-flu-when-she’s-around! Anyway, I’m better and back and will post more often....


  1. Oh! You are so right..There's absolutely NO place like home!

    Your post reminded me of my life back in, friends, and the other goodies - chaat at Bengla Sweets, steaming idlis at Saravana Bhavan, ...mmmmmm! I wanna go home!!!

  2. Never said it because I didn't manage it - missed out on dilliwala butter chicken Tan! Ate plenty of chicken tikka and assorted tandoori stuff. Came back atleast a few pounds heavier for the effort!!!!

  3. Just came back last night from Bombay. I think a similar post is in the offing. Home is a little southwest of Delhi for me :-)

  4. Parth, I can imagine the homesickness the first few days back bring on 'cos I'm just about getting over a prolonged bout of it! Hope you had fun. Will be following the post....