Monday, 28 July 2014

Travel Guide: Jama Masjid and an Iftar Food Walk

This post is a Eid special. And while I write it most of the countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia Europe, America and Canada celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr today marking the end of a month long period of fasting, Ramadan (Ramzan). In India, it's tomorrow.

In celebration of Ramadan, Eid and in a way Chand Raat* my family, friends and I visited the famous streets around the Jama Masjid (Masjid-i Jahān-Numā)  in Delhi. 

View of Jama Masjid while there was still light.
The streets were wonderfully busy as people on their roza (fast) went about purchasing food and getting ready for their prayers. Around 7:45, the as the sunset, two loud firecrackers announced the end of the roza. I couldn't help but watch curiously as everybody nibbled on a small food item and drank some water. It was a strangely calming sight. You would imagine these people would be starving after an entire day of no water and food. If they were, they showed no signs. Shopkeepers, vendors and restaurant servers alike ate nothing more than maybe one khajoor (dates) or some fruit. It was so cute to see that vendors gave away small snacks for open to open their fasts.
A very blurry picture of a Khajoor vendor.
View of Jama Masjid at dusk (above) from Meena Bazaar (below)

Once the sun sets, special lighting all around the Masjid are switched on making for a spectacular view. Our food walk began in street just opposite the Jama Masjid. About 100m away from it's beginning is a nondescript eatery where an old man is cutting up meat. A large bain-marie is boiling away with hot oil. This shop goes by the name of Haji Mohammed Hussain. 

They sell the most amazing fish and chicken fry. I kid you not. The food is marinated in a mix of spices that have remained a secret. The food is plated up straight from the pan. Served with chutney, a sprinkle of masala and round onions, the taste is orgasmic. The chicken is succulent and delicious, breaking apart as you bite into. One of the finest fried chicken ever served.

We couldn't get enough of this chicken but moved, quite unwillingly, back down the lane to the Masjid, entering the street perpendicular to it for some mouth-watering kebabs. Perhaps, some may have a problem with the hygiene at this particular taste but perhaps for some the taste would be worth the risk. The kebabs are soft and melt in the mouth. 
Popular indoor restaurant Al Jawahar
As impossible as it seems, we weren't done yet. ate at the popular Al Jawahar. It's touted as the undiscovered Karim's and since I've been too Karim's, I felt that it was the right time to compare the two. 
Al Jawar is a nice restaurant. I wanted to write little but it's not. It has extended into three floors of a medium-sized seating arrangement that is comfortable and provides full A.C. There was a waiting to get a table but because the service is so coordinated and fast, we didn't have to wait long - even though we were nine people!

We ordered a Sheer Mal, Romali Roti, Tandoori chicken, Afghan chicken, and biryani. I wanted Nihari but it was only available in the morning hours - huge bummer for me because I'd been waiting for that the entire evening. I know it's hard to imagine.

Unfortunate as it was, I didn't enjoy the food at Al Jawahar as much as people had said I would. Sheer Mal which is sweet bread was definitely fantastic - better than Karim's. But the biryani and the chicken were nothing special. It was a pity because they were made so well but I suggest Karim's Nihari. To top off the meal, we ate phirni - a traditional rice pudding delicacy which was alright as I have eaten better but it was perfect end to the night.
Phirni, a traditional dessert (rice pudding) at Al Jawahar

Meena Bazaar on the foot of Jama Masjid, Gate 

Before the sunset

After the breaking of the Roza, the lights came to life.
Here's a video of when the azaan started. Just wanted to sit and listen forever. 

How to get there: Take the metro to Chawri Bazaar and then a rickshaw to the Jama Masjid.

So here's the Food Guide to Jama Masjid. To everyone, Eid Mubarak, especially to our friends in Gaza. May Allah guide you and bless you with peace, happiness and prosperity. 

*eve of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Travel Guide : The Westin Sohna Resort & Spa

View from the window - The Westin
In the humdrum and chaos of life, it not always possible to travel much. Perhaps that was the thought the The Westin Sohna was built with. Only 2 hours away from Delhi, on the Sohna road, the resort is made to be the perfect weekend getaway. 
My journey (with my family) began on a friday when we set off around 3:30 p.m reaching quite quickly around 5:30. The roads started out as fantastic and worsened the further we got away from the city. However, thankfully there wasn't much traffic and the bumps only slowed us down mildly.

Westin at first glance is quite exotic: the path leading to the reception, a steady wooden walkway flanked by a shallow water pool. Infact, the entire reception is surrounded with water moat. Greenery is in abundance and it almost seems like the luxurious farmhouses in Gurgaon. 

Westin is huge so although you can walk, there are golf carts deployed around the area to drive you to and from your room. Apart from having the most lovely, soft beds. The Westin provides for cycling, swimming, horse riding, and just siting around doing nothing. There were special activities for kids too.

Architecturally, the resort is wonderfully made with individual building of red brick standing in contrast to the greenery and the sandpaper path. However, inside the rooms, the oddest feature is that there are no doors to the bathroom. Instead, there are two sets of meagre, see-through curtains making bathing and going to the loo an embarrassing and rather quick process. As you can see, anyone siting up in made has full view of anyone who is taking a shower in the cubicle (not shown in picture) or having a bath in the tub (in picture).

The breakfast is lavish with a spread perhaps wider than that of a five-star hotel such as Taj but the food, in general, is anything but ordinary. In fact, the accessibilty of Westin meant that on Sunday there was no space to breathe much less stand as families from nearby all popped in for a Sunday Buffet Breakfast.
View at The Westin, Sohna: Resorts & Spa
Pretty pretty.

 The Westin is at the most a one time visit and although staying in the room, or siting in the garden provides the kind of relation city-dwellers often need, the nearby activity of paramotoring and the cars on the road along the resort can most easily ruin the peace and quiet. It's perfect for a one or two-day vacation.

Rating - 2/5 stars

Friday, 25 July 2014

Everything and Nothing : Fresh Starts

I should start by mentioning how deeply apologetic I am for being this inactive on the blog this past few months. The truth is that things have been crazy. But when are things not crazy right?

I recently started college - a week back to be specific - last monday to be even more - and everything has changed. The transition from school to college has only been spoken off but can only be understood best when experienced - as with other things. When my mum had repeatedly told me, 'Things will be completely different at college.' I believed her but never understood the extent at which that happens.

The best and possibly the worst thing to happen at college is the amount of freedom that you get. You are no longer children. All this while, you are waiting impatiently for you to be treated like an adult. Suddenly, as if the college gates were some sort of transformation portal, you finally start being treated like an adult. You are left completely responsible for your own self. For those who move away from home to hostel, the change is much greater and scarier. No one is going to feed you, do your laundry, make your bed or even remind you of homework. If you want to sit and watch Netflix all day you're most welcome to!

School to college in real life is like birthday transformations in sims.

There is no way to be prepared for college: I was a bundle of nerves the first day. Making friends can be both difficult and easy. At first, there are some who you easily become friends with yet others whom you feel you could be friends with but neither you make the effort nor they. It's all okay though. Slowly and steadily, things will become more steady and less scary. Even if, on the first, you weren't as successful in making friends as you hoped, it doesn't guarantee that you'll be friendless throughout. In fact, once you start attending class and participating in societies, you'll probably make enough friends to last you a lifetime.

Thankfully for me so far; my teachers are great, the students are alright, the seniors are as helpful and friendly as they can get and the campus is lovely. Slowly I hope to get to know more people, learn more things and become more confident.

One thing a senior told me and I'd like to share with you - 'By second year, everything changes. The first year is a massive grooming process.' So let the chips fall where they may! Have a happy experience!