Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chandni Chowk to 'Jannat'

30 jan, Saturday
Let me begin with the words of  Mr. G. Bose, whom I respect more for his sense of humor than his quizzing acumen (not to mean in any way that he isn’t a good quizmaster). He says, “Don’t sit with long faces in a Quiz because at the end of the day, Quizzing is meant to be a fun event.” His words never felt to be truer than today when one of our quizzing endeavors turned into a delectable extravaganza.

On Saturday, we were supposed to participate in a Quiz at DIAS, Rohini (Delhi institute of advanced studies). Well, cutting a long story short, we were out of the quiz before we could even begin it because the prelims round was no less than the GATE examination with all the crappy textbook questions related to ‘hard-core’ IT. Although, we were told that it was a ‘Business and IT quit’, the question paper had no business with ‘Business’. We didn’t even care about the participation certificate which they had promised to give to all and sundry as if it wasn’t a quiz but an earthquake relief camp and the certificates were packets of bread!!
We were a pack of 5 hungry ‘Grey’ Hounds (Nitin, Raunak, Sonali, Vijay and I), who, after reaching the Rithala Metro station were contemplating intensely which place to attack. Subhash Place, a nearby market- ruled out. CP – ruled out. Aaaaanh… Chandani Chowk. Bingo. That’s the place to go. Although the idea was initially resisted by Sonali, citing the reasons like how crowded it gets on weekends in Chandni Chowk, it was taken care of by Nitin with his animated description of the yummy ‘Natraj ke Bhalle’. He made those bhalles so irresistible that I could almost visualize how great it would feel when I’ll taste them. I was tempted and so was everyone else. Now even if we had to swim across the sea of people anticipated to be at Chandni Chowk, we would. If I put it this way, Nitin really sold us ‘Chandni Chowk’; only he didn’t get any commissions for that!

After an hour, we were at Chandni Chowk and as we had expected, we could see innumerable people of different shapes and sizes all around us. There were so may people in those narrow lanes that it was tough to imagine that it takes 9 months to make each one of them!!! To add to the misery, all kinda stalls, thelas, and patris have mushroomed throughout the length of almost all the roads in Chandni chowk, selling myriad stuffs. One hawker was selling a unique product, a ‘non-fusable’ bulb, enticing passers-by to take a dekko at his bulb with a non-stop audio advertisement and to save the expense on a sound system he was using his crass voice to do the job. There were shoes on sale for as low as 100 bucks; in fact each and every thing which u may need in your daily life was available at throw away prices. A girl at my back was saying to her friend with extreme astonishment, “yar itni bhid maine aaja tak nahin dekhi”. In my mind I replied to her, “Welcome to Chandni Chowk”.
Our mission was Natraj ke Bhalle but we didn’t know the way. With the generous help of people around us we finally arrived at our destination. There was a swarm of people at the shop. “Holy shit, this shop is horribly popular”. I couldn’t see any hope of getting those bhalles until evening. Only when we got closer I realized that the people were not thronging for the bhalle but they were coming out of a 3 feet wide alley just next to the shop!! That alley seemed to me like a conveyor belt in a pharma company and those people were dropping down that belt like Paracetmol tablets; millions and millions of tablets. Raunak and I braved the crowd to order 5 plates of bhalle. well,  the bhalle were simply amazing and truly delicious. I decided to convert to Hedonism there and then, i.e the pursuit of pleasure in life. Our taste buds were not satiated but we couldn’t just had only bhalle all the way so we tried the ‘tikki’ as well and I must say, even if for the sake of repetition that they were mouth watering as well. The famous “paranthe wali gali” was in front of us and only a moron wouldn’t like to enter this gali; a brand in its own. And there we were, on the steps of the shop single-handedly responsible for the christening of the street as it is known today. The owner had proudly displayed the archival photos of Jawar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Lal Bahadur Shastri having a gala time at the historic shop. The shop was packed to capacity and few more were in queue; our turn was nowhere near and to kill time, we were looking at the 2 meter long menu displayed at the entrance, enlisting some wacky paranthas, easily assignable to the category of “highly endangered species”!! Some of them which I could recall were karela parantha, kishmish parantha, kaju parantha, rabri parantha & papad parantha to name a few. These, mind you, weren’t ordinary paranthas. They were being prepared in desi ghee. The word to watch out here is ‘in’. Yes, the ghee wasn’t merely dabbed on the surface of the parantha, the way our mom cooks for us; rather, they were literally drenched in the ghee. By the time our turn came, enough excitement and craving had developed in us to wipe out 7 paranthas and Rabri (a sweet made from milk) only complimented the awesome paranthas.
Our stomach was almost touching its full capacity but our tongue was still ‘flickering’ like the tongue of a snake, craving for more flavors of Chandni Chowk. They say that ‘man is a slave to his stomach’. Well I would like to differ. We are actually slave to our ‘tongue’ and more precisely – Taste buds. So the five ‘Slaves’ now moved on for some more gratification towards the mecca of non-vegetarians – Karim’s Hotel, famous in the entire galaxy!! To reach Karim’s we had to first get to Jama Masjid, the biggest mosque in India. It was a long way to go with plenty of flavors, waiting for us to be tasted. We couldn’t resist the Jalebis from which ‘chaashni’ was dripping so profusely like saliva drips from the mouth of a rabid dog! Although many branches of Karim Hotel have come up throughout NCR, the original Karim Hotel, near Jama Masjid is still termed as the best. Their tagline, “the secret of good mood, the taste of karim’s food” says it all. If you think that you would be able to spot Karim Hotel in the Gali Kababian (ya, that’s what they call that street!!), you are mistaken. You can only spot a 2’by 3’ board and that too if you are careful enough, directing you into a narrow alley which opens into Karim’s hotel. Karim Hotel is, unexpectedly, quite spacious from inside and the interiors are suave as well as classic. However, if you happen to be a vegetarian, its strictly advised not to even think of visiting Karim’s because either you won’t remain a vegetarian afterwards or you would kill yourself for being a vegetarian soon after. Only a few brave-hearts like me survive that 3rd degree mental torture. While my non-veg friends ordered ‘Mutton Barra’, Vijay and I ordered ‘Paneer tikka’ and ‘sheermaal’(a kinda bread with half the thickness of pizza base). Even the veg stuff was tastier than most places where I had it before ( At least this +ve attitude saved me from going into depression for not being a non-vegetarian because I must tell you, the aroma of the Mutton Barra was fabulous). We couldn’t stuff ourselves with anything more now without running the risk of a ‘backfire’ (but we still took the ‘saunf’, because it was free!!!). It was 5 in the evening, time to give our body some rest. So we called it a day and head back to the overcrowded metro station.
All in all, it was a trip that redefined ‘taste’ for me (and many of us, I believe). There have been instances when I have tasted some really fabulous preparations but so many exquisite flavors in one single day; never. Don’t just read man, shut down now and catch the next metro to this “Jannat of zayka” and become a slave………a slave to your taste buds.

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