It’s not often that you find a 700 year old step-well in the middle of a bustling business district. It’s even stranger that the place ranks among India’s Top 10 haunted spots!

ugrasen ki baoli delhi

But that’s just what Agrasen ki Baoli is. It is one of Delhi’s oldest monuments and the best preserved baolis in the country. Located 1.5 kms from Jantar Mantar and 2 kms from India Gate, this red bricked monument is was medieval India’s answer to water shortage.

The spot where Agrasen Ki Baoli stands was once the outskirts of the city. As Delhi grew around it, high rises sprung up, leaving the ancient monument completely out of place right in the city centre.

agrasen ki baoli delhi

Over 100 steps lead downwards, flanked by carved arches on either side. Initially, you’re greeted by the sound of gurgling pigeons and then with the ruckus of bats. But if you walk ahead, with every few steps you take, you leave the din of the city behind and enter into a vacuum of silence. The baoli that once smartly tapped into difficult-to-reach water tables underground, now remains almost waterless.

The steps are now dotted with a handful of tourists as the site surprisingly isn’t popular enough for tour guides to have on their itinerary. Nevertheless, the monument has a lot of rumours attached to it. Old wives tales suggest that tossing a coin in the water will pacify a djinn to grant you a wish. Others say that the water, black with darkness somehow attracted visitors to jump in and commit suicide.

ugrasen ki baoli CP delhi

Delhi boasts of a lot of tombs and palaces. But Agrasen Ki Baoli is one-of-a-kind. Visit between 9 am to 5 pm, absolutely free of cost. You won’t need to spend more than 20 minutes here, but it sure is a nice place to see!

By the way, the street that leads up to it is full of funky graffiti! You know how much I love those!!

that goan girl in delhi

Catch you later!!

xoxo

Hiiii guys!

I’m stoked to finally share with you the places I’ve discovered in the capital! During my first visit a few months ago, I barely had 4 hours to explore some no-frills eateries. This time, however, I managed to stay on for a day after the Tata Tigor media drive. And what a delicious day it was!

From a tiny, hole-in-the-wall café to a Bihari restaurant, here are some of my finds in Delhi!

ESPRESS-O-VILLE, Satya Niketan

The road on which Espress-o-ville is located is terrible, to say the least. Barricades, potholes and such horrible traffic that the idea of running into oncoming traffic is more appealing. If you have the (im)patience to brave the traffic in true Delhi-style, with generous honking and expletives, you’ll find this darling little café called Espress-o-ville!

A welcoming green façade with a sign that says “We’re not expensive. Try us” is enough bait. Inside, you might feel like you’re sitting in an old English couple’s living room – with pastel green walls, white vintage furniture, floral cushions, photo frames and wooden finishes. The food ranges from Italian to sandwiches, burgers and wraps and your choice of flavoured eggs with a great range of cold beverages, teas, mocktails and hot chocolate.

Espress-o-ville serves excellent breakfast, so it’s the perfect place to cure a hangover. While I went there to satisfy a pancake craving, the heart-warmingly friendly staff suggested the Tiramisu flavoured cappuccino to go with it. Tiramisu is an indulgent Italian dessert but thankfully, the cappuccino wasn’t a pure sugar rush. In fact, it was heavenly! Deliciously aromatic, richly flavoured and that buttery mouthfeel that’s proof of full bodied coffee! Would go back for it, especially since it costed less than Rs. 120!

Cosy on down, select a book  from the shelf (win!!) and spend the afternoon reading while you enjoy one of their many spectacular offerings!

BIG YELLOW DOOR, Satya Niketan

Looking for lip-smacking food on a budget? Here’s the door you should be knocking on. Located right next to Espress-o-ville, the yellow door is enough to grab your attention. If not, the long line outside surely will!

This dimly lit restaurant, called by its acronym, BYD, is anything but shady, however careless the interiors may look. It’s a popular college hangout and is always packed, thanks to their paisa-vasool offerings. They stock up on juicy burgers, pastas, milkshakes and winning fries amongst other things. Also, I’ve had the best Butter Chicken Pizza of my life here!

If you’re looking for something indulgent, their desserts are sinful. The Oreo Shake and Rocky Road are super popular but they also have intriguing offerings like the Red Velvet Coffee and Bomb Burger that are just as amazing. Proof of how popular BYD is among patrons is apparent when you look at an entire wall covered in messages written on hundreds of post-its. All in all, the service is friendly and you will leave stuffed, but without that hold in your pocket.

The portion sizes are generous, so it’s best you visit with a friend or two.

POT BELLY, Chanakyapuri

Pot Belly Café in Chanakyapuri is a wonderful respite from the bustle of Delhi. This one-of-a-kind restaurant offers the most authentic Bihari Cuisine. Yes, Bihari. Delhi is multi-cultural, after all!

You can choose to sit outside and gaze at the fresh, green lawn or indoors by the French windows which are just as charming. The interiors are extremely spacious, shabby-chic and homely. Wooden chairs, distressed tables and empty frames on the walls add to the simple aesthetics.

The food is as hearty as a home cooked meal. I tried the Pakora Basket, an assortment of batter fried vegetables that came in this interesting terracotta dish. Paired with masala tea in an equally quirky kettle, it was the ultimate combo!

Potbelly is famous for Litti Mutton, a dish comprising of wheat balls stuffed with roasted gram flour and other ingredients served with two vegetable side dishes. I didn’t love the litti, to be honest, although it was as authentic as it gets! That mutton, though! It was so delicious and spicy that it had us sweating through every bite.

Chinese, Italian and other global cuisines have become a little monotonous, haven’t they? If you’re open to embracing something Indian (that’s not Mughlai), I’m sure you’ll appreciate this gem!

MASALA TRAIL, Janpath

While driving past Janpath one night, we stopped for a bottle of Keventer’s Kit Kat Shake from a small take-out window at Janpath. It was then that we got a glimpse into the Masala Trail’s quirky interiors behind the window and returned the next day to try it out.

Masala Trail, like Elco in Mumbai, is the place to go for hygienic street food. The menu is vast with street food like Kachori with Aloo Subzi from Bihar, Dabeli from Gujarat, Thukpa from the North-East, Agra ke parathe, Tamaatar ki chaat from Varanasi and even Kerela styled Appam and Stew, to name a few.

This drink is called Bihari Namkeen or Meethi Sattu. Another first for me! I don’t know about you guys, but greens floating in my drink is so WEIRD!!

Colour makes me happy and this fun space has tons of it – bright metal chairs and sofas, intricate auto rickshaw paintings on the walls and even multi coloured crockery. For a place as multi-cultural as this one, there are sure to be authenticity issues. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting visit!

Delhi is undoubtedly known for its tandoori food. Maybe next time, I’ll feature some of those!

Let me know if you’ve eaten at any of these places or have discovered a restaurant you think I should feature.

Stay in touch!

Politicians can get away with just about anything, can’t they? Some of them even succeed in lauding their existence for eternity.

Take Safdarjung, for example.

His real name was Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan – the governor of Awadh. Khan’s role was to assist the Mughal emperor of that time in administration. Pleased with his services, the king gave him the title of ‘Safdarjung.’

When the next emperor took over the kingdom, he made Safdarjung the Prime Minister. Years later, after Safdarjung’s death, his son built him a red, sandstone tomb, closely modelled after the tomb of Humayun.

However, if Humayun’s Tomb represents the might of the Mughals, Safdarjung’s Tomb, in contrast, reflects its decline.

Sandeep was driving me around in perfect Delhi weather when he randomly asked, “want to see the Safdarjung Tomb?” I’d never heard of it before. Actually, if I was standing across the street from it, I’d have never known it was there, hiding behind looming walls.

We pay the nominal entry fee, step into the majestic tomb complex, and the silhouette of the tombs bulbous dome can be seen not far away. It appears to be in perfect symmetry, flanked by a row of palm trees on either side, leading up to the monument. There’s an abundance of greenery and flowering shrubs set within a large, manicured lawn. Rising high from its plinth is the beautiful tomb – a feast for the eyes, despite the popular opinion that it is visually and architecturally flawed.

Apparently, the plinth is too small to balance the prominent vertical axis of the mausoleum. In addition, the buff and red coloured sandstone on the dome looks like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle. Since the existence of the State was in bad shape during the time of the tomb’s construction, there was no financial backing and marble was plundered from other pre-existing tombs. Hence, the mismatch.

As I walked inside, I too couldn’t help but notice the lack of refinement. The skewed proportions, elongated façade, mismatched stonework and unfinished marble inlay work are all a disappointing end to grand Mughal architecture. But then, architecture does reflect the times, and this one shows depleting coffers and degenerate lifestyles.

To me, the tomb, with its silence and bare handful of visitors is a delight! I can enjoy the aura of undisturbed serenity. The air is tranquil and fragrant, which is surprising, especially since the monument is hemmed by the busy, traffic-choked Lodhi road.

The tomb itself is splendid and has an imposing aura of grace, despite its faults. Double storeyed with 8 chambers, it has a central octagonal chamber housing the mortal remains of Safdarjung in a crypt below the ornamental coffin. The walls taper towards the roof, in which elaborate floral patterns have been carved

When looked at as a whole, and without bias, Safdarjung Tomb is really quite beautiful! The cool fragrant breeze and greenery, the gateway and dome – all look like something in perfect harmony from a distance. Perhaps what makes a difference is the eye with which the monument is looked at.

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I’d never been to Delhi. But for the longest time, it’s been on the top of my list!

My Twitter time-line would constantly break out in a Delhi-Mumbai battle – which city is better, which of the two have the more delicious food, more pleasing weather, more style? To top it off, even Oprah has been to Delhi and said it has a “method to its madness.”

When I recently reviewed Jet Screen, I knew that I would fly Jet Airways somewhere, but the destination was unknown until 24 hours before the flight. I secretly hoped for Delhi – and you know what they say about the universe conspiring!

Obviously, I didn’t pray hard enough because I had a mere five hours to spend in Delhi. Considering the time needed to de-plane and having to leave to be at the airport an hour before departure back to Mumbai, that gave me FOUR hours.

I asked the folks on Twitter for suggestions on things to do that are close to the airport. Some suggested visiting Qutub Minar which is relatively close by. Others were skeptical I’d get anything done, with Delhi’s traffic scene being so bad, and told me to window shop at Delhi airport. The latter seemed like a waste of time. Besides, I love a good challenge.

9:15 AM

With no check-in baggage to wait for, I rushed out of the airport where a friend was waiting with his motorcycle (note – having no baggage and a motorcycle helped save precious time). We headed off for a quick breakfast of Kheema Paratha and coffee at one of the dhabas in Qutub Institutional Area. While this road is usually full of bikers and motorcycles, it was deadly quiet on a Saturday morning and most of the dhabas were only beginning to open their shutters.

10:30 AM

New Delhi infrastructure is definitely better than Mumbai! We rode for around 20 minutes on clean, wide roads that seemed fit for the capital of India before halting at India Gate.  The smog dampened the experience a little bit, but the monument is stunning nonetheless, beautifully combining historic grace and modernity.

People blowing soap bubbles, men selling cotton candy and photographers offering to take instant photographs reminded me a lot of Juhu beach. But the feeling of seeing India Gate in front of you, rather than on TV for Independence Day, is different – it brings out a little patriotism

11:30 AM

From New Delhi to Old – the change is enormous! Crowded streets, insane traffic, narrow lanes and street vendors paint a contrasting picture and was very intimidating! At noon, the shopping spots were just beginning to open up, but I couldn’t spend time here as it was a 40 minute ride back to the airport.

Here are some shots from the city. Sadly, the red fort was covered in smog and was barely visibile from the road.

 

While it was too early to grab any lunch, I tried Delhi’s famed jalebi with rabdi and it was out-of-this world! In comparison to that in Mumbai, this one was far more lavish, gooey and utterly thick. People who like thin, crispy jalebis would not like it at all!

Next I stopped at Natraj, a tiny, no-frills counter that’s famous for Dahi Bhalla. Customers have to give their order, collect the food and stand on the footpath and eat it. Living local, people!

The dish comprised of whipped dahi poured over urad dal dumplings, and then streaked with sweet, tamarind chutney. The generous amount of pepper mixed into the lassi-like dahi made all the difference! For me, this was like an entire meal because it was so heavy!

12 PM

It was time to leave the madness behind as we jumped on to our bikes and headed along a more scenic route to Indira Gandhi Airport. Made it just in time, with the last call to board the plane in progress. Phew!

The trip was over in the blink of an eye, and when I was back in Mumbai by 4 pm, it didn’t even seem real. I need another taste of Delhi really soon – maybe a party at Hauz Khas, a visit to the Lotus temple and shopping at Khan Market, this time?

Have you ever taken a really short trip somewhere? Tell me about it!

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Byee!