Monday, March 7, 2011

Paraathewali Gali (Paraatha Lane)

Location: 2 minute walk from Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) Sis Ganj, Chandni Chowk (Ask the rickshaw walla or a shopkeeper for direction)
Metro Station: Chandni Chowk
Best time to Visit: Morning 8 to 10 am

When it comes to food, Delhi is a paradise, and no Delhiite is less than a God. Delhi food is highly influenced by Punjab, so an 8 inch ghee-dripping Paraatha is considered incomplete without a tablespoon full of melting butter on it. Damn the health tips you received on TV show, if you want to explore real food in Delhi.
We exit metro at Chandni Chowk and came to the main road nudging humans, cows and rickshaws through a 3 feet wide street good enough only for humans to pass. Just opposite was Paraathewali Gali without any signage with a snack shop in front. As soon as we entered the alley, we noticed open air cooking in progress while people were enjoying paraathas inside the shop. We deliberately ignored the invitation which we got from the shops, just to show that we knew where to go. The aroma of pickles and multiples curries in open containers was seducing our senses, so we decided to ask someone where to eat. The Paan-chewing security man at a clothing shop next to us was our target. Upon being asked which is the best place to eat, he said, “All are same, get into any of the shops.” Pandit Dixit Ji, owner of the next paratha shop overheard us and invited into his shop with a smile and we could not say ‘No’. The three of us secured the corner seat in the corner shop. As soon as we sat, a twelve year old guy brought plates with four compartment out of those three were already filled with Potato curry, Mixed curry and Chutney. We presumed the fourth one was for Paraathas, but when we saw him bringing the bowl of mixed pickle, it was clear that compartment was to be shared with and pickle too.
The menu on the wall was overwhelming with a clear note: ‘You must order minimum two paraathas.’ You imagine a vegetable being sold in Delhi and you have a Paratha named after it. Some interesting ones were: Mirchi (Chilly) Paratha, Paalak (Spinach) Paratha, Tamaatar (Tomato) Paraatha, and Mawa (A kind of sweet) Paraatha, Karela (Bitter gourd) Paratha etc.  and all of them were price between 30 and 45 rupees each. We were in no mood to experiment, so we stuck to traditional Aloo (Potato), Gobhi (Cauliflower), Daal (Lentils) and Mixed Paraathas. The diameter of each paratha was close to five inches. The stuffing was not evenly spread in some of them, so my wife took some time to reach the filling after giving a disgusted look at the waiter, who happily ignored her. Mind it! You don’t go to such places for service. Fortunately, I didn’t find a reason to complain.
 The parathaas here were fried and were not topped with butter, unlike other places. The curries tasted amazing and freshly prepared mixed pickle was mouthwatering. After tummy-worship with two paraathas and a big glass of Amritsari Lassi each, we were fully loaded for the hectic day ahead. For three of us the bill was Two Hundred and Eighty Five rupees.
If you are not used to of Delhi food, then try food at refined, more hygienic places before trying this out. Otherwise, you tummy may not be able to take such load. Moreover, a glass of Lassi is always welcome if you are not ready to take the risk.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Delhi Metro Airport Express

I was almost sure to use Radio Taxi to reach Terminal Three from New Delhi Railway Station, but my friend persuaded me to use newly opened Airport Express. Now, I can’t thank him enough. Here are a few facts before I get into the details:

Starts at 0600 hrs and operates till 2200 hrs (hours likely to be increased)
From: New Delhi  To: Airport Terminal 3
Frequency: 20 minutes
Travel Time: 18 minutes
Inaugural Fare: 80 rupees

You can make direct comparison with Heathrow/Gatwick Express. To be honest, I found it better, because it’s new. Right after I pulled out luggage from Taxi at the New Delhi station, I found a smiling guy waiting with trolley. He charged me 50 rupees and handed over a bill, which came out of his electronic device. No bargaining with coolies anymore.  Now, my job was just to buy a token and walk in to the train, rest was his. Wow! I could see flight information at the metro station displayed on multiple LCD screens too.

Besides the option of buying tokens from the counter, they have installed vending machines for travelers’ convenience.  The assistants were available to help with vending machine. First the machine rejected my hundred rupee note and after I replaced it, it fell short of change. I should not complain as testing was in progress on the third day of operation and the guys were trying their best. The assistant requested me to buy token from the counter. I saw some plastic cards at the counter, upon being asked I came to know those were monthly passes for frequent travelers. The monthly passes are available for 60 one way trips at the price of 1300 rupees.

The station is undoubtedly world class with generous use of glass and steel and a treat to the eyes.  I got in to the brand new train waiting for us. Right next to the door, I found luggage shelves. The seats are front-facing with four seats in a row and aisle at the centre.  All the staff were uniformed, well groomed and properly trained. A plus size person might find the seat cramped, but that is manageable for a twenty minute ride.

The train started dot at 12 pm racing towards Shivaji stadium (the station name for Connaught Place). There were no frequent audio announcements like Delhi Metro which I found logical since Airport Express has very few stoppages.  I could very well see the progress on the LCD Screen and lit up route map. It stopped only at Shivaji Stadium before Airport because other stations are not operational yet. If fully operational, there will be three stations between New Delhi and Airport: 1. Shivaji Stadium 2. Dhaula Kuan  and 3. Delhi Aerocity.

Just a couple of minutes after Shivaji Stadium, it came out of the tunnel and this was the most beautiful view of Delhi, the miles of greenery on both sides of the track. Far away I could see hotel Taj Palace and Maurya. Then, it crossed Dhaula Kuan, Airforce building, Shakar Vihar and again went into the tunnel. Exactly after 18 minutes I was at Delhi Airport Terminal 3 to exit. The running time is 20 minutes, since a few stations are not yet operational, it took 2 minutes less.

I pulled out the luggage, loaded them on a trolley and started pushing towards Terminal 3 gates. The signages are very clear, so I didn’t need anybody’s help. Just after five minutes, I was at the airport gate showing my passport to the security men.

What more could I have asked for?