Friday 28 August 2015

Delicious Food at Ali’s Restaurant in Dehradun

As I wrote in an earlier post on Dehradun, I had some spare time before I catch a train back to Delhi. On Gandhi Road near the Jama Masjid area I noticed several restaurants serving non-vegetarian food. It was still early for dinner, so I marked one of them – Ali’s.

Ali's Non-Vegetarian Restaurant on Gandhi Road, Dehradun

Later on I returned to Ali’s Restaurant. The decor of the place was nice and the place looked hygienic. I did wonder though why there were hardly any families around and it seemed mainly a male bastion. But then I saw some families emerge from the inside. Then I realised that this restaurant, like so many others in smaller towns in India, has a separate seating arrangement for families.

Mutton Seekh Kababs, Rumali Roti & Onion Rings at Ali's

Initially I ordered mutton Seekh Kabab with Rumali Roti. These were accompanied with onion rings and green chutney. I must say that they were one of the best kababs I have eaten in a long time. They were soft and kind of melted in the mouth. Also one must try their Mutton Nihari. The prices of the dishes are reasonable. In fact compared to the prices in the NCR and Delhi they are definitely on the lower side yet superior in quality (as well as quantity!).

The owner at Ali's Restaurant in Dehradun 

I was told that this restaurant is running since 1955. I also observed that they were serving kheer (an Indian sweet dish made of milk, rice and sugar) and I asked the owner that why no sweet dish has been mentioned in the menu. He told me that they have recently introduced this and are yet to come out with a menu. He invited me to try the kheer.

Delicious Kheer at Ali's Restaurant in Dehradun

And how could I refuse as there is always some scope for a dessert! The kheer (chilled) sprinkled with lots of dry fruits was delicious and amongst the best kheers that I have eaten anywhere.

Do check out the place the next time you are in Dehradun.

Also Read:
Skywatch Friday- A short visit to Dehradun

Monday 24 August 2015

The ASUS #ZenFestival 2015

Recently Asus organised Zen Festival at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi. I thought it would be a small gathering of media and bloggers but when I reached there I found that more than two thousand persons have been invited for the Indian launch of six of their products!

VJ Cyrus Sahukar at the ZenFestival

The ZenFestival was anchored by the famous VJ Cyrus Sahukar who entertained the audience by his witty comments.

Brilliant performance by flying drummers at the ZenFestival

The programme started with a dazzling performance by flying drummers who were supported by two acrobatic dancers on the stage. In fact the performance was highlight of the event and it was superb.

ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih

ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih announced latest additions to ZenFone & ZenPad families. He announced not one but India launch of six of their new products ZenFone 2 Deluxe, ZenFone Selfie, ZenFone 2 Laser, ZenPad 7.0 and ZenPad 8.0, and worldwide launch of ZenFone Max

Sonakshi Sinha launching Zenfone Selfie

Zenfone Selfie was launched by the famous Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha. The photographers from the media went crazy and almost stampeded the stage in order to get the perfect click. The organisers should keep marshals to keep such behaviour in check. The Zenfone Selfie would become the choice of millions of selfie clickers as it has 13 MP camera in the front as well as back!

Zenny the mascot of Zenfone

Zenny the mascot of Asus Zenfone was also there to entertain the audience.

The programme concluded with a late lunch which I decided to skip as it was too crowded.

Note: I was invited to the ZenFestival 2015 by the organisers.

Friday 21 August 2015

Skywatch Friday- A short visit to Dehradun

I recently went on a very short trip to Dehradun. Dehradun is the capital of the state of Uttrakhand. I took a Shatabdi train which takes about six hours to cover a distance of about 317 kms in about six hours. I reached Dehradun at about One in the afternoon and did the work that I had gone there for which finished in the evening and my train back was still a few hours away. I had booked my return journey by Mussoorie Express which takes about double the time compared to the Shatabdi but then you can sleep for the night and reach Delhi in the morning. So I decided to walk in the city to while away the time.

The iconic Ghantaghar or clock tower of Dehradun

I headed towards Ghantaghar (clock tower) which is an iconic structure of Dehradun made during British days. In fact one can see lot of the clock towers in several towns across India. They are normally in the centre of a town.

Paltan Bazaar, Dehradun

Next to the Ghantaghar is the Paltan Bazaar. On any given day it is very crowded and though the whole market is a pedestrian zone still walking in the market gives you a feeling of going to a crowded fair! While going towards this place on the Gandhi Road I observed several restaurants specifically serving non-vegetarian food near the mosque area. It was still some time for dinner time so I did mark one of them – Ali’s - to return later to try out the food there. But that I would write in a separate post.

Sunset in Dehradun

While walking around dusk time the sky and the clouds turned fabulous.

Every cloud has a silver lining - Dehradun

The sky gave a red tinge and as the phrase goes – every cloud has a silver lining – I did get to see the clouds with silver lining! 

Dehradun Railway Station

The Dehradun Railway Station building also is quite old (opened in 1899) and in front of it I could see several Ambassador cars which have almost disappeared from the metros but still ply in smaller towns. 

This post is part of Skywatch Friday.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Karla Buddhist Caves near Pune

Karla Caves are situated about 60 km from the city of Pune. Taxi can be arranged from Pune for the to-and-fro trip. The last leg of the site involves some walking, so be prepared.

Karla rock-cut Buddhist caves

The first impression of the hillock with the caves is grand. These caves, cut out of sheer rock, are historically dated between 2 BCE and 5 CE. They remind the visitors of the grandeur and grace of Buddhist India. During the Maurya rule in India, Buddhism was the State religion.

The Chaitygruha or prayer hall with stone Stupa

The main cave is a Buddhist prayer hall (chaitya in Sanskrit) - Chaitygruha dated to 1 BCE. It is a huge cave carved within a hill. The roof of the cave is made of wood and even after 2000 years it is in excellent condition.

Sculptures on pillars

The pillars in the prayer hall have sculptured torsos of men and women, paying obeisance to Lord Buddha. There is a stone stupa in the cave. Stupas are Buddhist structures of worship, moulds basically, simple yet elegant.

The Ashoka Pillar at the entrance of the Karla Caves

There is an Asoka pillar at the entrance with 4 lions on the top. Today it is the National Emblem of India. Unfortunately the entry to the cave has been encroached upon by a kitschy modern Hindu temple which came up much later in history. Not many know that thousands of Buddhist sites, monasteries, libraries and even Nalanda University that flourished under Emperor Asoka (3 century BCE) were burned down by Brahmins in the struggle for supremacy. Buddhism was wiped out from India, reduced to remote mountain areas like Ladakh, Lahaul-Spiti and Tibet and in South to Sri Lanka. You can read more about it in B.R. Ambedkar’s essay Triumph of Brahmanism.

The wall of sculptures

In one of the caves there is a huge reclining Buddha but because of the fragile structure, it is not open to public. There are many small caves, Viharas or dormitories where monks used to rest and meditate. The caves are cool, even in high summer. There are also huge sculptures of elephants.

Buddhist sculptures at Karla

The sculptures of men and women are beautiful, a reminder of the glorious temple art in Ancient India.

Temple art at Karla

Many of the sculptures are fragments but these fragments are in a way complete in themselves. Rest is for the imagination.

The view of the area from the Karla caves

It is a puzzle why Karla caves have not got the attention they deserve.

Also read:
Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand
The Royal Monastery of the Emerald Buddha, Bangkok
The Gandhara Art in Chandigarh
Jangchub Rabtenling Monastery, Himachal
Bon Monastery in Himachal
Rewalsar- An Important Buddhist Centre

Saturday 15 August 2015

Happy Independence Day

India got its independence on this day (15 August 1947). I wish all my readers a Happy Independence Day.

March of Freedom

However, the independence of 1947 was only from one tyrant. India is still shackled by several others. May we all get freedom from all the other shackles (you know what I am talking about) and be truly independent.

The above photo is a statue called Gyarah Murti or Eleven Statues made by the well-known sculptor Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhary depicting the famous Dandi March (or the Salt Movement) led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1931. It shows Gandhi leading ten others on the Dandi March. It is located on the Wellingdon Crescent or what is now known as Mother Teresa Crescent road in Delhi. It is visible while going from the Airport on the Sardar Patel Marg. Those of you who have not visited Delhi may still be familiar with this statue as it is also printed on the 500 rupee currency.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Furniture Market, Amar Colony, New Delhi

Many Delhiites have never heard of Amar Colony. It has no famous sightseeing places or famous uptown or downtown markets. 

Amar Colony Antiques Market, New Delhi

But ask anyone in Delhi who is interested in antiques, particularly furniture and he/she will direct you to the Flea Market /Antiquarian tucked away in a by-lane of Amar Colony behind the prestigious women’s college Lady Sri Ram, near Moolchand Flyover. Not a single shop is a permanent or legal structure. Yet it has been a ‘permanent’ feature since Partition of India, when millions of Punjabi refugees fled to the capital in the hope of starting a new life. Some of the enterprising Sikhs (I am told it is a single family) started the business of selling antique furniture. Last time I was there, a bureaucrat had passed orders for shutting down the market and vacating public land. Phone calls were being made frantically. However bureaucrats come and go. The market has withstood the test of time. 

One of the second generation proprietors at Amar Colony Furniture Market  

Interesting is the profile of the owners and also those who frequent this market! Sikhs, so fair that they could pass for Afghans, own these shops and they also live nearby in Amar Colony. A few of them attend to the customers wearing the traditional Sikh attire of blue robe and yellow belt. On Guru Purab (holy days for the Sikh community) the market is shut down and all owners, young and old, participate in the religious procession. The carpenters are mostly from Bihar and UP. Behind the market they make new furniture mostly with Victorian, South Indian, Kashmiri, British Shimla and Rajasthani designs. New wood, new workers, old design! The visitors are mostly the educated, slightly crazy /alternate kind of people and of course foreigners with taste and an eye for tradition and a good bargain. One has to sift through old and new artefacts. There are wooden almirahs, doors, mirrors, benches, chairs, side tables, chests, dressing tables, jharokhas, stools, wall clocks, Buddhas, masks etc. precariously perched over one another. You need to have that instinct: This is what I want!!! With time the flow of antiques to the market has decreased and new furniture is taking over. But these are not bad either. Old tiles are added to new furniture. It is the blend of the Old and the New that is interesting. 

My collection from Amar Colony Market!

I have several pieces of furniture from the market and I am happy with them. No plywood, no plastic, they are made of real wood! Some items do look kitch, but like I said, you have to sift patiently through this dusty world to find a gem of a vintage item. You may be disappointed also. After all you come with high expectations. All said and done, a surreal place in modernity, it has a charm of its own in the age of malls and online-shopping.

Optimum use of space in one of the shops in Amar Colony

After browsing through the 15 odd shops, one feels hungry. Nearby is the bazaar catering to the taste buds of the young college crowd. While your furniture is being polished, you can order steamed momos at the Tibetan restaurant or Tandoori momos at the road-side kiosks!