In the land of the ancient kings, Egypt is a wonderful place to see. Across the vast expanses of the desert are scattered pieces of a beautiful civilization that has oft been said to be the pinnacle of scientific discovery and from whose depths came the Ethynkera Device whose accuracy in predicting moon patterns hasn’t been paralleled by even modern day computer.
Much that was great now lies tarnished and ruined. Around the great pyramids of Giza lies a sprawling city with little or no planning. The roads remain choked with traffic, the drivers as horrible as those found in New Delhi. Buildings adorned the skyline as I travelled from Cairo to Giza, buildings that were dreams of people lie empty and barren like hellish edicts.
The morning begins on the Alexandria Desert Road; a long day lies ahead as the bus tumbles on, twisting, turning, jumping at every hole or disturbance in the road.
Alexandria was one of the greatest ports of the new dynasty and was under Greek rule substantially. It was the setting of the romance between Cleopatra and Julius Caesar and between Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. It is the biggest port of the country of Egypt.
Now, Alexandria resembles a ghost town. The outskirts have tall buildings with unpainted and crumbling facades, the streets narrow and the people desperate for money. They start urging you to buy their fares the moment they lay their eyes on you.
As I leave Amud El-Sawari, I see a weekly market adorning both sides of the street. The shops sell Burqas, Street Jewellery and quite amusingly Women’s Lingerie in the open. It is a normal phenomenon as such but the presence of outdoor shops selling lingerie and women actually buying them seemed a bit odd to me, especially since almost all the women I had seen till now in Egypt had been wearing burqas.
The thing about Egypt is that, even though it has been oppressed for so long and it seems that it is heading towards another period of oppression, this time religious, the heart of the people remains very strong. Egyptians are the warmest people that I have met. I met a little boy named Ahmed; he came to sell me a book of old Egyptian coins. I told him that I had already bought a few from Alexandria. He asked me what I paid for them and quietly replied that I had been given a good deal.
He did not try to persuade me to buy it again. He stood with me near my bus as I finished my ciggerete; he was not even old enough to be in college. He told me about the schools in Egypt and how they teach. At the end when it was time for me to leave, he hugged me and said goodbye. I instantly reached to check if my wallet was there, it was something stuck in my system. I felt horrible inside, Ahmed did not see me check for my wallet, he had already gone.
Amidst all the utter chaos of broken facades and unpainted buildings stands this majestic building inscribed with words from countless languages, the new Library of Alexandria. You go inside and it does not look less extravagant than the library of congress itself. State of the art security systems, 8 floors of books, I felt in heaven, really.
Just outside the library were the 4 main universities of Alexandria and the coffee shops nearby were filled with students. They were quite an inquisitive bunch and bubbling with enthusiasm, not much unlike me. As I left with the coffee in my hand I felt bad for them, my future had endless freedom written on it, and theirs had Sharia.
Na jaane in darazo me rakka kya hain?
Kya hain woh khilone bachpan ke,
Kuch tute kuch adhmare se,
Jinke saath ab meri khelne ki chaah nahi h.
Ya phir rakhe hain kuch khat,
Kuch yaadein simat kar rakhi gayi hain.
Magar dhool jami hain darazo par,
Kya kholta hoga inhe ab koi?
Raakhe honge kuch purani baatein,
Woh school ke medal aur scholar badge ki yaadein.
Ab engineering padhte padhte unki,
Yaad aati hain khub jamke.
Yah hain bhai ki koi shaitani,
Koi surri bamb ya koi makaude.
Yaah kuch mithai chipai hogi usne,
Chup chupke khata hoga phursat me.
Na jaane in darazo me rakha kya hain?
Inhe kholkar dekhoonga kabhi.
Magar aaj waqt hi kaha hain,
College jaane se phursat hi nahi
I wake up on Mondays thinking that it is absolutely idiotic to go to college. My college, although a scumbag on all counts suddenly decided that we should not have more than 3 classes on Monday. So I wake up at 7:30, fight with sleep and cold water and everything, then jostle through traffic at 15 different points of my route and finally reach college at 9:15. Whoosh 3 hours later I am free for the day with nothing to do, Happy that I am now free, Sad that tomorrow I have college till 5pm, bastard I tell you.
It was hot today but Madame Haldar was convinced otherwise. She thought it was the beautiful autumn sun that we both love. I thought that it was hot. Anyway I gave into her ideas and we decided to go to Old Fort to click pictures and do boating. It was to be our first photo walk in a long long time.
On reaching Old Fort Barnita discovered that it was really still quite hot and we turned into sweaty messes in just about 5 minutes. However the camera kept dragging us on, once you are possessed by it there’s no letting go. So we went crazy and kept clicking lots and lots of pictures but finally the heat got to us. We even gave up on the idea of boating.
Cooling ourselves with a glass of chilled Lassi and a Coke we headed out to have lunch as our stomachs were rumbling quite loudly. Now this is the point where something really funny happened. We had decided to go to Khan Market but somehow I just couldn’t manage to find it. We followed the road signs and asked people, the whole shebang but we just couldn’t find it.
Wandering about a bit more in the car we reached Lodi Garden which was also were we had one of our best photo walks and Barnita had clicked an amazing picture of a tree. Suddenly my brain churned up some distant thoughts and I remembered that the Alliance Francaise Cafeteria claimed to have some nice and cheap food and hence with Barnita’s approval we both set out to a lunch in Alliance Francaise.
The surroundings encouraged us to try out a French dish and there were definitely some on the menu. Yay. 😀 I really wanted to have fish fingers for a change and that really made Barnita happy. (More on my affliction towards fish later) The other item on the menu I had my eyes set on was the Chicken Cordon Bleu. Sadly both the Fish Fingers and the Cordon Bleu was unavailable. I settled for a Poulet a la Normandy(Grilled Chicken with Mash Potato and Salad) – Rs. 200, a Mushroom Cheese Omelette – Rs. 50 and the usual culprit a singular Lemon Iced Tea – Rs. 30. The quantity was quite generous but I found the Mashed Potato a bit dry and the Grilled Chicken a bit undercooked, but the flavours were intact and nice. It did well to fill our stomachs and the Omelette was just the way I liked it so no complains there.
After lunch it started raining and Barnita had an amazing idea to go boating near India Gate. After wandering around various roads in Lutyen’s Delhi we finally reached India gate. The boat ride was nice and romantic and a beautiful end to an amazing day.
ON the way back it started raining cats and dogs and Barnita went crazy clicking pictures. 😀
Sadly and obviously there was a part involving us being stuck in traffic for 40 minutes but that can still be overlooked.
All in all an amazing day after a long long time. 😀
You get off a rickety Indian Airlines aircraft that is supposedly as old as your younger brother and walk into a quaint Jodhpur Airport that looks nothing bigger than a small-ish hotel.
You wait endlessly by the luggage belt as the IA handlers properly mis-handle your luggage and you cannot do anything as a pane of glass separates you. You could definitely go back through the entry but you may be easily mistaken for a terrorist.
You go out into the heat and find the pleasantness of the car you rented for the day. As you go towards the hotel you pass by various parts of the city. The new city, grand hotels, stone quarries, old city, barracks and then you finally reach your hotel, an oasis of green in the midst of a stone city, the majestic Bal Samand Lake Palace.
You feel almost royal; knowing that you would be the only guests during your entire stay. Yay to proper royal treatment, heck you can even treat it like your own palace. After a short afternoon siesta you head out to the gardens to absorb the abundant greenery surrounding the place. Peacocks roam around a few feet away from you, unperturbed.
Then you climb a steep set of stairs to the porch (If you can call it that. Seems more like a roof.) and the glistening reflection of the setting sun catches your eye. You’re face to face with a beautiful lake. Hills all around, not a single soul in sight, almost like your own personal lake. You order a pot of masala tea and sit down to look at the beauty whilst a flock of pigeons coo on the parapets.
Slowly the sun sets and you feel a little distant, you feel isolated from the world. The thought of being the only people in a huge castle is kind of haunting but you always find ways to cope. A little running on the treadmill and video games never hurt anyone.
The next day you head out to explore the surroundings, Mehrangarh Fort is your first stop. It almost looms over you like figurative image of mount Olympus the home of the Greek gods. You climb up all the way and through its various museums. You pick up a lot of garbled knowledge from the guide, a few overpriced souvenirs and get out of there. The next item on your itinerary is a long drive to Khimsar Fort amidst the bloody heat.
While at Khimsar you have a quiet and peaceful lunch and afterwards you head out to see deer in open jeeps, your absolutely messy long hair slapping your face. You finally reach the areas of the deer and see Neelgai, Black Bucks and the odd Chinkara. You begin to wonder how people could ever kill such wonderful animals. The camera goes click-clickkity-click-click faster than you can see them. Suddenly you look up and realize that the sun is quite low and if you don’t hurry you would miss the sunset over the Khimsar Sand Dunes.
You reach just in time but the climb to the top is akin to climbing a high peak; contribution of the horrible diet you have and your amazingly high centre of gravity. Yet you finally are up and click a beautiful sunset over a few cups of tea. Today was Diwali and you miss not being around your girlfriend, She’s back in your town and you’re in no town. Just to cheer your brother up though, you buy a few local fire crackers and explode them back at the hotel. Diwali seems joyful again, the gloomy feeling is gone.
The next morning you’re up and ready to go back home. This time around you get a better aircraft from Indian Airlines and as you land in Delhi you can see the pollution from miles high in the sky. What a wonderful way the city welcomes you back.
Where dreams shatter and clouds pour in color,
A man walks by in a single file of lies.
Bursts of wondrous joy and madness,
Pour in constant about us.
Where colors come to die and paint sheds a tear
When wondrous shapes fill the wall with smoke
Splashes of white waste on the walls
Colorful intrepid haze of acid
Floating the floor below us and above
In dewdrops of red and orange
Misty walls of distant dreams
Placemats of gods creation
Quite matter of factly I started blogging just to catch attention of people, to be noticed and maybe to be even taken seriously. I never quite caught on with the phenomenon of blogging initially. I just wrote different kinds of things, poems and all and posted it. I had always fantasised about being known and renowned for my writing ability. I was a clear cut wannabe when I started out on the blogging circuit; I actually thought blogging would impress the ladies, hard luck there. I made a blog wrote some poems and forgot about it, after some time I read a blog and the spark ignited again but I had to make a new blog. And like that I was never constant with one blog. A few posts and I got bored and left. This happened over and over again. Until I struck upon the idea of the Prince of Prose blog.
I declared the blog open with a very proud and whimsical introduction. Aptly followed by a very dark poem about a beggar. It was quite a disturbing and hopeless time in my life. The 12th Board Exams had just gotten over and I was struggling with college. It suited my frame of mind and hence I made the blog. I poured all my angst into it. Sometimes creativity, sometimes thought sometimes just someone else’s Apricot. Then college began, along with the journey of fiction, I wrote two incomplete novels at 12000 words each.
I’ve missed writing in the blog for 3-4 months at a time but I’ve still stuck with it. So on the occasion of my 50th post I thank you all for sticking with my blog, my long obsessive and flowery writing and my irregularity. Thank you all, I’m very much indebted to you!
Food, Silver, Love, Worship, Moonlight all have a common synonym, Chandni Chowk. Translated to English it means Moonlit Lane. Whether it’s your first time or hundredth, Chandni Chowk will always leave you in awe. The crowd, the traffic, the rickshaws travelling at breakneck speeds almost over your head, the intoxicating amalgam of smells good and bad, that is indeed the true essence of Chandni Chowk.
Chandni Chowk is the most major street in the walled city of Old Delhi, which was originally called Shahjahanabad. The walled city, which includes the Lal Qila or Red Fort of Delhi, was established in 1650 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. It was designed by his daughter Jahanara Begum Sahib, who also made significant contributions in the landscaping of her father’s new capital.
Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city, from the Lahori Darwaza (Lahore Gate) of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. Originally, a canal ran through the middle of the street as a part of the water supply scheme. It was initially divided into three sections:
- Lahori Darwaza to Chowk Kotwali (near Gurdwara Shish Ganj): This section closest to the imperial residence, was called Urdu Bazar, i.e., the encampment market. The language Urdu got its name from this encampment. Ghalib noted the destruction of this market during the disturbances of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and its aftermath.
- Chowk Kotwali to Chandni Chowk: The term Chandni Chowk originally referred to the square that initially had a reflecting pool. It was replaced by a clock-tower (Ghantaghar) that was damaged and demolished in the 1960s. This section was originally called Johri Bazar.
- ‘Chandni Chowk’ to Fatehpuri Masjid: This was called the Fatehpuri Bazar.
Chandni Chowk is easily accessible via Car, Bus, and Metro. Situated near the Old Delhi Metro station it is also very easily accessible by Rail.
We got off at the Chandni Chowk Metro Station and walked down towards Chandni Chowk heading towards Red Fort passing by Gurudwara Sis Ganj to our right. About around 150 metres we turned towards our right, heading into Dariba Kalan, the world famous silver market. We were welcomed into Dariba Kalan by the smell of the world famous jalebis of ‘Old Famous Jalebi Wala’ who has been making them at that exact place since the 1850’s. Costing Rs. 250 per Kg they are a must have when you visit this place. The address being 1795, Dariba Corner, Chandni Chowk.
As you head into Dariba Kalan, you’ll see Silver Jewellery shops on both sides; innumerable silver trinkets hang on every wall and decorate every display window. Amidst all the shiny silver a handcart stole our attention; it had a very interesting item for sale, a speciality of Chandni Chowk known as Daulat Ki Chaat. This incredible little dish seems made up almost entirely of air, as it is essentially just milk froth. They start making it at about 2 o’clock the night before, and insist that their only contribution is to churn some creamy milk and whip up its froth – the rest is the magic of the winter dew. This whipped froth of milk is set in a large brass pan, and some khoya and finely sliced pista are sprinkled on top. The entire delicate ensemble is brought to the market in the morning on a khomcha (a cane tripod), where if you ask nicely, the man will scoop out a generous portion of the froth, powder it with bhoora (unrefined sugar) and khurchan, and hand it to you in a little leaf bowl. A spoonful of it just vanishes in the mouth, and has a very sophisticated, understated sweet taste to it. Any reasonable person would demand a princely sum for such an ethereal treat. Yet in the by-lanes of Shahjahanabad, a dona of Daulat ki Chaat sets you back by exactly 10 bucks!
Heading further down Dariba Kalan we stopped at a shop selling about 50 odd kinds of Crispies, I tried a very spicy one and having liked it I bought about 250 gms of it. (They are so spicy that 2-3 leave me teary eyed.) As the Dariba Kalan road came to a T-point we took a right turn and headed towards Jama Masjid. Even though I’ve ventured into Chandni Chowk a couple of times, I never got a chance to visit the Jama Masjid. The time was enough and the company was perfect, I had no intention of leaving with this monument still undiscovered by my lens. It cost me Rs. 200 to get my camera inside which I found extremely stupid because most monuments which only charge for video cameras but in Jama Masjid, the charge for all cameras was the same.
The majestic monument was brilliantly lit by the sun peeping through an overcast sky, the diffused light and shadow lessness made it an amazing atmosphere to click portraits. I felt blessed to have my camera around and the sound of my shutter clicking felt almost like a waterfall. We exited the Masjid complex through the Meena Bazaar side; we stopped to buy some Attar and Soorma.
All the walking had left us very hungry and we decided to head to the famous Karim’s of Chandni Chowk. We exited from the Matya Mahal side of the Jama Masjid complex and headed straight down the road to Karim’s. Very sadly there was a lot of crowd outside Karim’s and we couldn’t get a place to sit, hence we had to go to a neighbouring restaurant called Al-Jawahar. We ordered Mutton Barra, Keema Naan, Palak Paneer, Chicken Ishtew and Butter Naan. The food was not par with that of Karim’s but it did serve the need, it satiated our hunger.
We headed out with renewed zest and vigour and decided to walk the entire length of Meena Bazaar. 300 yrs ago this bazaar catered to the luxury trade of the imperial household, specialized in exquisite carpets, rugs, jajams and shatranjis; takia-namads and quilts; shahtus and pashmina shawls; costumes; velvet pardahs and chiks; embroideries with zari and brocades; and a wide variety silks, woolens, velvets and taffetas which the Mughals used in their daily life; precious stones, exotic jewellery and indigenous ornaments; gold and silver utensils, fine wood and ivory work; brass and copper wares; fine arms and armaments; coloured ganjifas and indoor games; jafran (saffron), kasturi (musk) and other spices; and innumerous other stuff which could not be had even in the adjoining Chandni Chowk market, and it was privilege of the king that this rare and precious things were available only in the ‘Fort market’ for their exclusive choice. Now all that is available at this market is merely cheap junk, third class items and other oddities. Sad.
There was so much more to see but alas we were almost out of time. We had to head back home; our everyday lives were calling out to us. With heaviness in our heart we headed back home leaving behind the glory of Chandni Chowk with a promise to surely return one day.