Friday, June 22, 2012

A year in Delhi-Gurgaon

Its been a year! A year since I came to Delhi with loads of apprehensions of leaving lovely Bangalore behind and venturing out to a city that is not very popular as a place to live.

A year ago, despite most people telling us that moving to Delhi was a foolish err move, we moved. 

But then in the words of Hunter Thompson - "Buy the ticket, take the ride".

Read the rest of the post with this song, playing in the background, for best effect :)

The first week was a little unnerving to be honest, but we got into the groove pretty soon.
After a year here, I can tell you, Delhi is an awesome place. It's got a bit of everything and everything in its extreme.
I have made some fantastic new friends and lost a few friends, but then that's how the wheel turns and all's for the best :D

Though there is some more time left before I leave this city, I am sure that in the years to come when I do look back at Delhi in nostalgia, it will definitely be for its uber-cool winters(the all-day fog, women dressed in their winter best!), for the awesome Goldspot concert we attended at Blue Frog, for night long drinking sessions followed by breakfast at 'American Diner', for meeting Ruskin Bond in Mussoorie, for watching the sun out of a solar telescope from an observatory in Nainital (it's an very funny anecdote so ask me next time you see me), for the hilarious fight we got into at Jaisalmer, for our drive to Lansdowne, for the unexpected lake and monuments in Hauz Khas village, for falling off a camel at Pushkar (not a proud moment), for attending an all night wedding, for the unforgettable train journey to Rajasthan in a sleeper compartment during Holi, for the aloo tikkis, the kakori kababs and the kulfi faloodas, for the loud and colourful Rajouri and the oh-so sophisticated South Delhi, for playing mafia on the entire train journey back from Amritsar, for attempting to make a short film by traveling all over Delhi, for jumping off a cliff into the Ganges in Rishikesh, doing the most random dance at a friend's 'Sangeet' party and for a million more things that don't come to mind right away!

It's been an awesome ride so far and there's lot's more to come. So stay tuned !

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The trip to Lansdowne

I used to keep calling it "Landsdown". Only on reading up about it on the faithful wikipedia did I realise that its been named after a British chap called Lansdowne.

The other bit that I did not realise was that this is an extremely under-rated hill station. I for one had never heard of the place until I got to Delhi.

Situated in the state of Uttarakhand, Lansdowne is the closest hill station to Delhi, all of 290kms away. 
Originally a cantonment - its now home to the Garhwali Rifles - the place itself is neatly maintained thanks to the army presence.
However, other than the Army camp, there is nothing around or at least nothing touristy in nature. Which is, I suppose, the reason for its lack of popularity.
There are no quaint cafes or restaurants where one can laze around in the afternoons, there is no "Mall Road" of note (usually the pride of most hill stations).

However what it does have is some supreme peace and quiet. There are quite a few resorts that have sprung up around Lansdown and we stayed at one such place, in Jaiharikhal (6kms away from Lansdowne), called 'Bright Sunny Pines'.
Good place to stay, with good food, nice rooms and a great view of the valley. However we felt that it was a little over-priced.
There aren't many places to stay in Lansdowne, so its advised to book in advance rather than have to make do with sub-par accommodation that some of the lodges have to offer.

The best place to stay however is supposed to be Fairydale resorts and there was another home-stay that I checked up on before getting there called Prem Sadan and the gentleman who owns the place - Rajiv Anand - was very well spoken and helpful. 

The blue pine treesI enjoyed the trip to lansdowne for the drive. It was our first long drive out of Delhi and it was well worth it!

The route we took was Delhi-> Meerut-> Bijnore->Kotdwar->Lansdowne. 
Do stop at 'Jai Shikanji' restaurant, some 26 kms before Bijnore, for some delicious Shikanji (its like Lime soda with some masala in it). A great thirst quencher.

Kotdwar to Lansdowne is about 44 kms of hilly road(or ghat section), and is easily the best part of the drive.
The road has a steep climb and goes through a hillside lined with some beautiful blue pine and oak trees.

We accompanied a friend who was with his gang of Enfield bikers, who were doing the trip to Lansdowne. However we soon left them behind and drove on. 

Lansdowne does have a sunset point, a 'tip in top' view point and a smallish lake. But again the best part is that there isn't much to do.

our ride(s)One can also reach Lansdowne by taking a train to Kothdwar and then hiring a taxi to the top, but I would recommend going in your own vehicle. This will let you explore the area around Lansdowne. 
You can park your vehicle and do short treks through the lovely hillside.
However if you're driving by yourself then it is recommended to plan your drive such that you reach the place before it gets too dark. The hill road is fairly narrow, with hairpin bends and driving in the dark is quite a hairy experience.

The awesome part is that you may get to sight a leopard if you are lucky! A couple of our friends who were co-incidentally at the place, came down to meet us and spotted a large leopard by the road :D

Lansdowne is the kind of a hill-station, where you take along a couple of good books, some music and some good wine. Stick around doing nothing but reading and enjoying the views of the valley. Its a beautiful place, as yet untouched and untarnished. 


Why 'Junior MasterChef' rocks!

I've completely ignored 'Satyameva Jayate', I don't care about the brickbats headed my way, but it seems plainly overrated. Of course with Aamir Khan hosting it - and doing what he is best at doing ("acting" in it) - I am sure it will reach masses and may make a bit of a difference.

The other reality show that I love is 'Dance India Dance - lil champs' that has some great talent on show and wonderful dancing. Siiigh, I wish I could so some "popping and locking" like some of those kids do.

But anyway this post is about the awesomeness that is "Junior MasterChef Australia". 

I am not a foodie (though some of you who've seen me eating fish may beg to differ) and I am not a guy who enjoy's cooking. 
Amongst the few things I do know how to make are - Omelette, Tea, Pulao and chocolate cake. An odd mix, I know :)

So back to MasterChef. It caught my eye because I was quite sure that kids in the range of 9-12 years would have no clue how to cook. I was wrong. They cook up a storm and they've so far dished out some awesome varieties of food!

Of course the kids are super talented, but what sets this show apart from some of the other reality shows is its lesson in positive reinforcement.

Every contest has a point system, the best 3 dishes get awarded points (6,4,3). However the other kids get a point each and the there is point awarded to the kid who is the most improved cook! 

Fantastic! I love the concept and who knows I might just get inspired and start showing some interest in cooking. But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.