Street food at Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk is the ideal place to experience the maddening crowds of Delhi. I wouldn’t have gone if the surprisingly efficient Delhi metro system didn’t take me straight to it. I had been advised to try the chaat and parathas and to generally get my hands dirty with the street food.
So I squeezed through its thronging narrow alleyways, bustling shops, caught in a sepia picture of an old-world Delhi, a foreign tourist’s delight, but easily an annoyance for an Indian who’s used to seeing overpopulated, underdeveloped streets.
I found a chaat shop and sampled their ware and wolfed down lassi and sweets on the street outside. The food was worth it. By then I was full and the vendors were hounding me to buy their ethnic marriage ware, so I hopped back on the metro towards broader, greener Delhi. [more]
A rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk
At Chandni Chowk, in Old Delhi, a long row of shops, houses and places of worship line a very busy road. Being in a car is sheer punishment here. In fact the best way to explore this area is to board the metro from Connaught Place in New Delhi and then hire a rickshaw from the Metro station. I wondered what I was there to see; this sea of humanity? This surging and seething wave of men, women, children, the disabled---- well yes, in a way that is the most vivid image of the place you are likely to carry back. Apart from buyers and sellers there are hundreds of devotees from diverse religions who throng the streets.
As I entered Chandni Chowk opposite the Red Fort, I saw the red and white Shri Digambar Lal Jain Mandir---one of the oldest Jain temples dating back to 1526 AD. Attached to this is the only Birds’ Hospital in India. Injured birds after treatment are released from the rooftop of the temple. Gurudwara Sheesh Ganj with its golden cupolas draws Sikh devotees. The trunk of the banyan tree under which Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded in 1675AD during the reign of Aurengzeb can be seen in the compound of the Gurudwara.
Another few yards down the road, you are in front of the fountain. It is not exactly a work of art but it is a landmark. In front of it is an old sweet shop-Annapurna. Bengali sweets have always enjoyed a high status in gourmet circles in India and this shop has some authentic specialities to offer. Not very far is yet another celebrated sweet shop, the 200-year-old Ghantewala. It specializes in North Indian sweet delicacies. This area is so full of food you don’t have to go hungry here. There is something edible at handshaking distance all the time. The pavements are dotted with vendors selling seasonal fruits. Indian fast food holds its own here. There is an entire alley by the name of Paranthewali Gali that specializes in paranthas, fried bread with or without stuffing. [more]
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