Paharganj with a purpose!
The reason we traveled many kilometers to Paharganj was for the famous Sitaram choley-bhaturey. Soft and delicious, it sure is the enemy of one's arteries but so yummy for the taste buds:) The bhatureys are one of a kind, stuffed with lightly salted paneer and aromatic greens, the authentic north Indian choley is topped and garnished with carrot pickle and green chutney and chopped onions - delectable! And my God is it heavy and filling – keeps you away from any other food all day long! My brother insists that ever since he has had the chholey-bhaturey at Sitaram's, there is no other place in India that compares and I grudgingly agree with him . Sitaram also serves khattae aloo (potato gravy) which is too sour for me but is an equal hit with his patrons! A tiny non descript place in the middle of a narrow 2 way street called chunagali which is invariably always caught in traffic snarls, you got to be single minded and focused when heading to Sitarams!
On a full stomach, and all of a sudden sleepy eyes I trudge out of Sitarams, shielding myself from the harsh sun, and come out to the end of this street into a flea market of sorts. Very similar in look and feel to Goa minus the beaches! Similar kind of stuff on sale. Similar kind of grunge on the street. Similar beckoning of shopkeepers thinking us to be foreigners to come and check the wares. And the similarity ends there.
Paharganj was delightful for me, as I discovered, its delight, on foot. Dhaaba and European restaurants nestle in this quaint street next to each other, Jalebee’s and Lassi’s are a hungry mans pick-me-up, fashion street kinda clothing and street side shoes shops are dime a dozen, and even many more souvenir shops, tiny as they seem, once you step in, are like a long non ending corridor of more things to be discovered within!
The people selling in these shops have a friendly demeanor ( starkly in contrast to the aggression of Delhi). The inner streets of this old world called Paharganj are unique, charming, mystical and happy. Many of the shops in there sell one category of goods, like silver jewelry or wire screens or beads and necklaces, or old antique pieces or shoes- reflecting decades and decades of traditional cultural Indianess.
This market boasts of 2 types of clientele, the locals and hordes of foreign visitors. The foreigners needs and requirements, help sprout, travel agencies-coffee houses-backpacker hotels and stylish fusion restaurants, which make them a lot more profitable:)
Paharganj allows you to devour the local moods rather happily. One thing is sure: A Street devoted to a particular product can almost overnight turn into the home of trendy restaurants. On one short block, I walked past a Conti bar, a Mediterranean restaurant, a patisserie and two upscale coffee houses. This mood of Delhi was most definitely a new exploration for me.
On the other hand on day 2 when I walked the streets of Paharganj really ravenous, I came across single-item restaurants, places where you perch on low stools and for very little have a sumptuous snacks – katchori, samosa, malai lassi, noodles, plain coffee, brun maska pao!! May not be a large variety to chose from, but delectable, economical, Indian and fresh!
The streets are teeming with foreigners of various hues and purposes, many of them looked like they did not belong to the present, and many who looked bright and vivacious searching a good bargain! I loved the easy pace as I shopped with glee and found myself much trivia and trinkets as souvenirs for friends back home.
Paharganj is hectic! All day a rush hour of traffic, people, complete with cows and stray dogs aimlessly roaming the streets and laying down where they please. Incense smoke and delicious food scent the air. This place is friendly and welcoming. The surrounding buildings are rather forlorn looking and ruptured, every street corner has a small cosy cafe – guess the basic needs of a traveler do get fulfilled with these:)
Some foreigners have come here in search of religion, some others in search of yoga and some are merely vacationing!
Paharganj almost feels like is caught in a time warp! It's an oasis of old culture in Delhi, a still-beautiful city of colonial villas, gardens and lakes that nonetheless is dotted with new high-rise projects, with massive lung space and is now getting transformed into suburban malls too. Some of it is exactly like it was when some old timers recall Paharganj of the yore, and some rue the loss of the old Paharganj that was tree lined and fantastic and sacred. A 100ft tall Hanuman keeps an eye on all that transpires here so beware all!:)
I found Paharganj to be forward and cheeky like our new age India.
Posted by Mee at 22:55