Meandering Around Minara Masjid

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Revisiting the area around Minara Mosque in Crawford Market was the same yet different this year. For one, it was not raining which was a positive relief to me. Carrying an expensive DSLR camera around in pouring rain wasn’t an experience I was looking forward to.

All of you, who are new to this page, must be puzzled already by the oblique references. You can go back to an earlier post aptly named “Twelve Pots A Simmering” for more details. I was in the streets near Crawford Market in Bombay where during Ramzan food stalls crop up and swell in size as they get ready to serve the devout Muslims breaking their fasts after sundown. The virtual cornucopia of food attracts foodies irrespective of their religion, bloggers intent on covering the nuances of this eat street and photographers keen to photograph it all.

I claim membership of the last three groups and had plenty to keep me occupied. The food was delicious and the glow of the bare bulbs cast interesting shadows as I tried to capture the spirit of the place.

We didn’t go for the quails this time but there was plenty for the carnivores. Beef, mutton, chicken in various forms all lovingly coated with a thick layer of oil accompanied by tandoori or roomali rotis (flat breads) and parathas . There was kidney, trotters and tongue for the adventurous and desserts galore.

A stomach filled to dangerous levels prevented me from trying out the delicious biriyani but didn’t stop me from making the obligatory visit to Suleiman Mithaiwala. From the previous year I remembered that the malpua (a kind of deep-fried pancake) was too eggy for me, but the delicious mango and saffron phirnis (rice puddings) didn’t let me down. With a promise to be back again I wrapped up this three-hour food and photography marathon.

Chinese and Grill is one of the well-known restaurants of this area and a special mention has to be made of the extremely colourful, but of dubious authenticity, dish of Thread Chicken these young men were obviously enjoying. Enough to keep the cash registers ringing through the night.

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No Plastic Zone

Here are a few more pictures taken in and around Calcutta last month. These are from the airport, Victoria Memorial (VM) and Babughat or the promenade along the Hooghly river.

I was impressed by how clean Calcutta looked this time. Frequent signs announced VM and Babughat as no plastic zones and the effect was clearly visible. The water bodies in VM were clean and free of algae. The riverside wasn’t littered, it was well-lit and piped music was playing.

But somewhere inside me I wished the old Babughat was there. No lights, no music but yes I would still like it cleaner.

Nearly forgot to mention that this last picture has been taken outside a restaurant which sells the most divine pork momos, thukpa and the works. If you want to know the secret you must message me.

Calcutta Chronicles

To me Calcutta is the place I go to eat, shop and meet up with friends. The camera stays neglected in my bag, which is a shame, considering the fascinating locations just around the corner.

So I dusted my camera out its bag and accompanied a school friend and keen photographer to a photo-shoot in and around the streets of North Calcutta specifically Chitpur and Bagbazar. It was a typical winter morning cold and misty and it was interesting to document the scenes of a city waking up from its slumber.

The lanes and by-lanes reminded me of Varanasi but somewhat cleaner and considerably less chaotic. The peeling paint, political slogans and the ubiquitous tea shops created a picture of an old forgotten world where things have not changed much over the centuries. The stray mongrels and muffler clad people moved in a world of mist and smoke from the clay unons (ovens).

By the time it was eight am, the light was decidedly better and the roads were bustling with rickshaws, vendors and people off to work. Just before leaving Chitpur we decided to check out just one more lane and hit the jackpot. The small workshops down a narrow alleyway were crammed with karais or woks in various stages of production. There were men with huge hammers beating the woks into shape; wielding welding torches and smoothing surfaces and edges and putting the final touches to these gigantic cooking pots.

Bagbazar, the citadel of old Bengali aristocracy, cleaner and with wider roads, had remnants of the old buildings now in ruins, speaking of a greater past. After some hing (asafoetida) kachoris and jilipis (jalebis) in front of Girish Mancha, we decided to call it a day.

Twelve Pots A Simmering

Fast is Over

It was a dark and stormy night and by all rights I should have been at home having a hot meal and making myself comfortable with a good book. But once the photography bug has bitten you then you can’t help but consider the inclement weather just a minor discomfort compared to the joy of taking pictures, especially when it came with the added attraction of tasting the Iftar food in the lanes and by-lanes near Crawford Market.

Come Ramzan and these streets are packed with food stalls selling food for the devout to break their fast. And foodies all over come and join the celebrations by coming in large numbers to taste the food and soak in the atmosphere.

Prayer

So umbrella in one hand and camera in another, I joined my friends to taste the famous Bara Handi (Twelve Pots) in Nagpada Lane. The shop opposite the mosque was more than a hundred years old; the restaurant was full and tables and chairs had been laid out on the pavement to tackle the spill over. The awning wasn’t too water proof and water was splashing down on the tables but it didn’t deter all the brave souls who were actually holding umbrellas over their heads while tucking into the delicious food.

Bara Handi is a bohra dish made of twelve types of curries made from beef or mutton, some thick gravy and some thin salans. The traditional clay pots have been replaced by steel utensils; a clay platform with a fire at its base keeps the pots simmering all the time.

 We had a great variety of dishes from a variety of chicken kababs to melt in the mouth niharis, all accompanied by fluffy rotis hot from the tandoor.


But the treat wasn’t over yet. The rain was pouring down and the roads were dark, wet and slippery and teeming with people when we made our way to Minara Masjid (Mosque) for even more delicacies. All around there were skewers full of meat being roasted, tawas (griddles) spilling over with liver, kidney, tongue, brain and other exotic body parts cheek by jowl with shops selling fruits, dry fruits and sweets of all description.

The second instalment of dinner was a bit more adventurous, magaz (brain) curry liberally spiced, crisply fried quail with chat masala (tangy spice mix), liver and some more kababs to add to the mix.

But we weren’t done by any means and strolled ( or was it waddled) over to Sulaiman Mithaiwala ( Sweet seller) to partake in some malpuas ( fried sweet) and phirni ( rice pudding). To my surprise the malpuas were completely different from the ones I have had in Calcutta and each monstrous creation dipped in sugar syrup and served with rabdi (thickened milk) had five whole eggs in the batter.

Let me tell you that I am salivating while writing this post and will soon be making a midnight snack to alleviate the hunger pangs.

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Now to try this out in Delhi and don’t worry a report duly illustrated will reach you soon.

Walking down Marine Drive

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I wonder how many of us have heard of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Road in Bombay. If we ask a long time resident or even the all knowing taxi drivers with their black & yellow Padminis, we are sure to get a blank look. But that’s the name of Marine Drive in the official records and that’s where it stays.

After last Sunday got washed out due to the rains, I couldn’t wait to take my camera for a walk. And Marine Drive is the ideal place for a monsoon photo shoot. Teeming with people on a Saturday evening, the boulevard provides ample photo opportunities with the sea, the clouds and the towering office buildings as a backdrop. There are young couples canoodling and children with harassed looking parents, groups of young men out for some fun ably catered by the vendors with tea, coffee, bournvita, corn, raw mangoes; the list goes on.

Bhaji on the Beach

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This weekend’s photography outing was on a Saturday evening at the Juhu Beach. Like the rest of Bombay, Juhu is overcrowded especially during the week-ends. Courting couples, screaming children and vendors with “chat patta” snacks dot every square inch of the sand until walking on the beach is more like running an obstacle course.

But despite the mayhem, once you feel the cool breeze coming in from the sea and the sea water under your bare feet, you know why the others are there; and you are there too. For a slice of nature in the midst of the city.

The food stalls selling pao bhaji (buns with curry), ragda pattice ( potatoes with chick peas), kulfi (Indian ice-cream) and too many other snacks to list are nothing to be sniffed at. And if you are feeling greedy, like I was just pop over to one of the restaurants across the road for some air-conditioned environment and delicious food. After some pao bhaji on the beach of-course!

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South Bombay Revisited

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Photographing the area between Fountain, Gateway of India and Colaba streets has always been a particular favourite of mine because of the impressive architecture and the variety of people on the streets.

It was the first time I was there on a Saturday morning and wasn’t disappointed. Here are some pictures of Bombay as it prepares to wake up to another day.

And a few splashes of colour.