Tag Archives: India

Paan, paan!

Not the emergency, but being in London last week I was able to indulge my very great weakness for meetha paan, this time on Drummond Street.  Perfect after a lunch of dosas.

Today’s tiffin

tiffin

Dal makhani and matar paneer, to bring back memories of dinnertime on the banks of the Ganges in Uttrakhand.  To think I was only there but two months ago!  Sat at my desk at work in front of the computer, I couldn’t resist putting my spoon down and eating a little with my hands; surreptitiously, as my Japanese colleagues would be shocked at the sight of something so barbaric.  Whenever the subject of eating with one’s hands comes up, I always echo the words of Mughal Emperor Shahjehan (or it may have been the old soak Jehangir): “Eating with cutlery is like wooing a woman through an interpreter.”  Whilst it always seems so hedonistic – mostly making me recall Frankie Howerd’s Up Pompeii – the food really does taste different when eaten with one’s fingers.  On the campsite in India, we would obligingly hold out the jug of water for each other to wash our hands before and after each meal, a most civilised yet intimate ritual.  Whilst you probably won’t get that in your local Indian restaurant, an after-dinner fingerbowl with a slice of lime in it – to refresh one’s lips – always brings back memories of eating tandoori chicken by the campfire to a background of nightjars and the rushing waters of the Ganges, and my daily mealtime attempts at learning Hindi, butchering the language to the indulgent smiles of my dining companion.  Here in Japan, sushi is one of the few Japanese foods that traditionally should be eaten with one’s hands, and it always seems so much tastier to me that way, and it seems a shame when the beautifully crafted sushi falls apart in the soy sauce dish after being clumsily handled with chopsticks. 

Another favourite Delhi portrait

portrait2

Local tough kids at Nizamuddin Dargah, waiting for their iftari.  They asked me to take a photo of them and were in remarkably high spirits, considering they had been fasting all day (I get in a terrible mood, missing even one meal) and most likely had not even had a sip of water for more than ten hours, despite the  heat of the day. 

Sikander Sahib

or the Anglo-Indian James Skinner, has always fascinated me, and my trip to Delhi gave me the chance to visit his final resting place in the church that he had built in the north of the city. There is in fact a story relating to this from his days as a mercenary with the Mahrattas, which he tells with typical sangfroid in his memoirs:

“…as I was going to follow them, a horseman galloped up, matchlock in hand, and shot me through the groin, I fell, and became insensible immediately; and after my fall, the poor remains of my brave but unfortunate fellows met the same fate. I do not believe that fifty men out of the 1,000 escaped from the field untouched.

It was about three in the afternoon when I fell, and I did not regain my senses till sunrise next morning. When I came to myself, I soon remembered what had happened, for several other wounded soldiers were lying near me. My pantaloons were the only rag that had been left me, and I crawled under a bush to shelter myself from the sun. Two more of my battalion crept near me;-the one a subadar, that had his leg shot off below the knee; the other, a jemadar had a spear wound through his body. We were now dying of thirst, but not a soul was to be seen; and in this state we remained the whole day, praying for death. But alas! night came on, but neither death nor assistance. The moon was full and clear, and about midnight it was very cold. So dreadful did this night appear to me, that I swore, if I survived, to have nothing more to do with soldiering,-the wounded on all sides crying out for water-the jackalls tearing the dead, and coming nearer and nearer to see if we were ready for them; we only kept them off by throwing stones, and making noises. Thus passed this long and horrible night.”

plaque

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Night Stalker

paw print

On our way to one of the fishing points, my ghillie stopped me and pointed out this leopard paw print right next to my foot.  It was about 50 yards from where we were camping!

Moti Mahal in Daryaganj, Old Delhi

Well my trip to India coincided with the last few days of Ramzaan and Id-ul-Fitr, which meant I couldn’t eat at the famed Old Delhi restaurant Karim‘s during the day (I made up for it by eating very good Kashmiri and also northern Muslim food  in the restaurant Chor Bizarre, but that is another story).  However, on the same list of must-eats is surely Moti Mahal, nearby in Old Delhi’s Daryaganj. 

moti mahal1

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Favourite Delhi Portrait

paanwalla

Paan-wallah on Daryaganj, Old Delhi.