It's not always a good idea to leave town for the long weekend. I discovered this in August on a trip to Simla.
Janmashtami processions jammed the hill roads and the homeward-bound had to sit it out for hours. But this Thursday was something else. It was Kartik Poornima and Gurpurab together (across the Bay in Thailand it was Loy Krathong, their Kartik Poornima - my favourite Thai festival for the candles they float on the river in exquisite flower-floats). And this time I discovered how nice it can be to stay back and enjoy your own city in peace.
On Kartik Poornima, also called Dev-Dipavali, the Dipavali of the Gods, my friends, a North Indian couple with two teenage sons, and I took advantage of the empty roads to have ourselves some uniquely Delhi experiences minus the usual stress. In just over two hours door-to-door, we drove across town and back from around Mehrauli in the south to Chandni Chowk in the north.
While in Chandni Chowk we had
at the beautiful Gauri-Shankar temple since Kartik Poornima commemorates the victory of the Lord of Light, Shiva, over the forces of darkness symbolised by the demon Tripurasur. We went along Chandni Chowk to Gurdwara Sis Ganj that marks the place of martyrdom, in November 1675, of Chadar-e-Hind Guru Tegh Bahadur and his devoted companions, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala. This resplendent shrine holds a special place in my heart for various reasons and it felt like the grace and favour of the Gurus to be suddenly 'called' there on the holy eve of Gurpurab (Guru Nanak was born on Kartik Poornima in 1469).
As always at Sis Ganj, great waves of love and respect visibly overwhelmed those who entered and I ate my
on the way out with a grateful feeling. Our next stop was Parathewale Gali. I had fantasised just a couple of days before Gurpurab about the time-honoured question, "
Alu parathas, gobhi parathas, methi parathas, pudina parathas or paneer parathas
?" and there they were, crisp and hot, with classic Walled City sides - dry potato
, potatoes and peas in gravy, pumpkin
and with it all, divinely sour
(ashgourd) that's always pickled in Gangajal because that keeps it fresh. We had
from the centuries-old shop next door and a few steps away, the lightest, creamiest rabri, not too sweet but just exactly right.
These simple but profound pleasures were ours for next to nothing and what with the deep feelings shared at the temple and gurdwara, we felt elated by these authentic experiences of our religion and culture. It was a bonding thing to wander around Chandni Chowk at night in utter harmony with our fellow-citizens, quietly celebrating the full moon night considered the holiest night in the year since ancient times. People smiled at strangers, offered them packets of biscuits, fed the poor, made room for each other, lit candles, spoke in gentle voices and generally exuded a sense of
(an Urdu word meaning relief, relaxation).
That's us, too, sometimes, when we feel at home, is it not?