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Posted on: Friday , Dec 24, 2010 At 11:46 AM

Food From Andhra Pradesh

The Andhra Pradesh Bhawan Canteen (1, Ashoka Road, New Delhi) is known for its vegetarian food, Andhra style. 

It is not very spicy. You can pay a small premium, and convert the base vegetarian thali to a Mutton thali, or a Chicken thali. 

I tried the Mutton thali, which was for Rs.160. In the mutton category, along with the vegetarian food, you have the option of asking for a helping of Mutton Fry, or Mutton Curry. I had gone with a friend of mine, and we ordered both, and both were equally delicious. The thali consisted of a onion + tomato + dhania chutney, pappu (dal/ lentil), aloo fry, baigan salan, rasam, Sambhar, and sewaiyen as the sweet dish. 

There is also a side helping of mango pickle (Andhra style, spicy), Gongura achar (Andhra style, spicy), Gun powder, and Ghee. They also serve papad with the food. Puri and Rice are unlimited, and food quality is really good.

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Posted on: Wednesday , Dec 22, 2010 At 12:54 PM

Firoz Shah Kotla - A Forgotten City


Firoz Shah Kotla Fort in Delhi was built by Firoz Shah Tuhglaq in 1354 A.D., almost 760 years back.

Baoli, or the well, which once was an attraction there, is not open to public anymore, because of the enormous number of suicide attempts there. 

Ashoka Pillar graces the fort arena. In addition, there is a place for worship known as Djinn’s Dargah.

Folklore and myth suggest that this place is frequented by Djinns, and those who pray with a true heart, often are rewarded for their purity.

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Posted on: Tuesday , Dec 21, 2010 At 16:05 PM

Neemrana Fort Palace ‘non Hotel’ Hotel

On the morning of a Saturday, about a month back, I got up earlier than I expected. My history buff childhood buddy, Soumendu Biswas, now a teaching faculty at MDI, Gurgaon, had no plans to explore New Delhi, with Manish Sinha, another history buff friend of ours. This I had known about the previous evening, and when the morning dawned, I got some of the office work done, and headed out to Facebook land, and left a message for Soumendu Da, that I would be headed his way, in a couple of hours, and we would go out for a drive.

That is exactly what I did. I picked up Soumendu Da, from his resident in MDI, Gurgaon, and we let the passing moments decide our fate, on NH 8.

Da, in quintessential Jamshedpur (earlier in Bihar, now in Jharkhand) bhasha (dialect/ language) asked me – ‘Abey Kadu, tum Neemrana gaye ho bey’? Kadu was my nick name from school, and the answer to the question was a nod of the head, in the affirmative of a negative, and the excitement, that this history buff had something in mind.

It was decided to hit the 122nd milestone on the Delhi – Jaipur highway, on NH 8, towards Jaipur, in the state of Rajasthan. Neemrana’s history was narrated to me by Da, and the tag line was which got me excited – Neemrana Fort Palace ‘non hotel’ Hotel. I thought, this was surely clichéd, but well, what the hell! On a overcast Saturday morning, I had nothing better to do with my weekend. If Da was mentioning this place, it had to have some merit. Da is also in the process of writing a book on history, and I had to trust his research bent of mind, which almost always had words of pearls, and gems, for places in and around Delhi.

By the time we reached the village, Neemrana, it had started pouring big time. Visibility was at an all time low, yet our intention was to not get bogged down by Mother Nature’s deeds. The slippery roads, the pouring downwater stream from the fort, down to the main road, and the narrow passage from the main road, to the Fort Palace hotel, made life tough for me, to drive up to the parking area. People were driving down, in these conditions on full throttle, and I had to be careful, to evade these mad men. 

The parking lot was jam packed, which suggested to me, that even during the weekend, people wanted to come here, and spend some time. By the time we paid Rs.500 as non hotel resident entry fees, and entered the main gate, it was evident to me, why this place was jam packed with people. Breathtaking views, great architecture, fascinating interiors, great artifacts on display, and old paintings decorated the surroundings of this palace.

The main gate gave you the feel of fort doors of yesteryear. Pure wood, with bolts to hold the wooden slabs together. It still looked like a fort’s main door. The staff had maintained it well. There were those small windows, popping out of the main walls, which would be the sitting place for queens, and princes, in the evenings, when the weather would start cooling down, and they wanted to feel the passing wind on their faces. The steps were all made in stone, and I thought the planning, to cut down on corrosion was brilliant.

Stair ways were of 2 kinds: the traditional steps, which had some kind of terrace covering associated with it, or else the sliding panels, without the traditional steps. The latter, did not have a terrace covering, and hence were exposed to rain water all the time. It is here, where I thought, that the fort planning was at its best. The slab was divided into 2 sections: 1/3rd of the section was an even, cemented panel, with grips for your feet to hold on to, and help you not slip. This was also exposed to corrosion, since it was flat. The other 2/3rd of the section was stone, which had groves in it, cuts in it, to slow down, the water gushing down the steps, when it rained. What it did was 2 simple things: one, it eased down the rate at which water tumbled down, and then the groves and cuts within this section, also reduced the rate of corrosion. Simple things looked into it enhance the infrastructure. Common sense, which is missing in today’s civic amenities provisions to the people of this country.

The old world charm was created by some of the following artifacts which were placed within the fort: a horse cart, ghadas (Earthen pots to store water) with carvings on them, water fountain base which you could see in the gardens of the fort, several chairs to sit, several tables, several benches carved out of stone, bougainvilleas everywhere in different colors, miniature church bells, miniature cannons, several statues, and several paintings.

The habitat around the palace was what typical villages of India look like, and from the top of the fort, the surrounding ecosystem, looked fascinating. The staff here was very courteous, and wore the most fascinating Kurtas: colors were Yellow, Green, Pink, and some other shade, which I cannot categorize.

As mentioned earlier, it was pouring when we reached the fort, and the moment we parked our cars, the staff offered us umbrellas. We were not the only ones, it was offered to all. These small aspects, these small measures, add to the experience of staying in a place such as Neemrana.

The parking lot had a camel tied next to it, and I was not exactly sure, why? May be in the evenings, the kids were offered a camel ride in the neighboring area. I did not find out either, since I was long lost in my own world. There was also a store outside the main fort palace, known as Neemrana Silver Craft, and from the outside, it looked like a place, where you could spend more than a few minutes, delving into the artifacts on offer.

The swimming pool is awesome, pure royalty. It ranges from 65 cms. (25 inches) deep on the shallow end, to 140 cms. (55 inches) at the deepest end. More than anything else, it is the surrounding fort, the surrounding greenery, the surrounding ecosystem, the open sky, and rooms surrounding the swimming pool, which creates this aura, which needs to be witnessed and cannot be put in words.

There was a ‘special room’, called the Burj Mahal, which had chairs, benches, and a swing. A woman was sleeping on the swing, while people were sitting around there, taking photographs, and looking out into the hill side. The maximum amount of peace comes when sitting in this room. A must stop by, if you guys ever make it to Neemrana Fort-Palace, ‘non-hotel’ Hotel.

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