Paan anyone?


Paan, a betel leave with areca nut and lime, here served as a mouth “freshener” after a dinner at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

It took me a year and a half and some quite an amount of persuasion by visitng friends to finally try paan, India’s stimulating and psychoactive pastime. The rolled betel leaves are available at every street corner in Old Delhi, and in many other places of the city as well. Of this the brown stains on buildings and in staircases, even in government offices, bear witness to.

The huge package I then placed into my mouth was filled with the usual areca nut and lime and tobacco, and also some mukhwas and something sweet and I don’t know what else. The flavours exploded in my mouth, and made my head spin. But to be honest, after chewing for a minute or so, I spit everything out. And so I didn’t realise any longer lasting effects. Mercifully.

In the lanes of Old Delhi

Shahjahanabad through my new 70-200mm lens

Our family explores Old Delhi

Food Walk in Old Delhi

Sweet and sour, mild and spicy, crispy and spongy, hot and cold, creamy and icy, filled and plain – an introduction to the Old Delhi’s Street Food given to us by Himanshu. Plus some inevitable ingredients. And flowers!

Seeing the city through the eyes of former street children

Paharganj: Delhi’s cramped backpacker area behind the biggest train station, where hundreds of cheap and cheapest hotels are wedged between textile shops that sprawl onto the road, internet cafés and souvenir shops. But Paharganj is also home to countless street children who walk around with big bags, ready to pick everything up that  could bring some rupees at the recycle shop and often with a handkerchief in their little hands, ready for the next line of glue to sniff.

Salaam Baalak Trust runs homes here, some for kids that only want to pop in for some medical help or a game, others more temporary with school lessons and mattresses on the floor, and some as full-scale children’s homes. Some of the former street kids have finished college – and several of the teenagers run tours through the area no one knows better than they do.

It’s an amazing insight into how much money someone gets for a kilogram of collected plastic, where the police doesn’t find sleeping children, what sense of freedom they have and how important cinemas are.

Exploring Old Delhi and it’s people… once again

Delhi Heritage Walk with Sohail Hashmi

Delhi’s Havelis

Looks like I can’t get enough of the bicycle rides through Delhi. This time I took part in the Haveli Tour. Havelis are nobleman’s mansions, once built as “earthly reminders of the pleasures of Paradise itself”. The owners were Emirs, the loyal men of emperor Shah Jahan, who controlled the social, cultural and economic affairs in Delhi. Once these mansions were imposing and fortress-like, but now, three hundred years of decadence, war and re-building later, they are much smaller and often neglected. Many Delhi families keep them to show off with having a permanent adress in Old Delhi – but actually they are living in the South of the city, where they have broad streets for their big cars and much more comfort. So many are used today as storage places or for festivities and remind the onlooker of their much grander past.

Ethnography of Indian Spices

All philistines and novices of Delhi were calles by Heritage Educationist and Classical Dancer Dr. Navina Jafa. With her we traced the genesis of street food from the 17th century to present times on Chandini Chowk. We walked along the history of spices and got to know about their effects on humanity. As I now know, spices played an integer part in the role of history: in cooking, politics, religion, war and, of course, romance.

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