Imagine about breaking away from your regular junk of awfully monotonous burgers and painfully dry pizzas. Imagine walking out of your fake-aired cafes and walking down the street decorated with shining utensils on the side, breathing into the fresh air (pollution-clad! Hey, but it still is fresh!) Imagine encountering a buffet of first-copy shoes, the road-side fortune-tellers and the huge trees covering a stunning piece of art and architecture. Like the idea? Read on…
After a couple of pushes and a handful of Tu-Bahar-Mil looks exchanged, I, along with a friend, finally managed to get off the bus as the scorching sun welcomed us – its aura made me curse Him, a little more than usual. The foot-path had long been occupied by the local vendors and food-stalls and we had no choice but to walk on the middle of the road, amidst the forever honking bikes and toe-crushing bicycles. Is this tramp a mistake? My friend enquired as I shook my head, thinking, yes it is, yes it is!
Walking past the bustling local-market, the glittering bangles, the enormous ornaments, dying out lotuses and poker-faced stuffed monkeys, I caught a glimpse of a bandanna with a print of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara hanging upside down and (instinctively) just stopped there. Ah, the old city has got some attitude and audacity!
Walking for about a kilometre at the pace of an ass and asking a dozen people about the whereabouts of our royal meal, we somehow managed to reach this place called the ‘Bhatiyar Gali.’ The place is best described as the hangout place of your grand-dad when he was in his early 40s or of your dad, with his gang of ‘dudes’, back in his late teens.
Modest shops arranged adjacent to each other within a narrow stretch, the whiff of chicken tangdi being deep-fried mixing with the reek of water rumbling in a pipe-line titillating your nose (sneeze!), bulky faces with awkward tones inviting you to visit their place of eatery, and the cross-road leading you to slaughter houses on all the three ends apart from the one you’re currently stationed at. The setting is typically that of the local food-chains they show you in the wannabe-classy gangster movies.
Our mouths bleeding water, we ordered for half a plate kheema samosa – those hefty triangles dripping oil on paper and leaking meat in our mouths, leaving us asking for more, after a bite, a piece and the entire plate. The samosas’, a little too much on the other side of green chilli, leave you whooshing air in-and-out of your mouth, and as you turn around, there’s a classic network of orange jalebis waiting for you; such is their conspiracy!
Next, we obliged this big man, asking us to try his ‘chicken dana’, and entered the self-effacing quarter called the ‘Qutub Hotel’, and trust me when I say this, I’ve been to the Iranian restaurant at the Al-Burma street in Dubai and the all-so-loving Kareem’s in Delhi, but these bone-full balls, appearing in an eye-hurting red with so much of a masala sprinkled over them, that it reminds you of maa ka pyaar, tops the list of the best chicken I’ve had till date, at a quarter of a price than the ones mentioned earlier.
Remind you, the place is so filthy that just as you pick up one of the chicken balls delivered to you on a plastic plate, you remember all the health and food and chicken related diseases in world. But, you still stuff your mouth with this crisp of flesh, feeling guilty over the medical bills that may soon invade your father’s bank account, before the meat melts in your mouth and you’re taken to this place they always mentioned about – heaven. Okay, my work-desk is flooded with water now!
A quick chat with the (fat) man heading the business of Qutub (heaven), and your jaw drops because the lane that was until now being described as muck, was actually the royal-feast arena of the Emperors that invaded the city and in fact, it is from his name that the city derives its identity! He told me that about 500 years from this day, there used to be celebrations and contests and what-not within the confinement of this very lane.
Just as I bid adieu to my (fat) man, I saw a new addition to the road-side ferry – the kebabs! I gathered my stomach and scurried towards it, but the now-huge bag roared – this is it, either you stop or I burst! I couldn’t have afforded the latter – never! My eyes moist, I promised to catch up with my beloved kebabs the next time.
And you, if you just haven’t started hogging (not a fault in my writing, you hate food!), make sure you visit this royal lane in the royal streets of the royal city. Sit back and have all the royal food in the world, the danas’ and the biryanis’ and the butters’ – be the royal highness for a day!