Friday, December 28, 2007

Kumaon Diaries 1 – Nainital

Glimpse of Nainital

They are the children of the mountains, nothing can bruise their spirit, least of all a name change. The people of Kumaon laugh at the political embroil over the name game, from Uttar Pradesh to Uttraranchal to Uttrakhand, the place has seen three names in a decade. People of Kumaon, their stories and folk lore that resonate in the hills stand testimony to this. There is a certain innocence about the people there, and the fleeting glimpse of a smile that dimpled a kumaoni face made me fall in love with the place.

Our journey of Kumaon started when we reached the Kathgodam railway junction from bariley. Although Kathgodam itself does not have any tourist significance it is an important transit point and is one of the few railway junctions of Kumaon. The rail junction hosts a government run tourist kiosk where one gets assistance on cabs and buses traversing to various regions of Uttrakhand. It also provides tourists ample reading material on places to visit.

Our first stop, Nainital. It had all the romantic frills of a hill station - horse riding, boating, sunset point, nagging tour guides, and the thriving market place in and around the lake that would appeal to a typical picnicking tourist. Heck it even had a rope way that promised a breathtaking view of the Himalayas but none of that remotely enthralled me. I was intrigued by the nonchalance with which the English architectural grandeur coexisted with chaos of restaurants on mall road.

The autumn drenched leaves laced with snow caps of the Himalayas, the quaint lamp post and the benches along the mall road all made for a picturesque sight.

After walking for an hour up and down mall road, much to my disappointment, we didn’t find a single place serving kumaoni food. Since I had already worked up quiet an appetite in the hope of binging on local food we had to resort to the Tibetan dumplings called momos and lot of international food that the restaurants proudly boast off.

The misty walkway to the Raj Bhavn

The Raj Bhavan or the governor’s house is a replica of the Buckingham palace and is a must visit tourist destination. The place holds an English charm but refurbished with all the modern amenities. The interiors are just as extravagant as the outside Oak wood adorns the walls and all the furniture inside. Life there would have been well so la-di-da.

A magnificent green house for high tea, a dance floor with spring padding allows one to waltz away without tiring, warm fire place to curl up with a book, oh and the grand stairway, what can I say, perfect for when you’re all ready for your beau to escort you to the grand ball. I was drifting in all my whimsical fancies when the biting chill shook me out of it rather rudely. As beautiful as the place maybe one cannot escape a tour guide who will talk incessantly with heavily accented Hindi. We caught the misty sunset here before we decided to head to Almora to pitch camp for the night.

Nainital is ideal for a weekend getaway; it allows a traveler to relish everything about a hill station without getting bored. I must admit the place is a summer destination but is just as charming in the winters. One can revel in the magic of the yesteryears when the crowds are thinner, the leaves turn golden and everything around seems immersed in mystique.

Photgraphs: Chinmoye Bhave and me, Ok mostly him.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Kumaon Mystique

I am still revelling in the fantastic 5 day Uttrakhand journey. I'll be posting them in parts as Kumaon Diary series.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

On Chole Bhature

Just the other day I was reading a mouth watering review about the connoisseurs of Chole Bhature, and the next week I am in CP Delhi ordering the yummy greasy dish from just there. Right next to the Park in CP is a joint called Kwality who for years have been dishing out the soft golden fluffy Bhature with scrumptious Chole. Now I am no Chole Bhature expert but I have eaten enough to tell this was by far the best. Neither ambiance nor service is exactly their USP. One look at the place is enough to tell. Their old pot bellied waiters are clearly old timers there. They talk noisily amongst themselves, don’t even fake a smile to glean that extra tip and know they don’t have to try hard. Kwality probably became hugely popular for their chole bhature and then converted the grimy place into a full fledged restaurant, however, one can’t miss the reminiscence of the bygone era. The ambiance is rather contrived and forcefully fit with the in your face motifs, ugly chandelier and not to mention really crammed seating. But then again, everyone going to Kwality knows he is only paying for the Chole Bhature. The place is surprisingly affordable in an up market place like CP and it gives you that ideal break from all the shopping to well replenish all your lost calories.

Now Chole Bhature is a Punjabi dish and is usually had for breakfast, after which, one such as myslf would happily skip lunch and dinner. But in Punjab, it’s a different story. The Chole is made of chick peas, and at Kwality they add some potatoes to make it luscious. The Bhature is made of maida, on that note let me warn you that while hogging on Chole Bhature kindly pay no heed to the calorie meter that would be on a rampant rise. However, in more recent times Chole Bhature has transcended from its original breakfast status to a more roadside fast food evening snack status. It is only yummier when one doesn’t cringe about the oil used. The greasier the better.

Kwality’s mission is to churn out yummy mouth watering Chole Bhature that'll talk for itself and not be hassled by all the exterior frills.

The rest of the menu looks equally appealing and going by what I ate I am guessing the rest is as yummy. I did try the dal makhni and it was made just right. The place has housed itself at a very prime location and attracts a whole lot of tourists from the hotels around.

Lassi would be an ideal way to wrap up the meal for it helps dilute the greasiness and probably makes you feel less guilty about binging. If you are the calorie counting type then you should make an exception just this one time as it’s not worth missing the yummy Chole Bhature at Kwality.