The chill thrills

Mohit Kharbanda
Sunday, 3 February 2019

Winter in Delhi is so much more than the variety of warmers. Here are some sights that the season opens up...

Delhi, in all its chaotic yet alluring charm has always proved to be an explorer’s perfect muse. In winters, it offers you much more than a sublime nip in the air. It brings you some spectacular sights, ones which you won’t be able to witness at any other time of the year. 

So here are some of the stunners best explored this season 

Experience patriotism like never before
I have the fondest memories of me and my entire family waking up early on January 26 every year to camp in front of the television set to watch the Republic Day parade. Now we are happy witnessing the biggest parade in the country on the screens, or perhaps even live. But if we get the chance, the best way to experience it is to watch what goes into putting up the spectacle. Every year, after December 25 till January 23, you can head to the heart of Lutyens, to witness the rehearsals for the parade where the assiduous participants, oblivious to the frigid mornings, are practising their act with grit and perseverance.
From National Security Guards to Delhi Police to Naval contingents and Army battalions, regiments like the Gurkha, Assam Rifles, riders balanced perfectly on classic motorcycles and bands of the armed forces — you get to see them all, preparing for the big day. But more so, you get to experience the parade in its full glory. The atmosphere fills you with awe. It should definitely be high on agenda for any photographer who would love to capture the energy, the expressions and the raw emotions.

A surreal sunrise and a hundred flutters
Sunrise has always been one of my most favourite moments to capture. Now add to that a boat ride on a calm river and hundreds of birds flying around you — that’s winer morning in the capital. Thousands of migratory birds head to the banks of the Yamuna during winters. Head to the ghats of Yamuna on a chilly Delhi morning to see them fluttering around as the sun rises over the river. The view is so raw and so close to nature, yet so much a part of the city.  The spectacle is an absolute delight for a photographer. These moments will not be found elsewhere and they can’t be prompted or staged. 

Move over Karim’s
Winters are the perfect time to explore the winding small lanes and the mouth-watering offerings of Purani Dilli, a centuries old settlement. Meat lovers should head to the area adjacent to the Jama Masjid to savour the best non-vegetarian delights. For every person who is new to Delhi and wants to head to Karim’s for a meal, I introduce them to various other options right in the vicinity which have twice the flavour and half the crowds. There are many roadside eateries where you can eat the most delicious kebabs, tikkas and Niharis without having to head to the popular overhyped options. The best part is that these sell out everything they stack by the evening, so there is little possibility of stale food being served. If you want to try a sit-down joint, head to Al Jawahar, right outside the lane that heads to the more popular (but surely less flavourful) Karim’s. Finish your meal with local desserts like Phirni or Shahi Tukda at any of the eateries around. 

If you are a vegetarian, you will be surprised at the delicious offerings for you. Right opposite the Red Fort area, towards the road that leads to the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib, you will find yourself surrounded by the best vegetarian snack and meal options. Gorge on the Ram ladoos at the roadside stalls or gift your taste buds the famous Bedvi pooris and kachoris. You will also find the oldest outlet of Gianis in the area, and Chhole Bhature that you would count in your top three list. Keep an eye open for crispy and oozing-with-rabri large jalebis at Jalebiwala (which they call Jaleba) made in desi ghee.

And of course, Paranthewali Gali will never fail to impress. The flavours of deep fried, hot meetha or methi or adrak or peas (or the umpteen flavours) paratha are best savoured during chilly winter days. 

For more fulfilment of your sweet tooth, explore a tiny corner shop at Daryaganj, out of the many old eateries called ‘Mehta’s’ which has retained the old world charm. Their Rabdi Faluda, Gulab Jamun are to die for. And what are winters without Gajar ka Halwa and Kulladwala Doodh, which you will find at many eateries in the area! 

Hidden glories
Winter is the best time to explore a historic city. Delhi, which is home to over 1,300 monuments, is a delight for history aficionados. Strewn around the city are historical structures, some popular and many more relatively lying in oblivion. 

The oldest Islamic mausoleum in India, the Sultan Garhi Tomb, is one of Delhi’s best kept secrets. Housing the remains of Nasiruddin Mahmud, the eldest son of Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, this imposing structure is surprisingly well preserved despite being so close to the hustle in Delhi’s Vasant Kunj area. Enclosed within a mini fortress in golden brown quartzite, it will leave you speechless. Another lesser-known monument is the Khirki Masjid in south Delhi, built in the 14th century. It’s a double storeyed mosque with perforated windows, and hence the name. It is intriguing to guess why the windows were perhaps built at that time. The beautiful mosque, currently being restored, is flanked by three gateways and pillared courtyards. 

(The writer is a traveller, photographer and storyteller who blogs at Moving Compass)

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