Dilli – Meri Jaan

Old Delhi, or purani dilli, has had a long, close and warm relationship with food. A walk through the by-lanes will lead you to innumerable joints and hole-in-the-wall eateries that serve tongue-tickling culinary delights. Some recipes are hand-me-down for generations, time-tested, carefully guarded, secret ingredients that satisfy the taste buds of countless loyalists. The aroma of the food and the hustle bustle of hungry patrons hits you as you step in. The flavours and the atmosphere are truly exhilarating. A foodie’s paradise, definitely not for the calorie-conscious.
Some vegetarian joints that I have frequented over the years:
Natraj Dahi Bhalla Wale, Opposite Paranthe Wali Gali, Chandni Chowk for dahi bhalle and aloo tikki

1. Babu Ram Paranthe Wale, Gali Paranthe Wali, Chandni Chowk for over 25 varieties of paranthas
2. Sita Ram Diwan Chand, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj for chana bhatura
3. Gole Hatti, Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk for cholle chawal palak
4. Giani Faluda, Fatehpuri, Chandni Chowk for rabri faluda
5. Pandit Ved Prakash’s Nimbu Soda, Opposite Town Hall, Chandni Chowk for tangy nimboo soda

There are many, many more….
Non-vegetarians, don’t be disappointed. Your turn next.

By Romi Mukker


Excerpt from 12 minutes film on STEP – Sustained Tribal Empowerment Project in Andhra Pradesh
(Script-Direction: Shyam Banerji, Assistance: Ruma Dasgupta, Music: Sudeep Banerjee, Executive Producer: New Concept Information Systems Pvt. Ltd, Produced by CARE India)

Chhattisgarh – A land of contrasts

Sujata, Anupama and I landed at Raipur airport on May 21st. We thought we could beat the Delhi heat, but no luck. We were received by a very warm blast of air as we stepped out of the airport. But let me rewind a bit here.

The airport is one of the swankiest new airports built in Indian state capitals in recent times.One wouldn’t imagine that one of the poorest states in India, having the lowest HDI and among the lowest per capita income, could boast of such a plush airport. The airport had beckoning coffee shops, an assorted variety of tribal handicraft shops and many others. There was a glass topped water-flowing canal cutting across the ground floor of the airport, which we crossed over with gingerly steps.


We all had one-piece luggage and the ubiquitous laptop. Anupama brought an extra exquisite and irresistible leather bag. Sujata and I had to be content holding it now and then. Through subtle queries we tried to find out if she had a few more of them, at least a couple. But the queries were politely ignored.

The tribal handicraft shops had salesmen and women who were looking for a good catch for the day. When they saw Sujata and Anupama glancing at them, their faces brightened. I generally avoid such shops in airports and take another route if possible. But Sujata and Anupama were made of more adventurous stuff. I gracefully offered to look after the luggage and they quickly made a foray into the shops and got some wonderful, surprisingly affordable, mementos too. I think my low esteem of these airport shops needs a re-assessment.

Now coming back to where we left, one could see that the aesthetic appeal inside prevailed outside also. Well-manicured plants, bright patches of flower beds, artistically landscaped grass carpets and colorful coffee and snack shops decorated the huge airport lawn. But we had to get to work fast. So, we located our taxi driver and drove to the imposing Satlaj Hotel, right in the centre of the city.
This particular hotel was highly recommended by Sujata. The hotel needed a coat of paint, but the rooms were comfortable. A garlanded photo of the hotel owner who expired early hung above the reception. The ex-hotel owner has a history which we plan to investigate in our next visit.
Our business was partly in Raipur and rest in Naya Raipur, the new capital city, 17 km away from Raipur and connected by an excellent highway. The airport is somewhere in the middle of both the cities, and was visible almost the entire long ride. Looked like we were circling around the airport. Some government directorates remain in the old city and many have shifted to the new city. The SPAC (State Plan of Action for children) team will become familiar with all the landmarks along this stretch in the days and weeks to come. Later I came to know (from Google of course) that Afghan planners are looking at these twin cities as a model for the new Kabul city, but hopefully not for its health infrastructure. The newly built Mantralaya is an imposing building with a formidable security. Somewhat comforting to know that we will be developing the plan of action sitting in such a world-class building.


But nothing to beat the comfort of India Coffee House. Sujata being the veteran of Raipur, took us to a few of her favourite eating joints, and we have plans to cover many more in the next visit. She seemed to be a familiar face in these joints with malayalee and non-malayalee waiters and cashiers eagerly saluting her. And it was not only waiters and cashiers. There were also ex-project associates and others who seemed to be constantly hovering around the place.
For those going to Raipur next – please visit India Coffee House – ask for “filter coffee” and of course the exotic India Coffee House Special triple Sundae!

Musings on Chhattisgarh

Chhattisgarh, a land of deep forests, vast mineral resources and a distinct tribal culture and society, is a region of great promise but also of conflict. Home to a number of peaceful tribal groups, engaged in tilling their land, gathering and selling forest produce and gradually emerging from the conventional patterns to development–the land equally reflects the inherent contradiction of an industrialisation at the cost of human and natural resource displacement.

This is the region where I have been travelling for over ten years, since it came into being in 2000 and watched it change, develop. It has been fascinating to see how the old ways co-exist with new aspirations of education, healthcare livelihoods, skills, and industry. Also how pockets of tradition remain- the culture, food, language, way of life.

May is a scorching time to be in Chhattisgarh, but for me it was like going home. Raipur has changed from a sleepy, trading town to a booming capital with a swanky Mantralya sprawling over acres of land. As we held meetings with bureaucrats to get their commitment to a State Plan of Action for Children, my concern for this beautiful but beleaguered region was an overriding one. Would the political and administrative establishment respond sensitively in order to make the life of children across the region, a safe, healthy and a happy one?

Sujata Raghavan

Maharashtra Meanderings

Working in development has the added advantage of regular field trips which include all travel outside the city of Delhi. On my last field trip, I went to the districts of Jalna, Yavatmal and Wardha in Maharashtra along with three field team members from Nagpur. Each district has something to offer in terms of experiences. The people are friendly and warm and I love speaking in Marathi . Here are some experiences from those travels.

We reached Yavatmal after a four-hour ride in the ST (State Transport) bus from Nagpur to Yavatmal. State transport is the cheapest mode of travelling in Maharashtra without prior booking. Just hop on to a bus from the ST depot, find a good seat, shove your bag in the overhead rack and enjoy the rickety ride! I did. There is something about night travel that soothes the mind. The barren landscape zips by, there’s a coolness in the air and it’s the witching hour when field logistics, demanding clients/respondents/superiors, dehydration/hunger somehow do not seem as draining and hopeful thoughts come to the fore.

We found ourselves booked in a hotel whose proprietor was shady but tried to mask his shadiness under old age. But I was having none of that and remembered my grandmother’s wise words, “Just be careful of creepy men, they come in all ages.” On inspecting the premises and finding that they were shadier than the proprietor, I yelled at him but was unsuccessful in getting our deposit back and left in a rage at 10:00 pm. Then we promptly booked ourselves into a hotel ten buildings up the road with another old proprietor who looked at me and promptly said “Madam, we never allow women to stay here.” As I mentioned before, since this hotel was only ten buildings away from the earlier one, my rage had not cooled off and so I asked him where workingwomen were supposed to stay in Yavatmal to which he replied that it was none of his concern to which I asked him to speed up the process of scanning my PAN card and handing me the key. That was an unusually exciting night. The next two days were spent in working in the district area of Yavatmal which does not feature highly on the list of tourist places to visit in Maharashtra and with good reason.

an innovative music player in a soda can (for schools that do not have electricity and need to play music for children)
an innovative music player in a soda can (for schools that do not have electricity and need to play music for children)
Sewagram, Wardha
Sewagram, Wardha

Four days later, I found myself in Wardha at Sewagram. It is a pleasant area and has a school, hospital, rooms for lodging and hotels that offer simple and clean food. It rained too which cooled down temperatures and moods and that is always a good thing. In Jalna, we visited residential schools for girls called KGBVs (Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas). Meeting with children is the best part of the field work and this time was no different. The girls were adorable and bright and smart and wanted to learn! They study in government schools and want to become a great many things. As citizens of our country, they have every right to demand a hopeful future for themselves.

Nirmala Mathew

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