Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan

Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan ( President’s Estate) in New Delhi is a beautiful place. For the flower lovers it’s simply outstanding and quite understandably too. It has unlimited varieties of flowers like tulip, roses, dahlia and what not – I could not recognise others though my wife could. In fact it has innumerable sub-varieties of each of these different kinds of flowers it boasts of. And my guess is roses lead in terms of numbers and varieties too – it has a dedicated rose garden with some really interesting names like ice berg, just joey, Oklahoma, china man and what not.

Reaching and preparing for your visit to the Mughal Gardens

The Mughal Gardens are open as part of Udyanotsav for general public for about 4-5 weeks in the months of February and March every year. You can visit it on weekend and that’s the best part with Monday being the day it’s closed. Second best part could be that the entry is free. The entry/exit (click here for directions) is from Gate No 35 of the President’s Estate, which you can approach from North Avenue.

If you are coming by car, it’s open parking on the road, for free of course. If you come by metro, you’ll find these new e-rickshaws which will take you to the Mughal Gardens. Since I went by car, I can’t advise which metro station would be best. Leave all your water bottles, handbags, eatables, etc. at home as you can’t carry anything inside. There are cloak rooms in case you still end up carrying something, but why risk it. And if you are worried about getting hungry, well there is a canteen at the exit area and plenty of street food options.

Cameras not allowed, but mobile phone is

Cameras are also not allowed inside and that’s kind of a bummer. But they don’t mind or look the other way when you use your mobile to click pictures. So if you don’t have a mobile with a really good camera – like my mobile camera is pathetic, my suggestion is borrow it from your friend. And frankly, I hope in future they’ll allow people to take their cameras inside otherwise the visit to Mughal Gardens feels kind of incomplete. Else, you end with pictures like following which don’t do justice to the beauty of the flowers at all.

More than just flowers

And flowers are not the only thing you find in the Mughal Gardens. It has a dedicated area for the bonsai plants, whose number also runs into hundreds. Then there are so many of those medicinal plants and spices too. Then there is spiritual garden which has trees which are sacred to different religions. In spite of all this, needless to say the flowers are the most captivating attraction for most.

Historical connections

And for someone like me who falls in love with historical places and monuments, Mughal Gardens is another way of reliving India’s Medieval history and also rare chance to get as close as a common man can to the buildings of Rashtrapati Bhavan. For me that part, that feeling, that’s what would took the cake.

But be it flowers or history or anything else, to believe what Mughal Gardens are, you have to see it with your own eyes.

Best Cholle Kulche in Gurgaon

Street food is not really a speciality of Gurgaon, in fact it seems scarce especially if you don’t consider what is offered at many places outside the multinational corporate offices that Gurgaon is more famous for. For someone who has relished the best of street food be it Chole Kulche, Golgappas (pani poories as some call them), Dahi Bhallas, Rajmah Chawal, Kadhi Chawal, Masala Dosa, Idlli, Sambhar Vada on the streets of Delhi, Gurgaon has almost nothing worthy to offer.

For me it has been a constant struggle to find good places to eat street food in Gurgaon but I don’t quit especially when it comes to my taste buds and I didn’t. It’s never those fancy and costly restaurants for me – they make me uncomfortable, usually don’t fit my pocket, and for a travel enthusiast like me – the real essence of any place lies in its monuments, people and food – not in a starred hotel, tourist guides and restaurant food.

Raju Chole Kulche wala– the best Cholle Kulche in Gurgaon and why

Anyhow, after struggling for almost 2 years, I finally found the place which serves you the best Chole Kulcha in Gurgaon and it costs you only 25 rupees. And it could very well be among the best places to eat Chole Kulche in and around Delhi too but that could remain debatable so I won’t put any stamps on that yet. But in Gurgoan, it surely is.

Raju Cholle Kulche wala, yes that’s your place to eat the best Chole Kulche in Gurgaon (click here for location). The Cholle he serves are hot, not over spicy and have the right mix of all the condiments. If you are eating there then the supply is unlimited, if you get it packed then of course you have to do with whatever has been packed for you. The Kulchas are his “special” speciality and are “exclusive” since he makes these in his very own Papu Bakery, which makes sure that you’ll never find these Kulchas anywhere else. He fries these in butter and this makes for a great combination. 2 Kulchas, that’s standard offering but if you want more like I always do, you pay extra.

My favourite is something else!

Surprising what I like the most about Raju Cholle Kulcha wala is the salad he offers, in fact the special green chilli. The onion is dipped in vinegar, which is pretty standard. But the green chilli is awesome – that taste is the icing on the cake – though the feeling is nothing like ‘ice’.

Since this place is very close to where I live, I mostly get Chole Kulcha packed and eat at home, I order 3 Kulchas, extra green chillis and that for me is a perfect street food breakfast. And since he is open from about 9 in the morning to 5 in the evening, I don’t mind paying him a visit during lunch time or for an early evening snack. After all every time is the right time for the best serving.

The secrets from the horse’s mouth – Raju the owner  

I know any chef or business man would never share his secrets and surely not the one who sells the best Cholle Kulche in Gurgaon, I wasn’t expecting Raju the owner of Raju Chole Kulche wala and Papu Bakery to share his. But he told me quite a few things like he belongs to Moradabad district of UP; he has sold Cholle Kulche all over Haryana in places like Sonepat, Panipat, Ambala and Karnal; his nephews currently own a Chole Kulche shop in Kurukshetra that he set up but since his special Kulchas from Papu Bakery can’t reach them fresh, they use Burgers so making it Cholle Burger or Burger Chole joint; and the fact that he even lost couple of lakh rupees in some of these ventures. The better part though is the best Chole Kulche he makes for food lovers like me in Gurgaon.

Find, try, enjoy Raju Cholle Kulche wala

So next time you feel like enjoying the best Chole Kulche in Gurgaon, I strongly recommend you visit Raju Chole Kulche wala(click here for location) – you will find his yellow cart  at a T-junction about 4.5 km on the right side of the road(you’ll need to take a U-turn) on your way from HUDA City Metro Station to Subash Chowk (Sohna Road) (click here for directions). This guy offers you one of the best street food options in Gurgaon for sure and arguably in Delhi and places surrounding it.

In case you know, think or feel there is some other place which offers better option in Gurgaon for Cholle Kulche or some other amazing street food, do share. Otherwise, the remains the best place for Chole Kulcha in Gurgaon.



Growing up with Khushwant Singh

Khushwant Singh, a one of its kind author who would never mince his words has influenced a whole generation of readers like me who would proudly and luckily claim to have grown up reading what he has written. From a short story – Mark of Vishnu, which was part of our syllabus in school to a regular column in The Tribune – This Above All, to many remarkable books – Train to Pakistan to name just one, Khushwant Singh has not only turned many into avid readers, he has also turned many into worthy writers.

Khushwant Singh on Bournvita Quiz Contest

My first memory of Khushwant Singh could be when he came on the popular quiz show on TV –  Bournvita Quiz Contest and what he said then was a gem of advise – ‘you must read good books and bad books so that you can know the difference.’ I would be lying if I didn’t accept that I have followed that advice and have actually understood the deeper meaning that was in what he said.

Khushwant Singh’s This Above All

Khushwant Singh weekly column This Above All in The Tribune news paper had been one of the most awaited pieces for me in my school days. I was a big fan of The Tribune news paper and his article used to be the icing on the cake. The best part of his feature used to be the kind of randomness or richness (whatever way you put it) of topics he would cover. I would always have a great time reading it. And then every time he would carry a joke sent to him by someone and even that used to be fun.

A world of stories and books by Khushwant Singh

Mark of Vishnu, a short story by Khushwant Singh was just apt for school children and was never lost in the long list of some really amazing stories which were part of our school syllabus. I was impressed by this story. But this was just a beginning. I eventually graduated to reading quite a few other books he wrote, one of the most popular of them being Train to Pakistan.

When I look at all the books he has written – A history of Sikhs, Truth, Love and a Little Malice, and others, I realize I may have read a few but there is a whole lot of them I am yet to put my hands on. But what is also true is that for an author like Khushwant Singh, the credit must be given for not only having written the books that they have written, it has also got a lot to do with the readers and writers they have created. I feel proud and lucky that I have grown up on the writings of authors like Khushwant Singh and I am sure there are thousands if not lakhs like me.

Worthless movies: Some folks making money, Some presuming savings, Most feeling just plain trauma

Yes, I am talking about the 70-80 rupees a ticket for movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that is making lives miserable for so many of us. And I know there could be so many reasons why this is happening, in fact for both – cheap tickets and traumatic experiences. And I have my reasons for saying what I am saying. I recently watched two movies under this particular sway – ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’ and ‘Highway’ and couldn’t help but…

Hasee Toh Phasee was first nail

Hasee Toh Phasee – movie is a drag at so many places, it has a couple of good supporting actors but wasted all together, story is worth no mention, rest is all bad and led me to one question I could not find answer to – why is the movie called ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’. But I have got used to watching movies with ridiculously no relation between title and story. When the ‘Interval’ sign flashed, I was thrown off my chair wondering its only half way through yet. And I had liked one of the songs from ‘Hasee Toh Phasee’ but it came at the end when the only wish was to get out of the theatre, Alas!

Highway made real inroads

About ‘Highway’, I felt like they were trying to impose- it’s our way or the Highway and unfortunately both led to same, their way was ‘Highway’ too. A crappy movie – to put it mildy. I found solace in only one thing, a very selfish one. Towards the end the movie moves to Himachal Pradesh, my home state and goes to places like Kalpa, Reckong Peo and Pooh – places in Kinnaur district, places I have not been to but have heard a lot about their beauty from my family especially dad who has been there and massi who worked there for 3 years. And the beauty was said to be breathless and was captured really amazingly too in the movie. To me that was the only saving grace, only breath of fresh air on the entire ‘Highway’.

Money invested must reap profits for some, even though causing a straight loss for most

I don’t know the exact revenue sharing model – that is a trade secret and I am sure even trade pundits and enforcers would be clueless – but producers of movies, the distributors and finally the cinema hall owners all want returns on their investment (RoI, as it is called) – it’s stupid of me to say the obvious. Anyhow. So you make tickets cheaper and people think they will save money by paying 70-80 rupees for a ticket which would otherwise cost 150, 250 or maybe more. Even parking in a mall costs less if you watch movies on weekdays.

Overall you are saving money, makes sense you think, but do you really? Forget about trauma (we even lie to ourselves to say we like the movie even when we don’t  -ask the psychologists and they will tell you about cognitive dissonance and 1$ experiments and lies and stuff), it doesn’t even make financial sense. Even a satisfier like me thinks its waste of money, for an optimizer it should be more obvious. Spending a single penny on a movie you won’t watch in the first place is a loss, irreparable even.

Moreover, what I find traumatic is – in addition to money spent irrespective of the amount; drive on the crazy roads of Gurgaon to and from the cinema hall, spend money on parking too, wait for elevator after movie finishes – this is the worst, my head is screwed after watching the movie and then everyone is pushing everyone else to get into the elevator –is this the usual behaviour by everyone or everyone is pissed at the movie that each has been tricked into watching, and then have dinner at odd hours and finally go to bed with severe headache and fear of nightmares triggered by the bad movie.

This is a sad, really sad story, worth a movie maybe that people would pay to watch on weekends.

It will be back, still

And it doesn’t end. I mean the trauma will return. New movies releasing this weekend, some next and many later. Cheap tickets on weekdays is the perfect marketing ploy and good source of revenue ensuring profits where could have been none. And a whole lot of us will go back and watch these movies on weekdays on cheap tickets for various reasons of our own – some simply because tickets are cheap, some because they have hope that movie could be good and some like me because they are married. Anyhow.