Yakmina!

Those that have been regular readers of this blog have known my disappointment about finding Majnu ka Tilla closed the first time I went to visit. We’ve been planning another visit ever since and this time, the Cheesecake trio was bang on target! We were very ambitious, as the plan was to have breakfast, head towards Sarojini Nagar market, and then go all the way northwards to have me visit MkT.

So, after a lovely brunch of M-made Poha, we auto-ed down to Sarojini. Sunday winter afternoon frenzy had begun by the time we got there. In between trying to fix a toaster that didn’t need fixing and shopping for ridiculously cheap clothes, I managed to find myself a beautiful set of teacups from this crockery shop.

We reached MkT in the late afternoon. For those still unacquainted with the place, it is a Tibetan colony/market near the north campus of DU. There are narrow alleyways lined with “Free Tibet” posters and crammed with shops that sell incense to silver jewellery and silk fabrics to Yakmina! S and I got shawls made out of 100% Yak’s wool, making them heavier and bigger than the Pashminas we’re used to. How exciting, we thought! Cake and coffee followed, as we made ourselves cozy in a cafe in one corner of the market. The ambience of the place is very similar to North-eastern India, it’s not like being in the heart of Delhi at all. Even the kind of music that played in the eateries here is different. Another cafe that we stopped at had pictures of ‘Tintin in Tibet’ framed on their walls! We (over)stuffed ourselves with delicious chowmein/flat noodles/thukpa. It is indeed, as I had been told, a charming place…

A very satisfying day, I mused, on my metro ride back, laden with teacups and a massive shawl, and a present for V. Never a dull moment with my Cheesecake girlies…

Late Lies the Wintry Sun A-bed…

The cheesecake girls met up for the last time this year. The initial plan of having me visit the ‘inexpensive-but-awesome’ Majnu ka Tila was thwarted because the market was closed. Both M & S claimed vehemently that they’d never heard of the entire place shut down, but it seemed it was so because of some Dalai Lama event or another. Disappointed! Not completely though, for we did manage to catch a good look of Susanna’s favorite ‘Big Black Boar (Pig)’ from the rickshaw!

The three of us scratched our heads and unanimously agreed that the next best way to honor the ‘tradition’ was to head to Big Chill in Khan and have (yes, you got it!) more decadent cheesecake. Dreamy eyed damsels then couldn’t wait for a long metro ride and autorickshaw-ed instead! Having gotten ourselves to Khan, we scooted over. We write (and hence, advertize) so much about the place that we ought to be given a table right away, but sadly, that’s yet to happen. The good old 15 – 20 min wait later, we quickly ordered a salad (which had so many ‘leaves’ that it made me feel like a cow, frankly) and a pasta. We took care to not order too much because we had to do justice to desert, no?

And then, the cakes… the combination of the brown and the white (much like the three of us) that we attacked and M rightly put it when she said ‘This double chocolate thing looks manageable every time, but it defeats me in the end!’ We did finish both between the three of us and felt very beautiful indeed 🙂

The conversations were warm, the breeze crisp, and the cakes smooth… over cheesecake it began and with it, this year ended. It was a gorgeous Delhi December evening and three very full females skipped (yes, cakes do make us that happy) over to The Body Shop to do what we do every time (another post for that).

Central Perk, Tibetan style

Maegan and I have discovered that Heaven is, indeed, a place on Earth. Well, if your idea of heaven involves fuit juice, jasmine tea and apple pie that’s baked on the premises. This isn’t Cafe Coffee Day though, nor is it one of Hauz Khas Village’s trendy-but-slightly-pretentious caffeine establishments. With sunshine-yellow walls, wicker chairs and a superb music collection (including the best of Westlife, Shakira and the Spice Girls), it’s hard to leave ‘Coffee House’ once you’ve sat down. So where is this new nest of ours? Hidden in a basement, in one of Delhi’s lesser known parts of town.

Majnu Ka Tila, aka the Tibetan Colony, is one of my favourite parts of this city. When I find myself in the middle of a ‘what-the-halwa am I doing in India?’ crisis, I come here to calm down and remind myself that I do like living in the Indian capital, most of the time. Here you can forget you’re in Delhi for a little while, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

After a bone-shattering cycle rickshaw ride from Vidhan Sabha metro station – during which you’ll encounter donkeys, pigs, goats and cows (and the smells that come with them) – it’s a relief to see the big, red entrance gate dripping with multicoloured prayer flags. The urban village is a completely self-sustained colony for Tibetans living in exile, with the main industries here being restaurants, cafes, shops and travel agencies (which mostly organise transport up to India’s Tibetan headquarters – Dharamsala).

Wandering along the narrow lanes, it really feels like another world. Ladies in traditional Tibetan stripy aprons with creased faces sell silver and turquoise jewellery on the street; monks in red robes play chess in the square by the temple; the smell of fresh momos and incense swirls in all directions and the occasional bit of Tibetan pop music blasts out from the houses.

‘Coffee House’ is in the basement of the New Tibetan Camp, and, apart from the staff and some of the customers, it doesn’t look very Tibetan. The wicker chairs are comfy and numerous and, for some reason, there are paintings of the Arc de Triomphe and the Moulin Rouge on the yellow walls. The waiter makes our fruit juice in a blender while contentedly singing along to ‘My Heart Will Go On’, but Maegan tells me she prefers it when he sings the rap verses of English songs because he makes up the words. We munch on surprisingly inexpensive fresh apple pie and banana bread while working on our laptops (there’s free wifi), and in an hour or so we’ll order omelettes and tea.

voice of an angel

It’s the kind of place where you can stay all day, and we probably will. Some days, though, we have important Hindi classes to go to, but fortunately Majnu Ka Tila is only a short rickshaw ride from Delhi University, which means we can come in the week before classes and still stay till the last minute, maybe taking an extra cake for the road.