All across India, you will discover some enthralling diversions which hip and happy Indians love to plunge into. Here’s just a bitsy sampling of going local for a deeper understanding of what makes India’s cultural vibe so vibrant and its tourist hot spots get top billing.
Khau Galis in Mumbai
India’s leading commercial hub is a highly urbane megapolis–but what’s thoroughly engaging about it is its melting pot of communities and cultures that go centuries back. Melting pot? Let’s take that metaphor literally as we trawl the stalls at one of its khau gallies… literally eat streets. Can’t afford the city’s spiffy restaurants? Eat like a king in Mumbai’s khau galis!
You might be a picky eater at home, but here you cannot resist the fabulous line-up of culinary offerings. And when the stars come out in the velvety sky, Mumbai’s khau galis are a glitter-with street lights and flaming clay pot stoves and grills. With delicious aromas cutting a swathe through the sea breezes, don’t be surprised if your feet sweep you off to these culinary treasure troves. Suited -booted executives… college girls… picky housewives… itinerant labourers–Oh, how Mumbai’s citizenry loves its khau galis! From ragda patice to sev batata puris, from sizzling kebabs to melting frankies, from bajias to the iconic Mumbai grilled veg sandwich, from cooling kulfis to iced golas–it’s an unbelievable extravaganza of aromas and textures, colours and spices. Each community has its own favoured haunt serving up the most mouth-watering street fare close to its heart. Looking for some Gujarati, Kutchir fare? Head for the Kalbadevi-Bhuleshawr area! For Muslim treasures of kebabs and naans trawl the hot spots between Crawford Market and Byculla. Maharashtrian fare such as seafood fry and misal pao awaits the foodie at Dadar. For south Indian specials to Chembur and Matunga you must go. Across the road from CST, the beaches of Juhu and Girgaum, and railway stations, streams of nigh time foodies congregate around food carts and street vends. Oh yes! This city never sleeps…
Leopard Spotting near Jaipur
Next time you are in Jaipur and have had an overload of its fabulous museums, atmospheric bazaars and 5-star hospitality of its heritage hotels, head out for the Sanganer airport. Wait! You don’t have to fly out or go shopping at Sanganer. Instead, get ready for one of the most thrilling wildlife experiences so close to a tourist city, just 6km away from its airport. Yes! This is the Jhalana Leopard Sanctuary, which was established in an old reserve forest close to Jaipur and was rich in faunal and avifaunal species. Now the apex predator in the park, the rosette-decorated leopard has been winning hearts ever since the park opened to the public. With the launch of Project Leopard, India’s first leopard protection and conservation programme Jhalana was officially declared a Leopard Reserve in 2017. So that they could generate more income, locals they were given priority for arranging jeep safaris the sanctuary for viewing leopards in the wild. What’s also special about Jhalana is that it’s a non-profit wildlife park dedicated to conservation, education, and animals in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is quite small, with a sprawl of just 23 sq km, which is also what makes it perfect for good sightings of this elusive night predator. Jhalana is connected to the bigger Nahargarh Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mughal Gardens in Spring in Delhi
Come spring Delhi’s citizenry ticks off the Mughal Gardens on its event calendar. For spring time at these fabulous gardens at Rashtrapati Bhawan, or the Presidential palace in national capital New Delhi, is a celebrated event. Its lazy sprawl of 15 acres, epitomises the perfect weather to be in Delhi, as the gorgeous colours of the spring blooms inspire us to fling off coats and shawls, and like the flowers lift our faces to the benevolent smile of the sun after a chilly Delhi winter. These stunning verdant vistas take their inspiration literally from the Mughal gardens of the celebrated Vale of Kashmir, the charbagh at the Taj Mahal and even old miniature paintings of India and Persia. The design was originally conceived by the British architect of New Delhi, Sir Edwin Lutyens; and knowing how the English love their gardens it was a painstaking exercise with plans being completed in 1917 for this magnum opus of floral delights. You will love the fabulous coming together of two super horticulture traditions here–the Mughal style and the English flower garden. Tulips and primulas, daffodils and hyacinth and other seasonal flowers are showcased for their optimum splendour in the months of February and March. At the heart of this floral splendour are the roses. In the months of February and March, the gardens are also ablaze with the blooms of 159 celebrated varieties. Also featured in these verdant expanses are 60 of the 101 known types of bougainvilleas and almost 50 varieties of trees, shrubs and vines. What’s not to love about Delhi’s spring if you embrace this bountiful world? The Mughal gardens will now be open for the public from August till March.
As mentioned earlier, this is just a teeny-weeny looksee into the joy-giving things that the locals look forward to at different times of the year in their city. It doesn’t matter when you are visiting a place, make sure you get to do at least one such thing even locals take for granted!