Back in the day when the sky of Delhi was still blue and there were still sparrows around, there was a loner who came upon a small hill and started meditating. He meditated for so long that he forgot about the world around him, and got thin and weak. People started calling him crazy (Majnu in Hindi), and the hill on which he meditated started being referred to as Majnu ka Tila, loosely translated as “The Hill Of The Crazy”.
Today this part of the city is inhabited by the Tibetan refugees who have not only made a shelter for themselves in Majnu Ka Tila but have also brought in their culture and cuisine which has made it one of the most sought after tourist places in the city. Seriously, when you walk through the small alleyways passing the shops that sell woollen hats and shoes to bull horns and Tibetan flags and propaganda announcements, you cannot help but feel a bit distanced from the usual craziness of the city outside. Today it is almost like a small Tibetan village nestled in the heart of Delhi, frequented not only by the Delhi University students but also by foreigners and monks.
It was mid afternoon when me and my brother found ourselves standing in a small alleyway of the Tibetan Refugee colony wondering which way to go. It was not that we were lost. We just saw so many awesome things that we did not know which way to go first. There were shops selling clothes, decoratives, coins, and flags. There were different restaurants that were serving momos, skewers and so many other wonderful dishes, names of which I had never heard before. There were some decent looking backpacker hotels also, which seemed to the thronged with foreigners. Everything seemed so exotic and it was hard to believe that a place like this existed in our busy capital.
We finally decided on a nice looking restaurant, Dolma House, and took the seat next to the window overlooking the busy street outside. The menu had at least three pages filled with names of dishes that we cannot even pronounce. They seemed to specialize in Bhutanese, Tibetan, and North East Indian cuisines. We ordered the shambhaley, which was like big fried momos and Lowa Khatza, which was a dish made out of spicy goat lungs.
Yes, goat lungs!
It actually did not taste bad. The texture was a bit slippery, which could make some of us gag, but once you get used to that and start tasting the spices, it will not seem half as bad.
There is one interesting thing that I noticed about the restaurants here. Here you will be given a menu and a writing pad. You are supposed to write down the things that you want to order and give it to the waiter. I do not know why they do this, but I think it maybe because they have problem understanding the accents of the different kinds of people that form their clientele, ranging from the Europeans to hundred different types of Indians.
Or maybe they are just lazy.
I am not sure.
So anyway, after a very satisfying meal we strolled around the roadside shops, bargained and shopped a bit. We ended up buying a Tibetan woollen hat, and a few t shirts from the students that wanted to spread the word on Tibet’s Chinese problems. I do not really care about their problems, but I liked the t shirt.
There is a small main square where there is a Buddhist temple, a few seats and a couple of shops selling some local food. We wanted to sit there for a while but all the seats were occupied by the locals who were sitting around reading books, talking on the phone or amongst themselves. Some people were sitting on the small plastic chairs next to a tea stall that also seemed to serve eggs and snacks. It seemed like a very relaxing place to be.
After walking around for a bit, hoping to work up an appetite after the meal at Dolma House, we visited one of the most popular places of the area, Tee Dees. It is a hit not only among the locals, but also among the foreigners and the university students. We felt a bit lucky to find a seat as we saw quite a few groups of people queuing up outside.
We ordered something that seemed liked the hardest thing to pronounce on the menu. Just for the records though, they also serve the popular north Indian dishes like Dal and Butter Chicken but I do not think anyone would be stupid enough to do that. Tee Dees is famous for its North East Indian and Tibetan food, not for Punjabi food. In fact, I looked around in other tables and they all seemed to be eating either soups or dumplings or rice.
(Or maybe, I am just an ignorant ass who formed an opinion about a place without spending enough time there. Maybe there are people out there who order Dal Makhni and Tandoori Chicken and eat it happily in Tee Dees. But on that day, those people had not come.)
Anyways, I realised that our gamble had not paid off this time as I was served a big bowl of soup with beef dumplings. I know it does not sound that bad, but the colour of the dish and the smell killed off whatever little hunger we had developed after the little walk.
We ordered the Chinese Fruit Beer to help us with our Everest, but soon we found ourselves staring at each other, sweating beef broths, ready to give up and go home. We abandoned our bowls of beef soup and let a family of four, who were impatiently outside the main door, take our table. Outside at the main square, music was on and a couple of stalls had cropped up, selling barbequed meat. We would have tried a bit of that as well if we were not maxed out.
Anyway, it was a very enjoyable day out and a reminder of how diverse and interesting Delhi can be, if you know where to look.
Bye for now.