Eat, Moan, Die

April 28, 2009

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Bukhara is Delhi’s best eat and one of my latent obsessions.

The menu hasn’t changed for 25 years. It’s short, as any menu should be – if you overlook the fact that there is a vegetarian side to the carte (which you should), it consists of 6 dishes.

The name itself, Bukhara, could only appeal to me, with its song of the Silk Road, Persian poets, the golden age of Avicenna and the rise of the Timurid warriors.

The decor is pretty ghastly. Think the Flintstones meet Gengis Khan: wooden stools, kilims and brass tumblers. They’re not trying to be cool. And I like its rustic, frank, honest feel.

Because really, you don’t come to Bukhara to watch, let alone be watched. Nobody cares. You go there to eat.

Eat, however, would be an understatement. Stuff yourself dead would be more accurate.

The food is formidably North Indian. Heavy, spicy, tender, lethal. The dal bukhara is so good it is sold in tin cans – some even say it’s cooked with meat.

The speciality of the house is meat, lamb meat. Try the barra kebab, a killer – tender spicy lamb cubes cooked in the tandoor.

But the all-time favorite, non-vegeterian delight, bearer of death and ecstasy, is the sikandari raan. Half a lamb leg rubbed with red chilli and ginger paste, simmered in cinnamon, bay leaf and cumin, then barbecued in the tandoor. It melts in the mouth.

Bukhara is at the ITC Maurya Sheraton in the Diplomatic Enclave, Delhi. Its Jaipur branch, Peshawari, is at the Rajputana Sheraton.

Bundi

December 11, 2008

Bundi Palace

Somewhere in Rajasthan there is a magical place called Bundi. Unlike Jodhpur, Pushkar and Udaipur, it is still untouched by mass-tourism.

The Palace at Bundi is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rajasthan. It is famous for its miniature painted walls and indeed every single room, every single inch of wall is covered in the most strikingly colored miniatures.

Bundi Palace - close up

Complete legends unfold across a string of rooms. No detail is spared, from the pleats of the ladies’ muslin dresses to the enamored king’s eyelashes.

Bundi Palace - murals

Typically a Rajput palace, it is a succession of tiny rooms, anterooms and windy staircases. Its architecture is an intricate masterpiece of delicate arches, carved balconies, alcoves, jalis and hidden pleasure rooms. In the women’s courtyard, a swing’s structure is still standing.

I have always been a bad tourist, reluctantly sight-seeing while all I want to do is roam around the streets and absorb the city’s pulse. But that day in Bundi I went from room to room in a trance.

As I said before, Bundi is still relatively off the tourist track. The word is spreading, but when I went four years ago I was the only person in the palace. At least that’s what I thought, until I heard a crisp English voice coming from an adjacent room. The man, in his early thirties, was talking to his guide. The Englishman sounded agitated, so I followed from afar, trying to eavesdrop on his feverish monologue. I came closer and listened. At first I couldn’t believe it. How could I possibly be hearing this, in a desert, forgotten Indian palace, miles away from everything?

The Englishman was telling his local guide, with much details, echo effects, and almost to the word, the story of King Lear.