City Hangout – Monsoon Bucket List, Around Town
Best rainy day places.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A little tap on the window-pane, as though something had struck it, followed by a plentiful light falling sound, as of grains of sand being sprinkled from a window overhead, gradually spreading, intensifying, acquiring a regular rhythm, becoming fluid, sonorous, musical, immeasurable, universal: it was the rain.
These were the words of Marcel Proust, taken from his novel In Search of Lost Time. The French author, whose 147th birth anniversary was celebrated worldwide in July 2018, never came to Delhi and so never experienced our city’s monsoon. But his description above seems like as if he had witnessed our rainy season’s first shower while walking round the Inner Circle in Connaught Place, the water puddles rippling with clear reflections of the white colonial-era columns.
The Delhi Walla suggests places in the city where you can feel the monsoon season as intensely as Monsieur Proust.
Bring along masala chai, keema samosas and inappropriate novels to Metcalfe’s Folly, a British-era hexagonal structure in south Delhi’s Mehrauli Archaeological Complex. Situated atop a grassy mound, it looks to the Qutub Minar and other historical curiosities. When the rain starts, you remain dry under the stone canopy.
Go to the 14th century Hauz Khas monument complex in the south. With interlinked chambers and balconies, the ruins offer an unhindered view of Deer Park and the Hauz Khas lake. Hear the squawking of ducks and the cry of peacocks.
Take a ride in DTC bus No. 620, which starts from Shivaji Stadium and ends in Hauz Khas. The bus passes through the best parts of Delhi, which look dream-like in the rain. Sit by the window as you go past the Connaught Place Outer Circle, Jantar Mantar, India Gate Circle, Teen Murti roundabout, Shantipath, the National Rail Museum and the hill-top Malai Mandir.
In the north, Majnu Ka Teela has a secret. Most Delhiites look on it as the place where you get the most authentic momos. Not many may know that this Tibetan refugee settlement overlooks the Yamuna on one side. The stretch is behind a lane of cafés. Go there and enjoy the river flowing tantalizingly close.
The breezy Tea Terrace at the Triveni Art Gallery at Mandi House in central Delhi serves decent food, along with a view of the adjacent amphitheatre. Nibble on their delicate shami kebabs as the spray of shower wets your sleeves. The good thing is that the service is not very fast, and this gives you more time to enjoy the rainy day experience.
The Teen Murti Bhavan museum was Jawaharlal Nehru’s official residence. As the overcast sky turns dark, climb the museum’s stately stairs, walk past the coffee-coloured wooden shelves filled with old books and look into the drawing rooms and bedrooms of our first prime minister. All the time, you can see the rain falling outside the giant windows. The gardens, both at the front and the back, teem with peacocks at this time of the year. If it is merely drizzling, sit on a bench outside, or have chai at Teen Murti’s lovely canteen—a thick cover of trees shields the courtyard from the showers. Look out for peacocks. They might slip under your table.
Walking in the narrow streets of Shahjahanabad is not easy during the monsoon. But you can always go and sit in the balcony of Haji Hotel in Matia Mahal bazaar. Mira Nair shot a few scenes of her film A Reluctant Fundamentalist at this venue. The balcony offers a spectacular view of Jama Masjid. If you talk politely, the owner, an extremely refined gentleman, will offer you tea and fresh hot biscuits from a wood-fired bakery nearby.
Go to Urs Mahal, next to Mirza Ghalib’s tomb in Nizamuddin Basti. It is an assembly hall edged with lovely stone pillars where you can read a book and watch the showers out in the open courtyard.
If you don’t mind getting wet in the rain, head to the India Gate maidan. Eat bhutta (corn), have ice cream, buy a balloon, lie on the grass, or take a boat ride. Or go to Nehru Park, and sit on a bench marooned in a small rainy water pond.
You may also consider driving to Khan Market when it’s raining very hard. Take a dry seat at L’Opera patisserie, ask for tea with madeline. Immortalized in Proust’s novel, this little boat-shaped cake is not easily spotted in our city. Better still, look for Jai Prakash (popularly known as JP), the tea man walking along the bazaar’s front and middle lanes with his deliciously-chipped tea kettle—his clientele primarily consists of shop assistants. The chai is delicious and dirt-cheap, something so unusual in Khan Market, and it goes very well with the rain.
Time out monsoon