Food walk in Jama Masjid.

Last weekend, it was a hot and humid Saturday when my friend called to ask if I would be interested in joining him for a food walk in Jama Masjid. As a lover of non vegetarian food, I could not say no, more so since we were going to Jama Masjid during Ramadan.

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Devouts gather in the compound of Jama Masjid for prayers and Iftar.
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Matia Mahal bears a festive look.
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Families gathering for prayers and Iftar.
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Wazu (ablution) before the Namaz.

Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year for Muslims around the world. Prophet Mohammed said that when Ramadan starts, the gates of heaven open, the devils are chained and the gate to hell is closed. It was during this month, when on a night known as Laylat al Qadr (The Night of Power) that the first verse of the Quran was revealed by GOD to Mohammed.

So all Muslims, except for the elderly or sick or small kids, fast from sunrise to sunset as part of a spiritual discipline. They have only one meal, Suhoor before the sunrise and Iftar directly after sunset. The interim period is for study of Quran, extra prayers, increased charity and generosity. After the month of fasting is over, comes a 3 day long festival Eid ul-Fitr (kind of Christmas for Muslims).

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Delicacies on offer.
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Delicacies on offer.
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Delicacies on offer.
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Food on offer to be had after the prayers.
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Devouts waiting for the official signal from the Imam.
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Pyar Mohbbat Maza, a really refreshing drink available only during Ramadan.

In the evening after the call for prayer, they break their fast. Jama Masjid in the walled city of Delhi and its surroundings acquire a festive look and people enjoy very good food preparations some of which are prepared exclusively during this time.

Whether you are fasting or not, you are welcome to enjoy the best food on offer. Like a very refreshing drink, called Pyar Mohbbat Maza (Love n enjoy) made out of milk, Rooh Afza, water with tiny pieces of Watermelon in it, available only during Ramadan.

Hollywood, the city of dreams.

In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler decided to invest in a suburban housing development project, called Hollywoodland. As part of its outdoor campaign a sign “Hollywoodland” was put up in Santa Monica Mountains.

Unfortunately after a while the real estate development plans collapsed and the maintenance of this sign was stopped. By mid 1940, the sign started to crumble and the letter “H” fell. The residents living below wanted the sign to be removed. The City of Los Angeles named it an official landmark of the city but the sign continued to rust and crumble and in Aug 1978 it fell off. Huff Hefner than stepped in and raised funds to rebuild the sign. In November 1978 the new sign was unveiled.

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Hollywood sign.

Although the appearance and purpose of the sign has changed over the years, its message still remains the same – this is the place where magic happens and dreams come true. Though for some dreams are broken here, like that of an aspiring actress named, Peg Entwhistle. She was 24, when she moved to LA from New York and after a lot of struggle, jumped from the this sign to her death. Rumour has it the very next day a producer called to offer her a lead role but by then it was too late.

 

 

 

 

People of Kumaon.

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Hard working Kumanois are also happy people and while we were in Mukteshwar, complete strangers invited us, in their homes, for tea.

 

An awesome weekend in Mukhteshwar.

Recently I was itching to get out of Gurgaon because of heat / power cuts etc, when I came across a post on FB by a friend’s friend…. about Mukteshwar.

So without thinking too much, I joined the Group and on Thursday night reached the meeting point. We left in a Toyota Innova  along with 5 others and from the word go, I realised that this was going to be a trip of a life time.

We reached Mukteshwar early morning around 6 am and was greeted by this sight.

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Amazing view of the sunrise greeted us as we drove in.

Mukteshwar is part of the Nainital district and lies at 2315m or 7500feet above the sea level, 343 kms away from New Delhi. In clear weather, it offers a clear stunning view of the Great Himalayas. The name comes from two words – ‘mukti’ meaning eternal life and ‘ishwar’ meaning GOD. It comes from an ancient legend in which a demon fought with Lord Shiva and even though the Demon faced defeat, he became immortal.

Mukteshwar also happens to be the fruit basket of Uttarakhand, so no wonder you find fruit laden trees everywhere.

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Plums all the way, right in our Hotel.
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Friendly locals.

Apart from the good weather and lovely people, fruits you can also visit the following attractions while you are here.

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Mukhteshwar Dham.

Mukteshwar Dham – Inside the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, there is a 350 years old Shiv temple where every year a huge fair is held on the occasion of Shivratri.

Next to it, is a range of overhanging cliffs which are used for rock climbing and rappelling. These cliffs are called Chauli Ki Jaali.  In Hindi, Chauli means rock and Jali means a hole.

According to Hindu mythology, there was a fierce battle between Demons and Gods. The hole in the cliff is a testament of the battle, as there is a trunk of an elephant, a shield and an indefinite outline of a sword. According to a legend, if a “barren” women passes through this hole during Shivratri, she will be blessed with a child.

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Chauli ki Jaali.

Another legend is about how the jali was formed. It is believed that some pilgrims, who were headed to Mount Kailash and Mansarover stopped here to pray to Lord Shiva. Happy with their prayers, Lord Shiva granted them extra powers and asked their leader to hit the rock hard. Such was the power, that it made a hole on the cliff. The scientific explanation off course is that it has been caused by erosion and other forces. It is entirely up to you, which explanation you want to accept.

Among the other attractions are PWD Guest House, which provides a beautiful view of the sunrise. Jim Corbett, the famous hunter stayed here for long periods of time and killed the most infamous man eater tigress here.

Bhalu Gaad Waterfalls, is another attraction famous for day picnics, cliff jumping and bird watching. It is a beautiful 60 feet high waterfall.

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Bhalu Gaad Waterfalls.

The other attractions which we could not visit are Vishnu Temple, Dol Ashram, Manager Trek, Kapileshwar Temple and Devsthal.

Our stay at the Colonel’s Cottage in Village Gajar was also great. The views of the valley below and sunrise were awesome. In short it was a great weekend break.

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Colonel’s Cottage, Village Gajar.

Street Performers.

Performers like singers. musicians and dancers have been performing in public since ages. Then came the Gypsies, who even told your fortune.

Presently, in big cities like New York there are hundreds of people who make their living by performing in streets, parks and malls. These artists are now called Street Performers and New York is the Mecca of this form of art. To understand New York’s unique position check out this video I shot in the Central Park.

 

Sea Lions and Pier39.

Sea Lions and Pier 39 in San Francisco Bay have a long history, since September 1989 to be precise. It is believed that due to the earthquake the number of Sea Lions in the Bay area increased.

However, it appears that they actually feel safe in the Bay area and hence moved in large numbers. Whatever be the reason, Pier 39 is now not only famous for shopping, restaurants, street performances but also for Sea Lions.

Check out this video I shot

Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles.

In 1880, Arthur Fremont Gilmore and his friend purchased two dairy farms. After a while they split up and Gilmore got what is now called Farmer’s Market. It is spread in 256 acres and part of it was converted, when oil was discovered.

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Clock Tower in the parking lot.
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The fountain in the park.
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Original farmers market trolley.
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Inside one of the shops.

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Today inside the market there are food stalls and about 100 restaurants. It is a landmark of the Los Angeles city. The original farmers market trolley also runs here (check out the video I shot on board). It truly is a fun place and more so on the weekends.

It was  a memorable experience being here.

 

The Duck Tour, Philadelphia.

One of the attractions in Philadelphia is a 80 minutes tour conducted in an amphibious vehicle which is an exact replica of DUKW, used in World War I to transport troops and supplies from water to land and back again.

In our tour the lady driver and the guide were both pleasant, professional and knowledgeable and we had loads of fun as can be seen in the video.

A ride in the Cable Car.

You can’t go to San Francisco and not take a ride in their famous Cable car. We rode one, all the way to Hyde Park and came down walking the Lombard street or world’s most crooked street (see the video I shot).

The cable car system in San Francisco started way back in 1873 and ran thru 1890 with 23 lines. Now out of that only 3 remain, two routes start from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and the 3rd to California Street.

Our destination is one block of street with 8 hair pin bends which hit you, whether you are walking or driving. It is one of the most unique of the vertically endowed roads and makes a great tourist attraction. To reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade which was too steep for most vehicles and pedestrians, one of the early property owner, Carl Henry first suggested the design with sharp curves to switchback down the one-way hill past beautiful Victorian mansions. It was later built in 1922. To get a fair idea on how crooked the street is to go two blocks up, to Filbert Street and peer down over the ridge.

It also boasts of San Francisco’s most expensive real estate. During summer it is always filled with tourists going up or down as the street is lined with beautiful flowers which are in bloom.