This was the last day of our trip and we started the drive back home at about 7 am. After a quick breakfast, we

A little bird making a nest

A little bird making a nest

started the drive back along the same road we had arrived. I tried to catch up on sleep, but the road was too bumpy. On the way, we stopped at Bhuira to visit the jam factory there. It’s is a small village 6-7 km from Rajgarh known for it’s fruit orchards and the jam factory mentioned. Wifey had visited the place during a school trip and  likes their products. Our fridge almost always has a few jams, chutneys and a few other items from this pace. I too wanted to visit the place to see if it could be a travel option for  tour itineraries.

In hindsight, it’d have been better if we had visited while we were staying in Rajgarh as we could have utilised the day better. Anyhow, we visited on a Sunday when the plant is closed but the lady on phone said that we were welcome to visit and pick up some stuff. Some construction workers were busy laying down new road when reached the factory. We were met by caretaker Ramkali who had answered our phone call. She was of great help answering our queries and showing us around. Day being Sunday, no other staff was there except the gardener. The plant was closed for some upgrades and renovation anyway. So even if we had visited on a weekday, we couldn’t have seen the process. But we got a fairly good idea of how things work from Ramkali.

premises

Factory premises

I had gone there without any idea about what to expect but it was pretty nice. The plant is constructed in the village and the area is very green and full of trees of various types. It’s not huge, just a hall where fruits are washed, processed and packed, cold storage unit an office in addition to a beautiful garden and a house. There are 30-35 women working in the plant who are all from nearby villages. According to Ramkali, working in the plant has helped them raise their standard of living and empowered them. A lot better than the “empowerment” Rahul Gandhi keeps talking about. All the products, jams, pickles, preserves etc. are made by hand in hall. There are a few machines for  steaming, cooking the fruits. The plant is eco-friendly as the water used to wash the fruits is recycled and used in the garden. Instead of fertilizer, they use compost. This stuff was in the factory garden, don’t know if the orchards they source fruits from follow the same practice or not.

Ramkali

Ramkali

We bought a bunch of jars at some discount and went on our way to reach Solan at about noon. Met rest of family and started driving towards Delhi. On the way, we first stopped in Ambala . There is one famous Mohan Bakery, a few minutes drive from the college where we stopped to pick some really good Swiss Rolls . Next stop for snacks was Sharma Chaat where we had Gol Gappas with 7 different flavours like guava, jasmine, heeng etc and some chaat.

In evening, we made another stop at Murthal, where we had some paranthas for dinner. I had heard a lot about the place, but never been there. Early on, there were only 1-2 dhabas, but now they are lined up by the dozens. I had an onion parantha served with copious amounts of fresh butter. 2 paranthas are usually enough to fill up a normal person. After meal, they got us some orange and cola flavoured toffees, the same kind we used to buy for 10-20 paisa apiece a very long time back. It’s hard to find them these days, but a shop in the premises was selling them and we bought some of those.

Some stuff we bought

Some stuff we bought

Rest of the journey was uneventful. Passed the same mess I had mentioned in 1st part of this series to reach back home at about 11 pm. The temperature at night in Delhi was higher than the day temperature of every place we stayed in Himachal. After being on road for 13+ hours,  it hardly mattered.

Last photo of the trip

Last photo of the trip

If you think that eating at the restaurants and street food is getting boring, you can try one more category. Quite a lot of religious places offer some really good food, almost always free !   Although it’s not meant as a place  for eating out, it’s still a good experience to soak in the peaceful vibes of the place while enjoying a meal prepared with complete selflessness and devotion.  It’s one of a kind experience to see so many  people from all sections of society, even different religions working together just for the joy of giving. There are no restrictions or discrimination based upon race, religion, economic status etc, at least we haven’t seen any.

 Langar food in Gurudwara

Langar food in Gurudwara

What’s more, you can also contribute in your own way. These places accept help from volunteers in form of  labour, raw materials and money. So, in case  you feel guilty about “misusing the service” or if you just want to help, you do have plenty of options.

One of the most accessible places for such work  is a Sikh Temple or Gurudwara and there are plenty in Delhi.   Some of the famous ones are Bangla Sahib and Shishganj Sahib Gurudwara near Connaught Place and in Chandani Chowk respectively. Food is always vegetarian except a few rare exceptions in order to serve everyone regardless of his/her dietary preference.

 

Another such place is International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Temple in East Kailash Colony.  Their free food service is based upon the dictum issued by the founder  Prabhupada: “No one within ten miles radius of an Iskcon temple should go hungry.” The same organisation also runs Akshaya Patra Foundation which  provides free food to lakhs of poor children all over India.   Food here too is vegetarian but has an amazing amount of variety. Ever heard of  Papite ka Halwa, Seb ki Sabzi ( papaya pudding, apple curry ) ? If  it’s your lucky day, you may have the chance to taste some exotic but really delicious food.

Another religious place serving some really good food is Akshardham Mandir. Although it’s not free, quality of  food exceeds the cost by a long margin. The temple itself is one of the star attractions of the city and considered by many to be one of the best modern temples anywhere. You can spend the whole day observing what the place has to offer without completing all of it.  Apart from the temple complex which is full of very beautiful and highly detailed paintings and sculptures, visitors can learn about history and philosophy of the mission as well as India from museum and multi-media shows.   Needless to say that your trip to Delhi is incomplete without visiting Akshardham.

If you are short on time but still want to sample as many different varieties of food as possible in the shortest amount of time, then there is no place better than a food court. Fortunately, there are quite a few such places where you can have almost any kind of Indian food in clean surroundings at fairly decent prices.

Some of the more famous ones are in Pragati Maidan,  Dilli Haat, and Kingdom of Dreams. Additionally, there area few smaller courts in less famous places like Garden of Five Senses. A food court in general, will have small stalls serving food from all corners from India and sometimes foreign too.  If for you a South Indian food place means a joint which serves the usual <em>idli, dosa, uttapam</em>, curd-rice kind of stuff, prepare to get surprised. You can find many more dishes from ALL of the south-Indian states which includes Kerala,  Tamilnadu, Karnatka, and Andhra Pradesh, each with it’s own stall. Even the staff belongs to that particular state for that extra authentic touch.

Quality of the food might differ from one place to another even in the same premises. For example, a particular state’s stall in INA Dilli Haat may serve some really good food, while it may be not that good in Pitampura Dilli Haat. That was just a general example,  but we hope that you catch the drift.

Of course, food is not the only reason to visit these places as these are some of the must visit places in city. Dilli Haats for example  have handicrafts, traditional clothes, furniture and other knick-knacks from all over India for sale all the year round. In addition  a lot of cultural events like music shows, conventions etc. are held there all the year round.   Similarly, Garden Of Five Senses has some really beautiful and interesting flora, fauna and artistic concepts.

Pragati Maidan with an approximate area of 72,000 sq m is one of the largest exhibition grounds in world. It’s a favoured venue for numerous events ranging from expositions by all kinds of industries to trade, book fairs etc.  Quite often, on occasion of some popular event like  International Trade Fair, Auto Expo etc, authorities are forced to limit the number of visitors in order to maintain law and order.

Bhel poori in Pragati Maidan

Bhel poori in Pragati Maidan

 

 

To cater to demands of so many visitors, Pragati Maidan has quite a few eateries spread all over the area. If you aren’t in mood to eat in any of the restaurants inside premises, you can still have quite decent street food in any food court. Apart from the usual snacks, one can find popular food from almost all corners from India. Gatta roti from Rajasthan, Hyderabadi biryani, Pao Bhaji & Bhel Puri from Maharashtra, most of South Indian dishes, these and many more are available in their authentic flavour.  Although in some case the prices are slightly higher, it’s offset by the sheer variety of food available in such a small area. Another plus point is decent indoor seating facility which is often missed in other places.

Next time you are in Delhi, be sure of including Pragati Maidan or any other food court in your must see places . Even if you don’t like the event being held, it’s quite likely that you’ll like the food.