Monday, November 7, 2011

Delhi In November: It Is Fun Time!

If one is to list the best months in Delhi, November will most probably occupy one of the top slots. The ceiling fans are forgotten, the rajais and blankets are out, and hot ginger tea is just perfect to start your day with. School kids look different bundled up in their dark, heavy winter uniforms. Gone are the whites of the summers, replaced by greys, navy blues and olive greens. The hazy, lightly misty mornings are wonderfully alluring, filled with the promise of a cool, sunny day. When the sun comes out, it is the start of a glorious day; ideal for picnics, outdoor activities or simply lazing around in your backyard.

The vegetables in the market look fresher, greener and full of life. When the first batch of cauliflowers or the first bundle of methi leaves arrives in the market, many shoppers return home with them triumphant, happy as they are to bid goodbye to the tasteless summer fare. Soon, desi (country) tomatoes which are sourer and tastier than the sturdy salad variety, red carrots ideal for salads, fried rice, pulao and gajar-ka-halwa, long green pods bursting with smooth green peas, crisp white radishes, gleaming cabbages and fat bunches of spinach appear on the scene; very much to the delight of vegetarians. The fruit section looks attractive too, with oranges and apples dominating the scene.

It is the wedding season in the capital. Time for baraat, sangeet and mehndi ceremonies from Janakpuri to Sainik Farms ( à la 'Band Baaja Baaraat'). Cultural activities fill up the social calendar of the city. Theatre and music hotspots in the Mandi House area are abuzz with events which are a treat to the connoisseurs as well as laymen. The Bengali Market nearby seems to be the perfect destination for trying some tantalisingly sinful dishes, just after attending a music recital or watching a play. Pragati Maidan, the massive complex for exhibitions is not too far. And the crowds there have to be seen to be believed when it hosts the India International Trade Fair every year for two weeks, starting November 14th. It is a major business event that impacts the traffic on Mathura Road and other roads in the vicinity in a big way.

The pleasant weather adds to the merriment. The festive atmosphere that starts around Dusshera, continues through Diwali and lasts until Christmas. It is as if the Delhiites are determined to make up for the opportunities they lost in the long and oppressive hot months. Women don beautiful silks which they had abandoned in favour of light cottons through the summer. Sales and exhibitions at places like the popular Dilli Haat help one in refurbishing one's wardrobe, with lovely handloom and silk fabrics on offer from all over India. You are likely to find the mauve shawl or the burgundy dress material that you were looking for here.

The circular traffic islands in Central Delhi are very busy, especially in the afternoons. Some of them are so huge that they are actually parks. Babus working in various bhawans in the central district spend their lunch hour enjoying the gorgeous winter afternoon. There are all kinds of people there, some taking a nap, some reading and some playing cards. Hawkers selling munchies like peanuts and chips do brisk business. Occasionally, a chaiwala makes an appearance with an aluminium kettle and plastic cups that are small enough for just a sip of tea. In the residential areas across Delhi, women sit with a pair of knitting needles and colourful balls of wool, wherever they can find a patch of sun outside their home, crafting a sweater for a dear one, or making mittens for a newborn. They are so adept at it that they produce a beautiful pattern without even looking at their handiwork.

Food, clothes, outings, picnics, weddings, parties...all in all, it is fun time in the city. The only ones dreading the winter are those without a roof over their heads, sleeping outside railway stations, temples or under overpasses. As the sun sets early on a winter evening and darkness descends over the capital, it is a long, chilly night ahead...something they don't really look forward to.