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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When Whether Kills - SMOGging Across Globe

I woke up on a lazy morning post-Diwali with the alarm singing the “Good Morning” tune and could see hazy skyline until far. There was a silent chillness in the air and I realized that winter had dawned.  In an attempt to grasp the fresh morning air, I struggled to get out of bed and dragged myself to the balcony. The only incentive being the tranquility of pre-sunrise sky where the breeze would energize the entire day. But this was an illusion which struck me as soon as I opened the balcony door. I was in the mood to stretch myself while allowing inflow of coolness but at soon as I attempted this, I was slapped with nauseating and suffocating smoke in my lungs snapping me out of my dream world. This was the truth of this “Good Morning” when fresh air is a luxury one can seldom afford. The haziness of skyline was not because of misty freshness but the smoke settled of moisture droplets. But was I the first to witness this reality. No, the world has already seen this umpteen times. While the first convincing linkage of a substantial increase in human mortality and an event of air pollution was in Glasgow in 1909, when about 1,000 deaths were attributed to noxious smog during an episode of atmospheric stagnation, there are other anecdotes from across the globe demonstrating the impact this menace is going to create.

It was once in a North American town in 1948 – “You put your hand out..but you don’t see the tip… you see your arm but the hand is not to be seen – it was so thick”

It was ugly, yellowy saffron and thick and had a strong burning sensation – that is what the victims of the incident had to see. Donora is an industrial town located in a valley near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. It was early winter of 1948 when the town was covered by a dense smog owing to specific weather condition. The town lies in a valley and an air envelop entrapped the smoke from the mills within the valley. The absence of wind stagnated the cloud of smog over the town. Though the build out was gradual but authorities took the time to realize what was occurring to the town. A Halloween Parade was conducted as planned amidst the smoke and the reality only struck when the situation worsened. Now, is it only the weather to be blamed? This smog was literally described as “Murder from the Mills”. Donoro’s was primarily an industry based economy and mills was everything for the town and a sustaining force. The location further favored the industrialization with the river providing the necessary ingredient. It was the time when America was at the helm of productivity and this was the first instance when the government realized that air pollution needs to be regulated. It was all a cost of prosperity and progress. People started moving out of the town.  It was decided that it would be even risky for firefighters to carry oxygen tanks through the smog so rescue operations were suspended. Community centers turned graves as the situation worsened.

Mills in Donoro
If was only when rainstorm wind came through 5 days later which lifted the smog and made the town livable again. The trapped toxic smokes from the mill had left 20 people asphyxiated and 7000 hospitalized in this town of 14,000 residents. Until many years, mortality rate remained higher in town compared to neighboring communities. During post-incident discussions, serious questions were raised regarding the lack of reactiveness of authorities. The situation could have been salvaged had the mills been closed sooner as they kept adding fuel to the fire. To plan for the future course of action, a high-level conference was conducted in 1950 and Britain was part of it. The recommendation came out as the creation of smokeless zones where all provisions to avoid smoke would be implemented. Further, restrictions on industries and pollution controls provisions were mandated. Local communities in both countries asked for quick implementation of these recommendations. Regulations and administrative guidelines were actively sought. However, the government in Britain had a different idea. Their aspirations of cashing in on rapid development and industrial revolution were based on burning as much coal as they could manage. This became the initial step towards what happened in London years later.

It happened again in 1952 in London – The Sudden Killer in Night

Residents of London woke up to a thick fog which came from nowhere. London is infamously in news for its weather from time to time – whether a blizzard or fog which is somehow an indicator of good summer – but this time the situation was different. It was early winters in December in 1952 which created havoc of unmeasurable extent. This was the Great Smog of London which resulted in smoky clouds throughout the city.  Residents describe the haze as warm, smelly, dirty, black, smoky fog engulfing everything like a film. The traffic was brought to the stand still and an auditorium performance had to be stopped as spectators could not see the stage. Official toll is 4000 but unclassified information puts the number at 12000.

Hazed City of London
In the after hours of the incident, the minister in-charge was callous in his approach. The authorities blamed the weather and the cold air which did not provide enough heat to disperse particles causing the pollution. The problem started with the setting in of Industrial Revolution and such incidents with varying impact had occurred earlier too in 1873 (leaving 700 dead) and 1880 (leaving 200 dead). Artists have for long depicted the London fog in colors ranging across the spectrum - brown, orange, yellow, gray and black being prominent choices. London’s love for open fires and chimneys was blamed for pollution but these were only the tip of the iceberg. There were power plants right in the center of the city and their construction continued unabated. The government was (over)confident in its ability to fight pollution using technology, however, the reality struck late and the technology itself made things worse. Electric trams were replaced by diesel buses which became a symbolic front bearer of movement towards the polluted air.

London was surely unprepared for such massive incident. The solutions that were brought forward were short term in consideration and hole-plugging attempts in nature. Gas masks were distributed throughout the city to save residents from next fog. Doctors recommended people to leave the city to save themselves from the aftermath. However, none of these were going to solve the basic problem. Finally, Clean Air Act was introduced in the British Parliament which mandated restrictions for industries to add pollution to the air. Then, alternatives to power plants were sought and attempts were made to shift them out of the urban areas. The point being all these steps came in too late and the after loss of 10s of 1000s of lives.

Then recently in Beijing, China in 2015 – City under Smog Siege and Red Alert

Masked Capital of China
It was a usual Tuesday morning in the financial capital of the most populous country in the world.  However, there is a different scene which wasn’t usual. Roads were empty, usual rush absent, schools closed and people indoors. As part of the emergency response plan, 2,100 factories in the city and on its outskirts were ordered either to stop or scale back production in an effort to cut emissions. The government had announced a Red Alert owing to severely high levels of pollution in the air. “Stay Indoors” was the message from the government and residents obliged. With an air quality index (AQI) of over 250, more than twenty times the level recommended by the World Health Organization, the city was shrouded in a thick sepia-toned air. The city remained helpless and sieged for next three days.  Pollution in Beijing is a common, everyday issue that millions of people deal with in the bustling city. Beijing's industrial coal burning and high concentration of motor vehicles are significant factors in producing the poor air conditions. The thick smog was finally broken up by a front that delivered a fresh air mass to the city.

And Now in Delhi, India, November 2016 – Corrosive Mist, Cough, Breathlessness and Suffocation

The entire country was in jubilation and celebratory mood as post-Diwali festivities were still in the air. But happiness and joy had an unpleasant companion when the air is concerned – Particulate N-25 and N-100s. Residents woke up to a coughing and inflammatory lungs leading to short breaths. Kids were crying unaware of the hazard they were inhaling and elders had a tough time keeping their breath steady. Haziness on the outside only confirmed the suspicion as soon as one moved out of the house. What seemed like an early arrival of winters was nothing but poison in the atmosphere. Everyone was shocked as to what had bestowed on the capital city. It was not that higher level of pollution was not expected as the fireworks were supposed to create an aftermath. However, this was not something that the city was prepared for. It was definitely a cloud that created doubts in every mind as to what this was. Smoke emanating from farm fires raging across agricultural fields of neighboring Punjab and Haryana worsened the situation.

The Night Shot

Unclear Buildings and Smoky Clouds
 Before things were clarified and issues understood, what ensued was a round of blame games where each of the stakeholders came forward with enough confidence to put another stakeholder to the task. Each of the states involved has a reason for the hazard which made other the cause of sufferings. However, what lacked was a way forward. Everyone knows that someone is at fault, but before the culprit is blamed, the need of the hour is to find a solution to escape this menace. The ideal PM (particulate matter) of 10 has reached toxic levels of 999. For context, that is more than 10 times higher than what is considered safe to breathe. The PM 2.5 rose to 743.  If someone knew the above three stories, a sense of Deja-Vu was sure to be felt as the government closed schools, requested residents to stay indoors and doctors prescribed leaving the cities. Green Tribunal has asked to stop all construction activities temporarily and air purifiers are flying off the shelf. Frantic social media messages did not help as they only escalated the concerns and fed rumors. However, all these measures are again, short term and ad-hoc at the best. Smog is only a symptom while the disease is much deeper. Pollution is not only what is visible but a truth of everyday life. What the need of the hour is to establish a long-term plan to reduce pollution in itself. Judiciary has stepped in and is asking the government to define policies and disaster management plan but that would come in due time. Until then residents of Delhi National Capital Region are doomed to breathe in this air which is going to kill them gradually. Meanwhile, make sure to mask your face and ensure plenty fluid intake to mitigate the impact of the smog blanket and prevent themselves from choking.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Asian Cuisine - Lunch Buffet @ Mamagoto

The leadership at our office has been generous lately and to satiate the hungry souls working within the glass walls of the 7 storied office, they have introduced a special budget component for team outings. I guess ours is the team which is more active in utilizing each of such budgetary provisions and hence is the most frequent one to have such outings. It was a similar plan and discussions on choosing the right restaurant took off. Within a few seconds we had more suggestions than what we could handle and hence we started eliminating things one by one. Some lost on location, while other were thrown after dismal reviews from those on the team who had tried them earlier. Within all the names came up an awkwardly sounding restaurant  - Mamagoto. What helped its case was the fact that one of the team members rose to the occasion to recommend it strongly giving rave reviews about it. Also, the fact that most of our earlier outings had been to the traditional North Indian food destinations and involved shahi paneer and butter naan, and everyone was now craving to try something different. Soon Mamagot0 was the word in the team and the destination of our lunch on October 21st.

On the day we hurled into cabs and proceeded to the hub of restaurants in this Millenium City - Sector 29. Mamagoto is a small restaurant nestled in one of the blocks by the Lemon Tree Hotel on one corner of the area. One may really need to leverage the maps on the smartphone to figure out its location if visiting for the first time. The outer area is similar to any other restaurant in town and has a colorful display of its name in bold yet smaller case letters. There is an external seating option which was anyway redundant for the time of the day and we moved into the restaurant and asked for our reservation. The place was largely empty at that point of time and we were ushered into one of the long tables reserved for us. We were amazed at the size of the place at it hardly had 5-6 tables and the indoor seating area was highly limited. We assumed that probably a niche cuisine was the culprit or people preferred the external seating more. There was a glass wall on the other end of restaurant separating the seating area from the kitchen. Interestingly the kitchen seemed to be of the same size as the main lounge.

As we discussed the size and chatted away on usual office banter, we were reminded of the primary purpose of us being there - food !! They had a buffet on offer at 649 plus taxes which seemed pretty good. They provided us with the menu of items in the buffet which included a complimentary mocktail. We started with an order of the drinks and requested them to begin the service. Out of the drinks, Virgin Mojito was refreshing but standard, a Kiwi based drink was apparently pretty good. As we sipped our drinks, the first item on the menu was served on the table. They started the service with freshly made dumplings. The sauce they served along with them was different from what we usually get but was yummy none the less. Next, they served a starter which involved fried corns along with some other things which gave it a rich texture and shape. The accompanying sauce was sour and flavored giving a unique tint to the tongue. There was a corresponding chicken based starter for those inclined. With starters came the chili sour and sweet vegetable soup. I am generally lesser inclined towards soups and hog onto the food but this was a different case and soup did involve me into it.

While we relished on the starting delicacies, someone amongst us reminded that it was an office lunch outing and we all had our work waiting for us back at the office desk. Everyone had deliverables pending by end of the day and it was then that we hurdled up a bit to get things through faster. We asked the attendants, to begin with, the main course. The first item they served was a roasted paneer stuck through sticks. Parallel to it, again there was a chicken dish. For the main dish, there was a choice of three types of sauce. Each was available with an option to have them with vegetables, chicken or shrimp. With the dish, one could choose from fried rice and plain rice. On Sundays, they provide an option of noodles as well. I chose the black bean sauce cooked with vegetables with instructions to keep it mildly spicy rather than sweet and fried rice. The sauce was great with thick gravy and boiled vegetables providing a good combination. Fried rice was decent and overall the meal was nicely filling.

Now the only thing left was to wrap up the meal with some desserts. The options this time were between homemade chocolate cake, sponge cake, and coconut ice cream. While most ordered the chocolate cake, which was really delicious, I ordered the sponge cake. It was one of the most mouth-watering desserts I had had for some time. I would agree if someone says that it wasn't something that was the best pleasure for eyes but still taste sometimes beats the look. It was fluffy marble cake served with toffee sauce and a scoop of coconut ice cream. I managed to gobble up the entire serving, which was relatively large sized, though I had a filled belly. As we wrapped the plates clear and paid the bill, we were all content with our choice of venue and the worthlessness of the banter we all enjoyed. We returned to our office desks with determined thoughts of arranging something similar again, soon.
Mamagoto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ranthambore Visit - Spirituality and Jungles Hand in Hand

It was a long weekend and summers were in their last phase. Times had been dull off late and we hadn't been out roaming for quite some time. Obviously, the subconscious mind was on its own lookout for an opportunity to get away from home. Now one lazy evening, I came in tired after day load of work and was waiting for my tea when the melancholic sound of the phone spoke up. There was an incoming call that would end this laziness. Dad was calling in to ask if we were interested in a short trip to Ranthambore during the upcoming long weekend because of Dusshera holiday. The background was hidden in the fact that there was a religious ceremony due at one of the famed temples in Indargarh, a place close to Ranthambore. We were, as always, perfectly ready for the trip and a chance to get out of the home. Perfect chance for a change !! As the dates were finalized and plan settled in, we booked our tickets. The plan was to visit Mom and Dad in Jaipur and travel together to Sawai Madhopur, the nearest potential rail head. I call it potential as there is a railway station further up too, but this station lies on a trunk route and hence is better connected to other cities. Finally, we had in hand the tickets to Jaipur and further to Sawai Madhopur and return. The plan was that we would leave Delhi on 7th of October 2016 and spend a couple of days in Jaipur before proceeding for the trip. The return to Delhi was scheduled on the evening of 11th.

As planned, we packed our stuff for the quick tour and were ready on the excited Friday evening. We took enough margin of time and booked our Uber in advance for the ride to the station. Amit, my brother boarded the train - Delhi Jaipur Double Decker - from Delhi Sarairoyhilla station. We were there at Gurgaon Railway Station right at 6 PM waiting for the train as we were supposed to join him from here. The train rolled in by about 6:40, 15 minutes past the scheduled time. We entered our coach and met Amit; settled our luggage in relatively smaller sized overhead bin and settled in our seats. We had the middle seats, the ones where two rows face each other with a center table fixed to the ground. Generally, I am averse to these seats as they create an awkward situation with two sets of families facing each other with nowhere else to steer glance away to. However, this time it seemed a bit different and the couple in front of us were friendly and sweet. It turned out to be a nice journey and we deboarded at Jaipur by about 10 in the night and were enjoying tea before 11.

Next day was Ashtami and there was a puja scheduled at our place. An elaborate arrangement was in place and after the puja, there was a lunch hosted for few underprivileged children at our home. We were happy that this meant special food for us too and we were also happy to be there at home with family for this occasion. It was a day of gathering and we enjoyed each ceremony with food and fun. Next day was when we were supposed to leave for our trip and hence we were all excited as we ended the day. The trip would be done in two parts - the first part was the religious part where we would be climbing the hill for a darshan of Devi Beejasan; second was the visit to the tiger reserve. It was an early start next day and we were out of the house by 5 AM to catch the train to Sawai Madhopur - The Shri Ganganagar - Kota SF Express.

We were out of the train by about 9 AM and were on our way to Indargarh. Indargarh is about an hour's drive, measuring about 50 kilometers. Indargarh is the town that is home to the temple of Shri Beejasan Mata Ji. This is one of the most ancient temples with a long history and traditional significance. This ancient temple was built as the popular opinion goes, 2000 years ago in Vikram Samvat 103 by Kamal Nath who was a great devotee of Goddess Durga. His unflinching devotion to the Goddess propitiated the Goddess and she appeared before him. This idol of Beejasan Mata (Mother Goddess Durga) is seated on the demon Rakta Beeja. The stone idol is believed to be There are about 750 stairs to climb up to the temple. The Goddess is deemed to be very powerful and is believed to fulfill wishes of devotees. Devotees commit to returning to the temple once their wishes are fulfilled. Lately, a temple has been built at the foot of the hill which resembles in many ways to the one on the top. The purpose was to provide an option to have darshan of the Devi for the aged and handicapped who cannot climb all the way up. By about 10:30, we were busy preparing for a hike in our guest house, which was to serve as a base camp.

We began our ascend at about 11 after a light breakfast and armed with water bottles. We bought the prasadam and the headband that is traditional gear for such hikes. It took about 45 minutes to climb up and enter the temple. The rush was huge given that it was an auspicious day of Navami. Devotees had thronged in large numbers and the scene was electrifying. There were drums and there were slogans of devotion, there were chants and there was spirituality to the core, and there was that steep hike. I was surprised to see people with disabilities and age overcoming those high and steep stairs. At the temple too, the crowd was evident and the line was long. Finally, we did manage to have the darshan and spent some time in the calm of the temple premises. I have always observed that the few moments spent in temple premises has a mysterious energy and power and is really calming.  After about half an hour at the temple, we began our descent which took about 15 minutes in all. We did spend some time at the new temple, by the foothill.  We were on our way back from Indargarh by about 1:30 and reached Sawai Madhopur by 2:15 PM and had a quick lunch before starting the next part of the day.

At about 3 PM, the forest department Maruti Gypsy was standing on the guest house porch waiting for us to embark on the jungle sojourn. We boarded the car and began the journey towards Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. After about half an hour of drive, we crossed the forest checkpoint and entered the jungles of Ranthambore National Park. First stop within jungle was the Ranthambore Fort. The fort stands majestically atop a hill overlooking the entire park. The walk up, one of the only places this mode of transport is possible, is a very refreshing and exciting one as even the big cats have been spotted up there! The view of the surrounding keeps getting better and better as you go up but the view from the fort itself can only be described as breathtaking. Many animals can also be seen along the edges of all the water bodies, which are all visible from here. The fort itself also offers many interesting architectural and historical sights worth viewing and photographing. A trip to the fort is a must if you are a first time visitor to the park. A guide with a good knowledge of the fort's history would always be a good idea. Within the fort is the  Trinetra Ganesha Temple. The temple is the famous and oldest temple of Lord Ganesha in Rajasthan that comprises of his whole family all together at one place.

Once the visit to the fort was over, we began our expedition in hunt of the big cat of the jungle - the Tiger itself. We covered 3 zones across the entire area and spent eager moments at multiple site points - places where chances of spotting a tiger are high. Most site points are located beside waters bodies. Ranthambore national park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and in 1974 it gained the protection of "Project Tiger". It got the status of a National Park in 1981. The reserve covers approximately 400 square kilometers of the area excluding the peripheral forest areas. During our back and forth trips across the uneven terrain, looking attentively at minor details to spot the tiger, we saw a number of other animals including wild boar, swamp deer, birds and many more. However, as luck would have it, it wasn't our day. The four-hour effort did seem futile to some extent as we closed our expedition without citing the cat. As if this wasn't enough, one of my friend visiting the reserve same day happened to spot one in the only zone we left out. However, it was a good experience in all and safari had all the elements of excitement, curiosity, and suspense. We were back to our guesthouse by 8 for our train back to Jaipur. It was indeed a roller coaster ride on a rushed day but the company of family.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Party Village - Cyber Hub Social

Another of those lunch outings and movie sessions were on cards and this time, younger bro was joining us for the outings. We had a good show of Dhoni's untold story at PVR MGF but the movie was really long and it was almost about 3 by the time we were coming down the stairs of the movie theater. Though the duration of the movie had its share of snacks and nit-bits but those are never enough to satisfy hungry souls like us. So we decided to head out for a late lunch and the obvious choices led us to finalize our destination as Cyber Hub - the office district of Gurgaon which houses best of restaurants hustled between towers of offices on all its side. We had parked our vehicle and were entering the zone by about 3:30.

As we roamed around the concrete zone to put our fingers on the exact restaurant to be tried for that outing, we realized that we were really late for a lunch meal. A number of places had stopped service to prepare for next meal and a few others allowed only a last order after we enter. However, towards the other corner of the area, we saw a new offering which clad a rural look with all the dishes named in typical Hindi with a flavor of village look. There were huge drain pipes on one side which were designed to be outer seating space. We quickly realized that this was the place we would want to go for this lunch.

We entered through the "seemingly congested" corridors and confused interiors, we actually needed some guidance to enter into a long tunnel structure. The tunnels led us to a huge hall which had been themed in an interesting way. Through the tunnels, a few rooms were carved out which provide an option of a private meal for 4 to 10 people. The hall that we were in was the main restaurant. One part of the restaurant adapted the look of a railway coach with seats resembling bearths of Indian Railways. The look was completed with mirrors and electric sockets along with the leatherette cushions on the bench like seating. Another part resembled village "chaupal" or meeting place where elders gather for discussions. The roundtable showcased the structure of such meeting joints with a rustic look and seating. The dance floor donned the look of vast open spaces that villagers use for celebrating festivals.

The Chaupal Look
Seated on the Train Berths
As we settled in and looked at the table, the menu followed the culture that is some coming up in a big way at many themed restaurants. The menu is designed in form of a newspaper - one each for drinks and food. The staff carried a PDA to take order and soon we had settled in on what to eat. It was going to be a typical north Indian fare that day. The mocktails were decent and service was prompt. The quality of food was great too and service size were okayish. They served a naan or paratha with most of the main course items. The waiter warned us adequately about this and hence we saved a lot of food from being wasted.

In terms of overall experience, it was a nice ambiance with a unique theme and courteous staff. The food was good and not super expensive. If you wanna hang out with friends or have a private dinner with the special someone, it would be a good place if you choose your table carefully. We ended the outing with awesome Kulfi at a famous outlet in Cyber Hub.

Cooling it off to Wrap the Meal
Cyber Hub Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kingdom of Dreams - Filling Entertainment !!

It was the time of the year when planning something special is imperative for every husband on earth and things were not different at my end. The birthday of the wife was approaching fast and I still was on a lookout for things to do to make this occasion special. While the usual chores (midnight cake delivery, flowers, gifts) were all set, the only thing left out was where to take her out. After much deliberations (with myself), I remembered that there is this place where she always wanted to go and we hadn't had a chance yet. This realization did make my life a bit easier and I went straight to their portal to book tickets for a show at the "Kingdom of Dreams".

There are two online channels to book tickets at KOD as it is popularly known as. While one is the Bookmyshow route where you could use any BMS specific vouchers or offers, another option is to book through KOD's own portal. The interface and look-and-feel are exactly same as when you book a movie and you can also select your seats based on the moolah you are ready to shell out. The prices for weekends are about Rs 500 higher compared to the weekdays. I was booking for a weekday and saw that the lowest two categories were somehow blocked for next 3-4 weeks so they were out of the picture. The weekday allowed me to go a level further up and I booked two seats in the silver zone towards the aisle.

The External Courtyard and Box Office
As planned, I dropped the news to the lady of my life at the last moment and asked her to be ready for the occasion. We reached well in time for the 7 PM show (on 27th of September 2016) as it isn't only about the show but the entire experience of visiting the place. You need to cherish each moment as memory and that only comes if you are careful enough to avoid last minute rush to the finish. We handed over the keys to the valet at about 6 and found ourselves in the outside courtyard of the venue. In case you are visiting for a late evening show and want to avoid the potential darkness of the parking lots, it makes sense to spend those 60 bucks to opt for the valet option. 

The outer courtyard is a vast open area which has the box office to book your tickets or get the tickets for the online bookings. Though there are numerous counters only couple of them were operations and hence there was a considerable line-up to get the tickets. On the opposite side of the box office, there is a set up for adventure sports for kids - including bungy jumping, roller coasters, and those high swings. The play area seemed to be a huge hit among small ones and parents lined up to purchase those tickets while the younger ones enjoyed. The place was definitely lively with activities. As we looked towards the entrance gates, we noticed the gang with huge drums, called nagadas, ready to welcome the guests with traditional style. We got our tickets checked and moved into the venue with drums beating in the background.

Once inside, we were in the forecourt of KOD which has a huge expanse of open space. A part of the space is used for live show and a stage-like area has been set up for the purpose. There are waterworks and fountains for the cascade effect. The gates and arches of various entrances have been beautifully decorated to give the place a royal look and allow a visitor to embrace the theme of a "kingdom". We spent a few minutes absorbing looks of the forecourt and various offshoots taking visitors to separate sections of the venue. One huge door with wide arches opened up into a world of dreams with food everywhere as far as you can see and this was where we headed to begin the evening.

Posing in The Forecourt

A View of the Cultural Gully
Delhi - Kingdom of Dreams Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The huge gates led us to a wide food street called "Cultural Gully". To start with you enter the hall which has a sky mirage roofing to give a feel of open space. The dim blue lighting strengthens the impact created by the roof. As you move towards the other end of the "gully" you pass through food stalls from each part of the country running from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu. You need to pick a prepaid card like the ones in a food court of a shopping mall. The quality of food and hygine is maintained but I felt that service could be improved. The lethargy and hesitancy in service is apparent specially if you are racing with time to feed your belly before a show. This could be a sample bias as I only tried two of the stalls but it is what it is. Also when I say lethargy, it is slowness of service and courtesy in communication is not comprmised. We tried the Maharastrian and the Rajasthani stall and enjoyed the food. As we finished the food, we were reminded of the upcoming show on the public address system which asked us to be seated soon for the show - scheduled to begin at 7 PM.

Out through the same huge gates, we proceeded to the forecourt and furthered to huge stairs which led to the artium of the famed Nautanki Mahal. This area again would remind you of movie theatre's waiting lounges with food stalls and coffee outlets. The difference is that instead of popcorns, these serve bhel puri. Once tickets were checked, we entered the auditorium and were ushered in to our seats. We were instructed that during some of the sequences through the show, the doors would be inoperational and entry/exit would be restricted. We later realized that this was because some of the dance sequences involved artists spreading throughout the area. The show began right on time at 7 and after initial credits and introduction of the key actors, a dance sequence marked the beginning of the performance. We were there for a show called "Zangoora" which revolved around the theme of a prince being thrown to grownup in a family of nomadic artists becuase his father, the king, was duped and killed by power hungary bureaucrats. Twenty years later, one of the loyal bureaucrat returns to remind the prince of his true originis and helps him gain his kingdom back from clutches of the evil. Amidst this, there is a love triangle that plays on to help keep the musical theme alive.

A look inside the Auditorium
The show is of two hours in duration with an added break of 20 mins in between to allow people stretch up and have refreshments. The theme is enticing and performance keeps you glued to the seats and stage. Artists would fly in from the roof, appear from the floor or run in through doors and this keeps people on toes to not miss any of the sequence. What I personally loved was the efficiency and effectivness with which the entire setting of stage changed from one scene to other. Layered screens created the 3-D effect and props came in went out in jiffy. I am sure a lot of preparation and planning would have gone through in arranging this apart from huge human resource pool coordinating and implementing each step.

As the show ended at about 9:30 and we moved out, we were pretty impressed with the performance and were wondering how soon can we come back for the other show titled "Jhoomroo". We exited through the "Cultural Gully" and came out. We noticed that it was pitch dark outside but the food street still had essense of evening to offer. The valet was efficient and our car was brough out soon and we left the venue. I would definitely recommend people to try this out once. Also if you go for a show, get yourself registered for their "Royal Card" i.e. the loyalty membership which allows you to visit back just for the "Cultural Gully" for half the price.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Over the high stools - Factory by Sutra

Last week was tough on office and as the end of it approached, we decided to give life a break and wind up with some good food and nice ambiance. Now most of the obvious choices for such a retreat in Gurgaon are located in one fated corner of the town - Sector 29. We were headed in the same direction too. An early end to the office, thanks to acceptance of deliverable without further edits and merciful manager acknowledging the hard work. I was home by 5 in the evening and that was when we (you know what "we" means for a married profession who has been at work entire week) decided to head for the dinner. What followed next was an obvious look at Zomato to scan through the options. After weighing in on the ambiance, ratings, pictures and reviews we finally came up with two options. The choice was eased by availability, as Zomato could book us a table in only one of them. So, the destination for the evening was - Factory by Sutra.

So dressed neatly and looking forward to a relaxed evening we headed towards the venue. It was about 20 minutes drive from home and soon we passed alongside the Leisure Valley Park to be welcomed by the glitter of Sector 19 restaurant complex. The good thing with our restaurant was a small parking space in the rear of the restaurant. While it may not give you as glamorous an entrance but is much more convenient, away from the usual hue and cry of congested parking. We parked by the roadside parking and entered through the "alternate" entrance. The interior has been designed as a construction site for a power plant with dummy boilers and complex pipelines spread all over the place. We had to pass through to the front entrance to access the welcome desk and enquire about our booking. We had been given a table on the terrace and we were pretty happy about it. The glass bubble elevator takes you to the terrace. The usher guided us to our table.

It was a high table with bar stools which wasn't our first choice but was the only available option. We realized most of the tables for 2 had similar design and sofas were reserved for larger groups. This though was an early irritant, did not deter us from appreciating the ambiance. It was a dimly lit yet buzzing environment with a good crowd and courteous service. Interiors were designed to be rustic and rugged with unplastered bricks, lanterns, and bracket lights. The staff wore "men at work" prints to complete the construction site look. The staff also had led-illuminated name badges on them which was a different thing for me. To beat the humid warmth, ample fans mounted on walls ensured windy feel on the terrace.

We started with the order and asked for mocktails and starters. The service was pretty prompt and we were surprised as generally "mocktail" customers aren't the first priority. The nachos were crispy, the salsa sourly yummy and the cheese toppings was spicy enough to content us. The mocktails were bit high on flavor but that was not something we would complain about. Next, we ordered a pizza and their special burger for the main course. Again the service was relatively quick and all the while the attendant seemed to be attentive to our calls. In fact, the service was nonobtrusive yet accessible. The thin crust pizza was nicely done and the burger was big enough for a meal. The sauces dripped flavor and warmth and the condiments added adequate charm. We ended the meal with a brownie served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream and the lingering sweetness seemed to be a perfect wrap up.

They were quick to bring up the check and payment was smoother than some of the places we have been to. The staff bid us goodbye and we returned back to the warmth of our abode. It was time well spent and evening best utilized after the week of hectic activities.

Factory By Sutra Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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