Shajahanabad, or Old Delhi as it is more commonly known, exudes an old world charm as you snake your way through lanes too small for cars. Experiencing Old Delhi aboard a cycle rickshaw, you can almost reach out to touch the wares sold in the by lanes. The conversant rick drivers have hidden gems that they share with passengers who grace their vehicle; it’s all highly secretive, a sort of rickshaw pact if you will.
A clandestine project. A quiet rebellion by one man. The Rock Garden by Nek Chand, a roads inspector in the early 50’s, was unplanned – yet it is a major attraction in Chandigarh today. After scaping 12 acres by himself for every night over 20 years, he had a veritable trove of statues and constructions made entirely from waste and debris. Today, the Garden stands at 30 acres and is one of the quirkiest things in India.
If you’ve been trying to get your hands on a copy of the New York Times Bestseller list but it always seems to be sold out, look no further than Daryaganj. It is a paradise for the bibliophile with shops lining the street for as far as the eye can see! Take your pick from fiction, non-fiction, self-help – the plethora. Wear comfy shoes and have your bargaining voice ready, the books you stock up on come at a steal.
This city that has incredible English and Mughal influences, yet completely Indian in every way imaginable is best experienced on a bicycle. As you weave through the narrow lanes and whiz past stalled traffic on the larger roads, you might feel like quite the daredevil. For a true understanding of the streets that have aged 400 years, you need to step down and feel the pulse of the land, the local markets and the heritage sites, and not just drive past them all with wanton indifference.
Mumbai gets lit up at night! All the famous views and attractions are that much more enticing come nightfall. And what better way to experience the sights than with the wind in your hair? Hop on a chauffeur driven motorbike and witness the Ever-Kulfi-Eaters and the Non-Sleep-Chai-Drinkers as a clandestine tour unfurls.
Come rain or shine, Mumbai never loses track of its lunch, and I’m not talking about the time. Over a hundred years, the Dabbawallas (lunch deliverers) have organically grown into a 200,000-strong network. But it’s not the systemic growth that has top management schools around the world studying them – it’s that they NEVER lose a lunch box. Follow the label trail through local trains, to truly understand what it means to be a lunchbox in Mumbai.
Whether it’s four men flying from a punch or the romantic overtures of a pining village boy, the megastars of Bollywood always deliver with panache. Take a walk down the sparkling lane where Indian heroes live and finish it off with a visit to centre stage. Re-enact your favourite action scenes and shake things up with a racy number!
Set off on foot through the narrow lanes of Kolkata to understand the adrenaline that would have coursed through men on their journey to obtain freedom. The walking tour continues on to Old College Road, an incredibly large book market and culminates in Indian Coffee House – a place where some of the greatest minds of the past century have met. Also nearby Kumartoli is famed for its near infinite supply of clay idols!
We speak in many languages, but the ones we understand best are of gold and gems. On a quest to discover the little-known artisans that thrive in back alleys and churn out designs of exquisite proportion, you will also hear tales of fabled jewels of the Maharajas and their plunder, the gems and their mysticism, and of their symbolisms in the Indian culture.
Locals may not be fascinated with Auroville anymore, but for those not from these parts, it is a truly unique realization of the pinnacle of humanitarian ideals – a place without religion or race. With a rich history that has always seemed forward thinking at the least, Auroville has thrown open its gates for you to catch a glimpse of everyday life in the ‘International City’, and experience the significance of a spiritual and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Say Bollywood and think millions of fairy lights, lush weddings, large estates and laws-of-physics-bending action sequences! Akin to Bollywood, the Telugu Film Industry has its chops. Ramoji Film City can best be described as a conjunction of a carnival and Tollywood; where you can experience the grandeur first-hand. The vibrant birds and butterflies in the surrounding thematic gardens also give you a taste of the magic.
Epic proportions of 18-foot-high walls topped with metal spikes speak of a time when the imminent threat of war loomed large. In a feat of engineering, the builders designed a simple system of alerting the royals to danger. You can clap at the front gate and it will be heard in the depths of the fort! The late evening sound & light show offers a glimpse at its grand history.
The Kurusura Submarine Museum, true to the Indian spirit of valour and courage, speaks tomes of the vessel’s battles and its company’s difficult decisions made during the Pakistan War. The first ever submarine museum in Asia is staffed with officers of that period, who will give the tour an authentic feeling. If you enjoy scoping out gargantuan mechanical wonders, this one is a must-see.