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A Weekend in New Dehli

Forty-eight hours is little time to do credit to any city, especially one the size of the Indian capital. But if you do decide to undertake that Herculean task there are a few places you must see. First the basics. In the absence of private transport, Delhi can be navigated through hand-pulled rickshaws for short distances, auto-rickshaws (simply called “autos”), or the underground metro for longer hauls. Delhi will, however, be interlinked by metro in time for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Taxis are a more expensive alternative.
As an iconic site of Delhi tourism and one of the country’s largest war memorials, the India Gate is worth a quick visit as you head towards other monuments in the capital.

Within New Delhi’s urban cacophony, it’s a precious rarity to find a site conducive to peaceful contemplation. The Jantar Mantar astrological observatory is one such rare gem. Founded in 1742 by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, Jantar Mantar is made up of large-scale structures that produce acute observations of time. Following the style of Arab astronomer Prince Ulugh Beg, who built the 15th century observatory in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, the place is also called “Yantra Mandir” or “the temple of instruments,” and is the definitive pilgrimage site for the scientifically-inclined.
Not far, at the heart of Delhi is Connaught Place (fondly abbreviated ac CP), consisting of two concentric circles of restaurants, shops and cafés. At pavements and nooks vendors offer colorful rugs, jewelry, and even books at bargain prices. Slashing 50 percent off is worth a try.
The outer circle at CP boasts the Madras Coffee House, set up in 1935, specializing in South Indian Food and, of course, black coffee. An effigy of Lord Ganesha welcomes you at the door, and you may choose to sit beneath a disco-ball as dosas (crêpes made from lentils and rice) are served. Chinese food has also made an entry into the otherwise specifically South Indian cuisine.
Madras is lighter on your wallet, while a more expensive treat can be found at the United Coffee House in the inner circle of CP. Offering Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine, the restaurant also serves its delicious coffee in a decanter-like jar as a friend’s friend offers to read your palm (yes, it is known to happen in India!).
While those craving tea can find various options from the chaiwalla who carries tea around in a big kettle, to the fast-food franchise Nirula’s, which offers cardamom tea (a personal favorite) ideal for Delhi winter nights, an impressive array of concoctions can also be found at Cha Bar at Oxford Bookstore at CP’s Statesman Tower.
Unlike at the Cha, the Full Circle and Café Turtle keep the coffee from spilling over. At the three-storey structure in the upscale Khan Market (on day two of course), the bookstore Full Circle fills two floors with books, stationary, and DVDs/CDs. The rooftop café is shaded by the trees — an ideal spot to enjoy the additions to your library, or the company of friends.
Another bookstore at Khan Market worth a peek is BahriSons, which also carries many academic publications.
It is difficult to leave the Khan Market without knick-knacks and souvenirs, but it is advisable to save your rupees until you’ve visited Lajpat Nagar.
From buying wood carvings and figures (read the ever-popular elephants), to Indian clothes and shawls, and other sundry gifts a few hundred rupees go a long way at Lajpat. Delhi is also renowned for its chaat (savory snacks) which can be sampled at a stall inside Lajpat.
Chinese dumplings, or Momos, are commonplace in Delhi street culinary vocabulary and stalls selling vegetarian and non-vegetarian options abound.
One such “Everest Momos” is right outside Lajpat.
But before you head to Lajpat, stop for a while to roam through Lodhi Gardens to enjoy some greenery and look upon the architectural works of the Sayyids the Lodhis, 15th and 16th century Muslim dynasties.
Near the gardens lies the Tibet House, founded in 1965 by the Dalai Lama.
Hosting a Tibetan museum with old and rare Tibetan handicrafts and artefacts, the center also offers a window to Tibetan culture through exhibits, dances, music, conferences, workshops, and more.
If you find yourself with a few hours to kill, watch a Bollywood (or even Hollywood) flick at the Satyam cinema. In the same edifice, there are countless dining options.
Old Delhi with its charms of Chandni Chowk (moonlit market) and Jama Masjid calls, will sadly have to wait until the luxury of another 48 hours.
By Chitra Kalyani

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