If Chandni Chowk was a heroine, romantic and a perfect size 6, Dhruv Gupta would be her Javier Bardem. For his is not just another tour of the Old Delhi but a sampling of her most delicious secrets, which he has managed to coax out and shares with only a few.
A management consultant and self-confessed travel junkie – “Now only Australia and New Zealand are left,” – Dhruv grew up in a haveli situated deep in the folds of the Old Delhi. He conducts several tours including shopping and marriage (!) but the half day food tour, where six participants are taken on a cake walk of the area’s best street food vendors and to his haveli for a home-cooked meal, is his most popular.
The tour, which lasts for Four hours, begins at the Chawari Bazaar metro stop and involves rickshaw rides through winding, whirring lanes with pit stops for laccha tokri and bedwee aloo, chaat and kadai milk, desi ghee tikki and dahi bhalla. No matter how full you are, don’t miss milk cake, cooked on a gleaming, giant kadai by a moon-faced halwai and transferred to your plate piping hot, in all its sticky-steamy glory. Vendors visited are friends and carefully vetted for hygiene. “No one has ever gotten sick after my tours,” Dhruv assures.
Dhruv also adds a surprise element to his journeys, impromptu stops at enchanting little nooks like the workshop of an ancient biscuit maker, for instance, or a huge kiln that mass-produces naans. Like a true hero, however, he saves the best for last: a meal at Masterji Ki Haveli, his ancestral home and current residence.
We could tell you that the haveli is carefully preserved and tastefully decorated, that it features four floors and seventeen rooms, 58 doors and 360 degree views. We could tell you that the walls are sky blue and thick, insulating the interiors against extreme weather, that the furniture is Colonial, the central courtyard punctuated by an ancient hand pump. But what’s most striking here is the sense of
space and family, of welcome and heritage.
Five minutes inside and you might find yourself perched on a high old bed, deep in conversation with his mum, grandmum or daughters, all of whom live here, or learning the proper technique to fry paneer pakodas in a modern kitchen with Dhruv’s lovely wife. Participants are welcome to help with the cooking or like us, just gorge on yum vegetarian home cooked food – salad, rice, vegetables,
daal, roti - the simplicity of which is welcome after all that deadly chaat.
The best seat in the house is on the open terrace with the Jama Masjid soaring up on one side, an old couple watching TV in a little house on the other, the whole neighbourhood unfurling like a gleaming, glittering, wrinkled skirt. And it’s not just the sights: here you can hear azaan and a game of gulli cricket, Star Plus and a hawker selling hapus mangoes in the same one minute.
A friend described it as the sound of community, but we like to think of it as the conversations between a heroine and her many suitors, fruit sellers and budding Sachins, troubadours and tourists, her and Javier.
Getting there: Visit www.masterjikeehaveli.com or call Dhruv Gupta at 9810750217, USD for Half Day Tour, including street food, bottled water, dinner and rickshaw rides, book well in advance.