Do you sometimes get the feeling with a good book that once you have finished reading it, you want to start with it all over again? I do – and I had the same feeling when a wonderful festival got over in the Capital on Sunday. It was held in the heart of the city and was filled with three days of music, talks, debate – and of course food.
I am talking about Jashn-e-Rekhta, a festival celebrating Urdu, held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) – the sprawling complex which sits between Janpath and Rajendra Prasad Road.
I like the place for a great many reasons: they have a nice cafeteria and a crafts store and organise enjoyable music sessions. And every now and then they hold a festival that you remember.
The festival is over, but I would like to tell you about it because, for one, I am sure it will be back next year, and, two, many of the food stalls there have their permanent eateries in the city and its suburbs. The food part of the festival was organisd by Delhi Food Walks, a group of food lovers led by my friend, Anubhav Sapra.
There was a Peshawari counter (where there were jumbo-sized chapli kababs), Imli (a chaat corner), Afghan food, run by Afghani women refugees (who sold various kinds of roast chicken and kababs) and a host of other food stalls. I went to three counters – stalls run by the Mrs Bagli of Parsi Anjuman, Rumi’s Kitchen, a Gurgaon-based home delivery and catering service, and a sweet-seller of Old Delhi, Babu Ram. The sweet corner had Delhi’s Daulat ki chaat, which, as you know, is the best dessert in the world –a heavenly concoction of milk foam and powdered sugar. I had another sweet there that I had never eaten before – a makkhan ka samosa. This is a cold dish, in which cold butter is rolled out on a cold surface, turned into a triangle and filled with dried fruit. It was, in two words, simply delicious.
I had Mrs Bagli’s caramelised rice with daal meat – in which the lamb had melted wondrously into the lentils, adding to the taste, colour and texture. The fare from Rumi’s was excellent. I had their galaouti and kakori kababs, haleem and ulte tawey ke parathey. The haleem, a meat and wheat mash, had been lightly spiced and was smooth, yet nicely chewy. The kababs were superb – deliciously spiced, soft and literally melted in the mouth.
It wasn’t just the food that wowed me; the ambience at the food court – indeed at the festival itself – was electrifying. The place was teeming with youngsters, and I love being with the young, who always energise me. There were also eager volunteers everywhere, offering help with a smile and a hand.
There were lights hanging from the trees and colourful marquees, and music and laughter wafting in from all corners. There was not a glum face to be seen (though I must admit I didn’t see the festival organisers – I can well imagine what they were going through!).
I sincerely hope the festival returns next year. And next time, I promise I will tell you about the food a bit in advance. The countdown begins.