Delhi: The new Bikaner House
It seems outrageous that a fabulous place like this was being used as a bus stand all these years.
The monumental Bikaner House in central Delhi has existed in the city’s collective consciousness as a boarding point for Rajasthan-bound buses. That impression is gradually fading. Although a corner of this erstwhile princely property continues to survive as a transport hub for Jaipur and the cities around it, the main gate today leads to a whole new world.
The building’s restoration by conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah began in early 2014, and the refurbished look was unveiled in November with designer Vivek Sahni’s boutique, Vayu, and the beautiful Art Gallery—a photography exhibition, Jawai—Land Of The Leopards, opened here this week. Last week, author Anoothi Vishal launched her cookbook at Bikaner House. And it was here, in July, that designer Rohit Bal staged his opulent finale to the India Couture Week 2016.
The gleaming new Bikaner House is showing promise of becoming another India Habitat Centre. In the near future, it might become a popular place for parties, launches, exhibitions, concerts and theatre. Coming soon: two restaurants, a café, and a reading library that will be free to all.
Chor Bizzare, the famous Kashmiri speciality restaurant that has its original outlet in Old Delhi, is set to open in Bikaner House in a week or two. Lakshmi Mishthan Bhandar, the Jaipur-based food chain popularly called LMB by its devotees, too, will be opening an outlet soon (the date is not confirmed yet).
On a recent afternoon, we were given a tour of Chor Bizzare. It is decked up with a crazy variety of artefacts, including Karl Marx’s multi-volume Theories Of Surplus Value, which can only be rustled out of a real chor bazaar.
Built in 1938, Bikaner House is one of the few former palaces in the Capital that are accessible to the public (the nearby Hyderabad House, for instance, is used by the Prime Minister to host banquets for visiting kings and presidents). Its new version was conceived by a panel comprising the art world’s who’s who, such as craft revivalist Laila Tyabji and artist Bharti Kher.
Malvika Singh, publisher of the legendary Seminar magazine, who has been associated closely with the making of the new Bikaner House and is also on the panel, credits Rajasthan’s artistically inclined chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia for the turnaround. “She restored the building,” says Singh, “and she decided to return it to Delhi as a ‘culture hub’.”
The palace makes for a beautiful walk. The corridors resemble a gallery of mirrors, and lamplights are reflected on the smooth chessboard floor.
Adds Singh: “We are still just talking of phase I of the Bikaner House project. Wait and watch.”
At the Pandara Road corner of the India Gate C-Hexagon, Delhi.
By Mayank Austen Soofi
Kolkata: Durga on Red Road
In 1975, Nirode Mazumdar became the first of the celebrated artists to create a Durga idol at a Kolkata puja. Paritosh Sen, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Sarbori Roy Chowdhury and Shanu Lahiri followed suit. In keeping with this fine tradition of art at the week-long religious festival, Kolkata will witness its first parade of Durga idols on 14 October, when they pass down the 60ft-wide Red Road.
Complete with viewing galleries along the road, and music and dance performances, the state government initiative will see about 40-odd prize-winning idols taking part in the parade, offering visitors a glimpse of Kolkata’s Durga Puja—for many, the world’s biggest open-air public art show.
“The artistic quotient has definitely made Durga Puja more attractive. The parade will showcase the same,” says A.R. Bardhan, the state government’s principal secretary for tourism. According to Anil Punjabi, chairman (eastern region) of the Travel Agents Federation of India, tourist arrivals during the Puja have seen a steady rise of 10% annually.
The unique parade on Red Road—which was used as an Allied forces airstrip during World War II—could trigger another kind of take-off.
By Shamik Bag
Chennai: The English Tea Room
If you’ve grown up reading Enid Blyton (and most of us have), you are no stranger to that particularly delightful English ritual—high tea. And perhaps it is only fitting that you can find it at a café attached to an art gallery named The Faraway Tree.
“I wanted to create a quintessentially British tea-room, like the sort you find in England,” says Deepa Palaniappan, who runs the café and gallery with her husband.
While the gallery contains the work of contemporary Indian artists, the café offers you old British favourites like scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, sticky toffee pudding and bread pudding.
A typical English breakfast, smoothies made of almond milk and fruit, loose-leaf tea and single-origin coffee are also on the menu.
And yes, a cupboard crammed with old Blyton favourites that you can curl up with too.
The English Tea Room at 17, Kasturi Ranga Road, First floor, Alwarpet, is open from 11am-10.30pm every day.
Bangalore; Books & Brews at The Humming Tree
For book people, bliss is often silence and the soft rustle of a turning page.
The seventh edition of Books & Brew, an event held periodically at The Humming Tree, Bangalore is all about bringing the city’s bibliophiles (and their books) together. This time, there will be a silent reading and book swap. Participants bring to the event books they loved reading, attaching a note which explains exactly why they do. These books are then exchanged with other participants and you get to spend the afternoon reading that book, make conversation with your fellow readers (via written notes, like a school backbench romance) and sip on a piping hot cup of coffee (or a chilled beer) while you do.
Books & Brew will be held on Sunday, 25 September at The Humming Tree, Indiranagar between 1 and 6 pm. There is a cover charge of Rs 300, redeemable on Food and Beverage. For further info contact: 080 25201201
By Preeti Zachariah