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Foods, Architecture, Fashion, and Music Scenes of Delhi

Aired December 22, 2011 - 03:30:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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MARUT SIKKA, CHEF AND FOOD CRITIC: You know, this is like an amazing go-carting kind of a ride. These (INAUDIBLE) have shown me 20 things, already.

Where we now are standing today, is outside the walled city. It's New Delhi. This is Old Delhi, where it all began. The very epicenter of what Delhi was. And this is the sights, the smells, you know, the best food that you get, which is - all Delhi food is available here, the spice market. We're going to visit, later, some shops which sell this spectacular stuff. I mean, there's no place in the world like Old Delhi.

I've been dabbling in food, particularly Indian food, for most of my life, as long as I remember. And for me, spices are the basics of Indian foods. And there's no better place to see, smell, or look at spices than Khari Bawli, which is part of Old Delhi. It's the biggest spice market in Asia. That's where we are today.

I mean, this is Turmeric. Look at that. Oh my. It's fantastic. Or maybe, you know, probably never seen cinnamon like this. It's brilliant. Black cardamom, or what we call modiliki (ph). It's such an integral part of Indian food.

On adil (ph) spices, the quality is absolutely fantastic. You'll never find this kind of aroma in any other spice shop. I mean, you find the maximum number of spices in the world here. They come from all parts of the country. Including a lot of dry food that comes in from Afghanistan.

It's all the spices in different forms. Different varying quantities that go into making Indian food what it is. Indian food is primarily - the flavor or the taste of Indian food is produced by combinations of different spices. And that's why a spice market like this is integral in cooking Indian food. So if you need to cook brilliant Indian food, this is where you start.

Actually, no visit to Delhi can be complete without coming to Old Delhi. And in Old Delhi, you don't have cars and other things to move around in. It's either your two good feet, or a rickshaw like this. It's an amazing experience. You have to experience it.

Delhi's traditionally not a city of restaurants. The best food that's available here is on the streets. And that's where you have to come and eat the food of Delhi.

Do you see the crowds that are here? The people queuing up to get this - these brilliantly stuffed breads. And these guys make paratha out of Numbu, which is lemons, or chilies, almonds. I mean, you name it, and they'll give you a paratha out of it. Just see the areas (ph) that they have. Deep fried, amazing stuff. And the aromas that are coming out of here - fabulous.

I have one rule about Indian street food - whatever is cooked, it should probably healthy and fine. I think you should be very careful of eating uncooked food - raw food. I think these guys maintain very good hygiene and you can happily eat this food without getting sick.

It looks fantastic.

You know, Indian food is a puzzle that even Indians haven't been able to unravel in that sense. The legacy is extraordinary. Every 20 kilometers in one direction, the food changes. And then you have cities like Delhi, where everything converges - becomes like a melting pot. There's so much diversity to see here. You cannot get diverse (ph) in Delhi. You just have to be at the right place at the right time. I think that's what Delhi's all about.

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FEROZE GUJRAL, ART COLLECTOR AND MODEL: Here at Devi Foundation - it is one of the only great expressions of the extent (ph) of the art collecting in India. The collection is fabulous. They have a collection of over a thousand pieces of art. And I'm going to take you (ph) a few of my favorites.

It's grown into an incredible collection. A very important one. Not just for India, but also for, I think, for the subcontinent. For Pakistan, Bangladesh art, and India.

This is a photograph of one of our premier artists - contemporary artist, Subodh Gupta. He grew up in a tiny village outside - in Bihar. And this is his original home. And I think this picture is lovely because it's actually an exact expression of where he came from. And this piece, which was done in '97 was actually - it's a traditional stacking of cow dung, which we do in every village in India. And what I like about it is that he's had the courage to actually use it in the expression of contemporary art. This is, to me, a very important piece because it's just - it's the beginning of his journey into, you know, a great artist, which is now recognized worldwide.

This is a very important piece. It comes from Pakistan - Rashid Rana - a very prominent artist from Pakistan. And what's lovely is actually how it's been placed just opposite to Subodh's work. And this is the extreme opposite of us, you know, in a new consumer society - extremely modern. All the metal. But what is lovely is the detailing. Inside this is tiny, tiny photographs which have been just put together to form the feeling of a great high-rise, a great building.

I think contemporary art in India is changing, but it's also very recent. And, with the expansion in the 1990s and with India opening up, there was a great interest in China in India. And what the puldars (ph) have done is actually taken that interest in India and convert it into actually commissioning work - getting artists to move out of their comfort zone and do things that they would really like to do. And that is so rare in India, because we don't have museums - we don't have institutions that can do that.

LEKHA PODDAR, DEVI ART FOUNDATION: We need, at this juncture, everybody to pull (INAUDIBLE) to make this movement happen because the government has not given culture any space in its growing economy. I guess it's up to people like you and me.

GUJRAL: India's particularly in a potent time of change. I think it's a very interesting time and I realize that actually living in this time here, because it's so culturally rich that it - how great it is, actually.

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WILLIAM DALRYMPLE, AUTHOR, HISTORIAN: My name is William Dalrymple. I'm a writer. And I've brought you to one of my favorite places in Delhi. Also, one of the main places in my book, "The Last Mughal", which is the last summer palace of the last Mughal, Zafar Mahal, was by Bahadur Shah Zafar - his gates. And it's - the last Mughal built it. Which is the final building before the whole Mughal dynasty goes up in flames in 1857. And it's one of the great hidden gems of Delhi. And I will show you around in there.

So when the Mughals were at their most powerful, they could build summer palaces up in the Himalayas, in Pakistan, in Kabul - all over the whole of South Asia. But by the end, all they had left was Delhi. And even the kind of immediate vicinity of Delhi was a bit troubled for them. So, they build their final summer palace here in Mehrauli, which is on the outskirts of Delhi.

By the time that this palace was built, the Mughal's political and economic power is simply gone. All that's left is their cultural prestige. And Zafar is the (INAUDIBLE) before that. He provoked what was really the last great renaissance of both writing and learning and art.

So this is the reason that this place is so very sad. At the end, Zafar lead what was the most enormous anti-colonial rebellion to take place anywhere in the world at any point in the 19th century. The 1857 Indian uprising, or the "Indian Mutiny" as it's called in England, had Zafar as its unlikely talisman - as it's unlikely leader. And by this time, he was an 85-year-old Sufi poet. And his most famous last poem talks about how he didn't even get five yards of Indian soil. And this is the yards that he's thinking of. This empty grave was the one that he wanted to be buried in. Instead, he was shipped off on a bullet cart and sent overseas to Rangoon.

One of the things I love about Delhi is just the sheer amount of old buildings lying around. It's one of those cities like Rome, like Istanbul, like Cairo - where there's an incredible amount of just the ruins of ages littered wherever you go - sitting on road junctions or getting in the way of the flyovers. All of these aspirations in a city like this has to be a modern city are continually being frustrated by the sheer amount of old rubble lying around - old places like this, which are forgotten, which no tourists never go to.

Steps are in a terrible way, old plaster is peeling, and yet nothing has really damaged the beauty of this. This is the last of the Pearl Mosques - there are about four or five across the Mughal Empire. (INAUDIBLE) and the Red Fort. And yet, it's very beautiful.

The ruins, the history, the calligraphers in the old city, the Sufi Shrines, the Qawwali singers, all that stuff of industrialization is still very much here. But now you have a kind of really interesting modern capital growing up around that. And this juxtaposition of the past and present of a vibrant modern capital with a big artistic community. And all the beauty in ruin that's lying - will always be there (INAUDIBLE).

Another thing I'd advise is to go just over the road. Something far less glamorous, but often more moving, which is the Sufi Shrine in Nizamuddin.

MANJARI CHATURVEDI, SUFI KATHAK DANCER: We are in the heart of Delhi. We are in a place called Nizamuddin Auliya. These crowded lanes leads to the most revered Sufi Saint of Delhi.

Mostly in India and Pakistan, you will find a lot of influence of Sufism, which is a mystical part of Islam. Apart from the Buddhism (ph) followers, there are a lot of Hindu followers who would come in, pray, and go back. So the Sufi Saints - the best part around them - their philosophy was - it was an all-inclusive philosophy.

SYED FAIZ NIZAMI, : Music is basically a universal language, which connects people from all religion, all castes.

Sufi is basically a mediator. We unite the human being to the Gods.

CHATURVEDI: I will be presenting Sufi Kathak. And through the dance, we will explore the different layers of how a dance of entertainment changes into a dance for the almighty.

Dance plays a very important part in Sufism, being the seat (ph) of scriptures (ph) - capital in India.

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MALINI RAMANI, FASHION DESIGNER: What I like about this place is its whole Mediterranean vibe. It's so calm and peaceful and it's great coming here for lunch. There always musicians here, all kinds of parties. It's fantastic.

Delhi just happens to be the fashion capital of India. Bombay has Bollywood, and we have fashion. There are loads of fashion designers in Delhi. All the top names. And this is one of the stores that has it all.

So this is the kind of thing that I do. It's from my latest collection. And this is a whole Guajarati look. This is one of my signature pieces, which is doing very, very well for me. It's called "The Goddess Sari Dress". It's a one-piece, no-zip, no buttons, and it's a sari at the same time. We have so many great elements we can use. This is block printing, this is lehenga (ph).

We're so lucky in India, we've got so many elements to play with. We have every kind of embroidery possible. We have amazing crafts people. We have color - look at this color. Where else can you find color like this?

The Aman Hotel is a perfect example of the new New Delhi, which incorporates a perfect blend of the East and the West. Using our beautiful crafts that we have on offer here - amazing works of art, and adding the modern touch to it.

India's changed a lot and, this being the capital, it's all happened here. It's almost like a whole revolution of change has happened. It was almost like a village, you know, when I first moved here. And to see it now - I can't keep up. I mean, you know, gone for a week and there are like 10 new things that have opened. You know, and it's exciting.

TAPAN RAJ, ELECTRONIC MUSICIAN: Bombay is very film industry-centric. So a lot of, you know, focus is on film music and music surrounding film. But in Delhi, what we notice since the last eight or nine years, a lot of promoters came out and said, "You know, let's try something else. Let's make this a different kind of a hub".

GAURAV RAINA, ELECTRONIC MUSICIAN: Delhi gives you space. It gives you a context, which is very deep, historically speaking and artistically speaking. And it also gives you the space to do your thing.

Alright, so now we're here at the Hauz Khas Village and ready to take you on a small tour. This is more like the new art area - like the Delhi art gallery and a couple of other art galleries that have mushroomed here in the past five years.

RAJ: What's happened now is Hauz Khas Village has become kind of the hub for food in the city. But, like more and more restaurant, more and more cafes started opening up over here. So, I think we've been very lucky, because we are - you know, we work like two blocks down over there. So, if we want to just run to have a coffee or maybe a light snack quickly, then we walk to this street.

RAINA: This is the - actually, the middle lane of Hauz Khas Village. And it's very famous for the old Bollywood movie posters and old Indian art prints.

This is basically the lane for the more interesting stores.

RAJ: So now we get to go into the living room, Telar (ph) Cafe and it's also one of the first few places that really was popular over here.

RAINA: Music in Delhi is always a part of your life. And that's probably why, when we started doing electronic music - it's the Indian aspect that came through very strong.

RAJ: I think, right now, maybe the scene has grown into something very good. And there are lots of Indians, lots of artists, lots of festivals coming up. And I think it's just going to keep growing.

RAINA: Well, Delhi can be described as more of a home away from home kind of place, because - when you come here, it greets you with open arms. I mean, it's called "Delhi" because "Del" (ph) the word refers to heart. And it's a place full of people with a lot of heart.

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