Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Delhi Nightlife and Entertainment

With an ever-increasing number of pubs and clubs, Delhi's nightlife scene is in full swing. During the week the central restaurants and bars are your best bet, but come the weekend the discos really take off. Most, if not all, of the discos popular with Delhi's young jet-set are in the luxury hotels - some operate couples-only policies, others are free for women but not for men, and many don't allow "stag entry" (men unaccompanied by women); one place that is not in a hotel and does not restrict entry is Delhi's biggest nightclub, Elevate. India Gate and Rajpath attract nightly "people's parties" where large crowds mill about, snacking and eating ice cream; these are not great for women on their own, as hassle is likely. For drinking, the five-star hotels all have plush and expensive bars - the Patiala Peg in the Imperial is perhaps the pick of the bunch. Djinns at the Hyatt Regency often puts on live music. Lounge bars have become very popular of late - but who knows how long that trend will last. Cheaper beers can be bought in many of the restaurants in Connaught Place, or in a few hotels and restaurants in Paharganj, including De Gem. Note that the legal drinking age in Delhi is 25.

The capital also fares well on the cultural front. A range of indoor and outdoor venues host performances of classical dance, such as Bharatnatyam and Kathakali, and regular classical music concerts - check the listings magazines detailed in the section "Information" to see what's on. The India International Centre is a good place to catch art exhibitions, lectures and films on all aspects of Indian culture and environment, while the colossal India Habitat Centre, the British Council and the art and theatre auditoriums around India Gate are all renowned for their innovative shows and high-standard drama in both Hindi and English.

Finally, Bollywood hits are shown all over the capital, and there are several centrally located cinemas. The Chanakya in Chanakyapuri shows both Bollywood and Hollywood blockbusters.

Bars


Blues Bar N-17 Connaught Place. Snazzy bar and restaurant offering an eclectic range of loud music (rock Thursday, retro Sunday). Extravagant cocktails expertly mixed.

DV8 Regal Building, Connaught Place. Central, popular place with an old fashioned, pub-like feel; music from 8pm and live bands on Tues.

Fashion bar Tavern by the Greens, Aurobindo Marg, Lado Sarai Rd . Fashion TV's trendy lounge bar down near the Qutb Minar, decked out with screens big and small. Music till midnight and the occasional fashion show; unsurprisingly, it attracts rather a glam crowd.

Geoffries Ansal Plaza . Very popular, supposedly English-style pub (really a bar-restaurant) in a modernistic shopping centre just south of the Ring Road, with bar meals and beer on tap. Happy hour 4-7pm (two beers for the price of one).

Pegasus Pub L-135 Connaught Place. A plush a/c pub, part of Nirula's hotel, with draught beer, daily happy hour (3-7pm) and good bar snacks.

Rodeo A-12 Connaught Place. Saloon-style bar with Wild West waiters, swinging-saddle bar stools, pitchers of beer, tequila slammers, and Mexican bar snacks (tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas).

Shalom N-18, N-Block Market, Greater Kailash Telephone- 011/5163 2280 or 2283. A trendy lounge bar with laid-back music, a Mediterranean theme, Spanish and Lebanese food (tapas meets mezze), hookah pipes, and tables for all; but you'll need to book, especially at weekends.

Ssteel Ashok, 50-B Chanakyapuri . A sophisticated dance-bar with two dance spaces and three bars, including one just for beers, and one for wine and cocktails. There's a huge range of spirits, including all sorts of vodkas and malt whiskies, with music and dancing from around 9pm till midnight.


Disco
Elevate
6th floor, Center Stage Mall, Sector 18, Noida Telephone- 0120/251 9905, Website http://www.elevateindia.com/ . Across the river, and indeed just across the state line in UP, this is the biggest and kickingest club in town, a proper nightclub rather than a hotel disco, modelled on London's Fabric, with three floors (dancefloor, chillout and VIP), a roof terrace, and British and Aussie DJs playing the latest electronic and dance sounds. Fri and Sat nights only (check the website for what's on), but open till 4am, and "stag entry" is permitted.

Floats Park Royal, Lala Lajpat Rai Path, Nehru Place Telephone- 011/2622 3344. Located near the Baha'i Temple, this is a bar-restaurant until around 10pm, when the dancefloor opens up and it really gets going. Open till 1 or 2am, but it's best to arrive by 11pm, as you may not be allowed in thereafter. Most popular on Wed, Fri and Sat.

My Kind of Place Taj Palace, 1 Sardar Patel Marg Telephone- 011/2611 0202. One of Delhi's most popular clubs, especially among expats, tending to attract a slightly older crowd than the other discos. Entry is free, but men aren't allowed in without a female companion. Wed is rock and retro night, Fri hip-house, and Sat Delhi-style music (with some bhangra and even filmi numbers).

Royale Mirage Crowne Plaza Surya, New Friends Colony Telephone- 011/2683 5070. A long-time favourite, now revamped, with a French-Arab theme (hummus is among the snacks available), dancing podiums, state-of-the-art light show and a hip, young crowd. Open Wed-Sat only, happy hour 5-8pm, music 8pm-1am.


Dance and Drama
Dances of India Parsi Anjuman Hall, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, near Delhi Gate Telephone- 011/2328 9464. Excellent classical, folk and tribal dance. Daily 6.45pm.

Habitat World India Habitat Centre, Lodi Rd Telephone- 011/2468 2222. Popular venue for dance, music and theatre as well as talks and exhibitions.

India International Centre 40 Lodi Estate Telephone- 011/2461 9431. Films, lectures, dance and music.

Kamani Auditorium Copernicus Marg Telephone- 011/2338 8084. Bharatnatyam and other dance performances.

Sangeet Natak Akademi Rabindra Bhavan, 35 Feroz Shah Rd Telephone- 011/2338 7246, Website- http://www.sangeetnatak.com/ . Delhi's premier performing arts institution.

Triveni Kala Sangam 205 Tansen Marg Telephone- 011/2371 8833. Bharatnatyam dance shows, also art exhibitions.


Cultural Centres and Libraries
British Council 17 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, southeast of Connaught Place Telephone- 011/2371 1401. Talks, film shows and concerts, plus a good library and reading room.

Lalit Kala Galleries Rabindra Bhawan, 35 Firoz Shah Rd, by Mandi House Chowk Telephone- 011/2338 7241 to 7243. Delhi's premier art academy, with an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture, frescoes and drawings. Also films, seminars and photographic exhibitions.

Sahitya Akademi Rabindra Bhawan, 32 Firoz Shah Rd, by Mandi House Chowk Telephone- 011/2338 6626. An excellent library devoted to Indian literature through the ages, with some books and periodicals in English.

Tibet House 1 Institutional Area, Lodi Rd Telephone- 011/2461 1515. A library on all aspects of Tibetan culture, plus a small museum of Tibetan artefacts. Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm.


Cinemas
Bollywood movies are shown at the Odeon (Telephone- 011/2332 2167), Plaza (Telephone- 011/2332 2784) and Regal (Telephone- 011/2336 2245) cinemas, all in Connaught Place, or the Shiela (Telephone- 011/2367 2100) on DB Gupta Road, near New Delhi railway station. Check whether the films have subtitles. For more on Indian film, see "Bollywood".

Suburban cinemas, such as the Priya (Telephone- 011/2614 0048) in Vasant Vihar, the Chanakya (Telephone- 011/2467 0423) in Chanakyapuri and the PVR Anupam (Telephone- 011/2686 5999) in Saket, provide a diet of relatively recent Hollywood films (in English, with Hindi subtitles) with digital surround sound and superb popcorn. In addition, many of the cultural centres listed above run international film festivals.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paharganj

Immediately west of New Delhi railway station, Paharganj, centred around the Main Bazaar, provides the first experience of the subcontinent for many budget travellers. Packed with cheap hotels, restaurants, caf├ęs and dhabas, and with a busy fruit and vegetable market halfway along, it's also a paradise for shoestring shoppers seeking psychedelic clothing, bindis, bags and bronzes and essence of patchouli and sandalwood. A constant stream of cycle and auto-rickshaws, handcarts, cows and the odd taxi squeeze through impossible gaps without the flow ever coming to a complete standstill - the winding alleys where children play among chickens and pigs seem worlds away from the commercial city centre only just around the corner. Beware of opportunist thieves here, though, and the attentions of touts, offering dubious hotels, overpriced tours and spurious charas.

As you wander through the mayhem of Paharganj, you may well find your clothes being gently tugged by some of the local street kids begging for rupees. Most of them are runaways who've left difficult homes, often hundreds of kilometres away, and the majority sleep on the street and inhale solvents - any money given directly to them is likely to further their fixes. A (non-registered) charitable organization working in the main bazaar, the Ujala Project, run by a Mizo-Swiss couple, is dedicated to helping street children attain a brighter future. Their main achievement so far has been the establishment of a centre in the heart of the bazaar where the children can meet, study, bathe and wash their clothes in a caring, drug-free space. They also offer informal counselling and teaching, and advice on hygiene and nutrition, and they try to wean the kids away from potentially harmful activities such as glue-sniffing and petty crime. The charity is sustained entirely by donations, and they welcome gifts of secondhand clothes for three- to eighteen-year-olds, coloured pens, pencils and paints, and of course money. They can be contacted at 5099 Gali Sakkan Wali, off Paharganj Main Bazaar (Telephone011/5539 8967, Email:- ujalapaharganj@netscape.net).