16 reasons why Gurgaon feels like home. Or not.

Manghsor jhol cooked by my sister in law along with dal and alu bhaja and bhaat
The reason why you will rarely see restaurant lunch pics when I am in Gurgaon or Delhi
Caveat: Long read ahead and no, this is not a listicle. You did notice the 'or not' right?

Now that I have drawn your attention to this post with the headline I hope you will stay on. I am a bit weak in maths but I assure you that if you read between the lines you will find the sixteen reasons, and even more perhaps.

I am back home in Mumbai after a short trip of Delhi and Gurgaon and it is good to be back. 

I am not a fan of solo travels these days but I jumped at the opportunity to go Delhi when the folks at Living FoodZ invited me over for their Power List awards night on Saturday. 

You see, this meant that I would get to see my little niece who has just completed 3 months. An act which made her father ask her, "what have been your achievements" in the last one month as he practised for his own review which was coming up at work.

We had gone over to Delhi to see her for the first time when she was about 2 weeks old but that seems too long back. Every morning we wake up in Mumbai to Whatsapps sent by my bother with pictures of the little one which make us smile. She is truly a happiness producing machine.

I went to see her on Saturday after I checked into my hotel in Delhi  and before the event. The next day I went and stayed over with my brother and sister in law and her at Gurgaon.

My conversations with Little Pomponnette

My routine with the little one was simple and was repeated through my stay.

I would take her in my arms from her parents. She would see me and sob. For about 4 seconds. Then she would settle down. She would lock eyes with mine and keep looking at me from then on while I would hold her. I would talk to her. Tell her about Candies, about where all where I would take her for hot chocolate, and the hair spas and Zara visits that her Jethi (father's elder brother's wife AKA K) would take her to. I would ask her for her Snapchat id but she refused to give me that. She just keep looking into my eyes intensely.

If I sat down while carrying her she would sob so I would get up again and walk her. She was very cranky for a bit at night and bawling. So I lifted her like Monika lifted Emma (you will get the reference if you have watched FRIENDS a million times) and swung her up and down.

She stopped sobbing. She calmed down and looked into my eyes as if we were very old friends.

The only time that she was a bit un-ladylike was when I showed her a Starbucks cup and told her how her jethi loves the Starbucks cappuccino. Little Pompanette saw the green Starbucks Girl and jumped up to grab the cup. The coffee (that I had called from Swiggy) was over of course.

Pomponette is what K calls her after the name of a classic french restaurant that we had gone to in Paris. 

I spent all the time at my brother and sister in law's house place taking pictures of the little one, or getting clicked with her. I forgot to take any pictures of me with her parents who babied me during the trip. My brother said that ever since the little one was born her mother's cooking took a hit as she spends her time looking after baby. Yet, my sister in law made a scrumptious mutton curry or mangshor jhol for me the day I landed. The next day she made a Bengali home-styled pulao to go with chicken curry which is what makes a Bengali's Sunday special. And my brother dialled shop after shop the day I reached till he finally got someone to deliver mutton in the rains. The next day  he went out in the blazing sun to get me ice cream.

Alu bhaja, murgir jhol and the pulao which my sister in law cooked
 and the left over mutton joined the party too

A number of chefs and restaurateurs in Delhi were kind enough to invite me over for a meal with them. I hope they now understand why I had to turn down their gracious offers.

When it comes to Calcutta or Delhi/ Gurgaon visits, family takes precedence. 

Parents across the world take a bow

During the little time that I spent there, I realised that being a Jethu (father's elder brother), who drops in occasionally to play with you, is very different from being a parent who is on duty 24 hours. When it came to diaper changes, after all, I would give little Pomponnette to my brother and if she cried too much, to her mother. After I had played with with the little one after lunch on the second day, I settled in for a Sunday nap while her parents were up keeping an eye on her.  The day I was to leave, I woke up at 7 am and then snoozed till 8.30. I got up finally because I wanted to spend time with the little one before I took off for Mumbai. Her parents had been up at the crack of dawn with her. As they do every morning. As did my parents I guess. And yours too. 

The happy humans of Gurgaon

I have a few close friends in Gurgaon and we try to catch up when I am there. One of them, Nilakshi, was not in town this time. She is a kind soul who has often opened her house for K and me when we have had to go to Gurgaon at times of emergencies and made breakfast for us before she left for work, while we dozed on.

The Sporty Baba AKA Foodie Baba moves to Gurgaon

This time in Gurgaon I met Vipul Yadav who is a young friend of mine from Mumbai. He moved to Gurgaon for work about 6 months back. Vipul is a food and sports lover. We met thanks to our love for food. He is on Twitter as @Sporty_Baba and on Instagram as Foodie Baba.

He is a Mumbai loyalist. What I admire about him is that he has fallen in love with Gurgaon too and is happy to extoll the virtues of his adopted city - he can walk to office, nice malls, good cafes, good food, a job which is interesting and has taught him lots of new things, including about how women buy lingerie ("it's purely work"), he attends stand ups and his plans to give being one a shot himself, the low rent at which he has got himself a nice studio apartment.

I like the fact that for his love Mumbai has not held him back.  He has learnt to love his new hometown too and is a proud ambassador of it.

Life is all about winning in daily life and treasuring the present as Buddhism  has taught me and is something I believe in. 

Vipul lives by it.

"Where can I get good sizzlers in Gurgaon dude?""
Vipul Yadav takes a break to answer SOS calls while at Galleria Market
To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Gurgaon's Galleria Market

Vipul and I met up at the Galleria Market on Sunday evening. A place my brother and sister in law have hung out at ever since they moved into Gurgaon. Like Vipul, they love Gurgaon too.

My brother actually had a smile on his face when he told me about the 4.5 hour traffic jam he was stuck in recently during the rains at Gurgaon.

"I switched on the AC in the car and sat and wrote a little note for the little one to read when she grows up," he said.

No wonder I had named him Siddhartha, after Shakyamuni Buddha, when he was born.

My mother likes Galleria too and has even blogged about it.

There's always a warm, buzzy, vibe to the Galleria Market. It's not a majestic modern mall though Gurgaon has plenty of those.

Galleria Market is a cluster of shops. Food places. Book shops. Boutiques and cosmetics too. Grocery stores and bakeries and coffee shops. I have always felt happy when I have gone there. As it seems do the others I see at Galleria. It's a good place to hang out with friends and family. Or even if you are by yourself.

I even bumped into a long last school friend this time. He ran up to me, with his son, and said "hey, weren't we in school together!"

My face looks the same according to him. As they say, childhood friends are the kindest.

With Saurabh Das, my senior at AGCS Tollygunge
And his very bright son so looked at my tee shirt and said,
"were you at Paris recently?'
L'Opera macarons. Parisian prices

I wanted to try out the 150 Re macarons at a place called L'Opera that my brother and sister in law had told me about. 

Macarons at LÓpera
Rs 150 each. Some day I will figure out why

Well they cost Rs 125 each and Rs 150 each after taxes. We had a dark chocolate one and a salted caramel one. As macarons go, the L'Opera ones were not bad to be honest. The casing was chewy. The filling inside on the sweeter side.

Why they were priced at Rs 150 each versus the Rs 70 - 80 odd a piece for the superb ones at Le 15 Patisserie and Le Follie in Mumbai is a mystery to me. The currency in both cities is the same after all, though as Vipul sagely explained,

"Gurgaon is an expensive place. If in Mumbai people judge you on the basis of where you live, here it is the car and phone that you own".

L'Opera at Galleria has a little seating section which I thought was cheerful and nice. If K was with me, I would have brought her here. I didn't find it worth carting the macarons back for her to Mumbai. She would have them and say, "Pooja's (of Le 15 Patisserie) are better". And I agree,

I did request them to pack some of the deliciously buttery dark chocolate cookies that they served with breakfast at the soon to be opened Dusit D2 Roseate House hotel where we were put up by Living FoodZ. True enough, the Cookie Monster at home loved them. (If anyone from Dusit reads this, shout to especially to Rohit at House Keeping for acting as a quasi butler and taking good care of me).

The dark chocolate cookies that they packed at Roseate Hose on my request
The Cookie Monster loved them

Getting back to LÓpera, a couple of ladies sat down beside us and seeing me photograph the macarons asked, 'Instagram?''

I smiled back and said, "Instagram and blog and Twitter and Facebook."

With Vipul Yadav at L'Opera Galleria

Cooling off at Double Roti

The thing with Vipul is that you can always depend on him to lead you to good food.

He took me to a small place called Double Roti at Galleria. Four rickety tables with not very comfortable metal chairs. They do have free wifi though. There was a table occupied by three pretty boisterous folks.  The food and company made up for the chairs. The service was polite, efficient and warm.

Vipul and I finally settled on a table after 3 table changes at Double Roti

I had the masala lemonade that Vipul recommended. It was quite refreshing and had a impish kick to it. I enjoyed did the 'Garden of senses' vegetarian (they have lots of stuff in meat too) pita bread sandwich that Vipul suggested for a snack. It had greens, a basil base, olives and stuff and was very well flavoured and not clumsy to eat and the bread was not crumbly at all.

Perfect on a muggy evening.

The Garden of Senses sandwich with my masala lemonade at the bottom

Vipul tells me that he finds Double Roti to offer good value for money. I don't know what the meal cost as Vipul refused to let me pay.

"How can you pay? You are in my kingdom of Gurgaon," he said.

I tried to tell young Vipul that he can pay the day he grows older than me. He spotted a flaw in my argument!

A couple of other restaurants Vipul recommends nearby are the Pasta Bowl Company (at Cross Point Malla) and Sakley's Mountain Cafe in G (which was packed).

From one home to another

I left Gurgaon yesterday morning.

The little one takes a nap after breakfast, her mom told me, just as I like to. I thought I would have to leave without saying bye to her but she suddenly opened her eyes and we chatted for a while before I left.

That is I spoke and she looked at me and listened.

I held her in my arms while her mother took a break and read the papers. I told little Pomponnette what a newspaper is and that they will probably not exist while she grows up.

She looked at me without wavering her gaze.

My brother (her dad), who came to Mumbai on work too, and my cousin dropped in at our place in at night. K treated us to some excellent Chinese Food (from China Valley) and roasted almond ice creams from Naturals.

History will remember my friend Soumik Sen for many things I am sure but what I will treasure the most is his introducing China Valley to me for Chinese food in Bandra.

A lunch of left over mixed fried rice and burn chilli prawns from yesterday's dinner.
2 rices and 2 prawn dishes from China Valley Bandra cost about Rs 950
 and 3 hungry boys couldn't finish it.
Tasted better last night though

I got my brothers to pose with me for a 'Hum' picture at dinner. '90s people will know what I am talking about.

K art directed the picture and made sure that the curtains were in the background and not the collapsible gate. 

"It will look like you guys are in jail otherwise," said K, more Hema Malini in Satte pa Satta than Kimi Katkar in Hum.

Well, as long as I get to be Bachchan!

Our Hum pose with my cousin in the blue tee and brother in the shirt

The original Hum brothers
Image source:

Apologies to those who came here expecting a list and thanks for reading on up to here.

Also of interest:

1. My mother's blog post on Galleria Market
2. My post on Pomponnette
3. My post on the Living FoodZ event which took me to Delhi
4. My post on a food walk Vipul had conducted at Mumbai's Matunga
5. My recent article in NDTV food talking of our love for macarons
6. My post on when my brother and sister in law got married


anindya said…
Nice one Kalyan. I wish we will meet up someday in Kolkata also :-)
k said…
Beautiful and your conversation with Pompanette is precious. Please record on the iPhone next time :)
Simply Curious said…
Lovely story. I like that you took a break from food and talked about people!
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks. maybe bombay first
Kalyan Karmakar said…
next time you need to come. So glad you liked it
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks. i liked it too :)
Shreya said…
Such a lovely read!
Runa said…
Kalyan, I have not commented on your blog though I follow it! I had to comment this time for 2 reasons -- Gurgaon, where I live for a living and love it (better than Delhi I feel) and your picture with Saurabh Das, whose son and my daughter are school mates and we know each other as a family. World is indeed a small place!