Midnight in Delhi
"There is a little bit of Paris in Delhi"
There’s a bit of Paris in Delhi, only if you look for it. A bistro nestled in an otherwise crowded market. When one gets to the car park at Moolchand Market, one can’t possibly expect what’s in store as you take calculated steps towards the quaint and charming, Le Bistro du Parc.
As life takes constant twists and turns, I find myself more in tune with Larry David. The creator of Seinfeld and a man often found in situations that he’d much rather handle differently in hindsight. Curb Your Enthusiasm brought Larry David to our homes, a man going through the trials and tribulations of being middle aged and finding himself in comical situations. More often than not, the situations followed him rather than it being the other way. As I make my way towards the magical age of thirty, I feel like I am living a life best described as a comedy.
Twiddling ones thumbs outside a restaurant often gives a clear message to the management that one is waiting to get served or is craving attention or is impatiently waiting on someone to arrive. I had only just got to Le Bistro du Parc when I heard an orchestrated applause. I peeped in through the large well-designed windows to find a group of kitchen staff along with a strikingly good-looking woman in her 20s, smiling and clapping. Yes, it felt like a Woody Allen set. And, I was going to bring the humor. It was written in the stars.
Naina De Bois- Juzan is someone you hope to sit next to on a long flight. I usually end up with badly behaved children or middle-aged businessmen who like their whiskey all evening long. Naina was on a cigarette break, smiled and asked how I was enjoying Rana Dasgupta’s Capital. Why was I carrying a book to dinner? Simple really, the folk in Delhi have no sense of time and for that reason alone I carry a book with me at all times. On talking to her I found out that she started this bistro after a realization that a place like this doesn’t exist in Delhi. And how right she is.
The tiny lights that surround the entrance of the color-coordinated bistro are a masterstroke. Naina breaks into a smile as she takes a sip of her Red Bull, “I put these lights out in Christmas and they’ve been on ever since!” The festive cheer lingers on, as I find my way to the bar. A chilled bottle of 1664 and Dasgupta’s book for company! As you can tell my dinner date still hadn’t arrived.
I text her asking her if there was a reservation under her name. She apologizes for running slightly behind schedule but mentions that the reservations under another name. I inquire with Naina, and she points to a table of 12. I am amused, bewildered and excited at the prospect of knowing no one at this dinner. When was the last time you were expecting to meet someone for dinner, someone you hadn’t seen for two years, and you land up at a restaurant and find out that you’ll be joined by ten others? Larry David-esque.
I stare at the table, the cutlery, the flowers, which are yellow and I assume, are sunflowers. My moment of introspection is cut short; I feel a tap on my shoulder. A tap delayed by thirty minutes due wardrobe malfunctions and Delhi traffic. If it weren’t my friend, the one I was meant to be catching up with. I hadn’t seen her in two years and in that time she had taken up being an artist very seriously. We exchange polite greetings before she gazes into my eyes and says, “I am getting engaged. And tonight is the unofficial get together.”
As I find myself congratulating her, I also wonder – what was I doing there? Between our plans to meet, which were made 24 hours ago, she’s engaged and I am part of her unofficial engagement celebration. I felt more and more part of this Woody Allen movie.
I meet her fiancé, affable and very polite. I ask how long they have been together? He casually replies, “One month.” I am both thrilled for them and confused. It was a night of conflicting emotions, clearly. But as the evening wore on, I realized how simple it was. Two people who met and knew immediately that they were right for each other. The wine flowed, the conversation blossomed, the laughter echoed. I even met someone after 20 years, someone I spent time with as a child celebrating birthdays that involved khoi-bags and return presents.
The other guests were likeminded, fun and well traveled. They even approved of my choice of starters. The Calamari, Danish Bleu Cheese and Walnut Souffle and Aubergine Caviar and Guacamole. Each one of them tasted nothing like the other (the starters, not the guests) and the presentation was fabulous. It’s the little things that make the big difference.
One was a photographer who unintentionally broke a couple of glasses, one was working in the development, there was someone who’s work involves sustainability and environment, there were architects, artists, writers. This is the new face of Delhi.
On the drive home it struck me – every few decades there comes a time for change, a movement that will make its way into a definition of a time period. Delhi is the heartbeat of a new movement. Of 20 something’s breaking away from the traditional mold and chasing their creative instincts. Being passionate and not succumbing to pressure.
This was midnight in Delhi. With incredible people, a perfect setting and to two people who believe in love (and give others hope to find someone at a bookstore or a queue at the airport.)
PS – If you haven’t been to Le Bistro du Parc, you’re missing out.
Arjun Puri was born and raised in Kolkata, back when it was still called Calcutta. As a young child he spent time in Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru – before their names changed. His last long-term home was London, and he fully expects it to call itself something else soon. Arjun graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2007 and worked as a banker for 5 years, before he realised it was not for him. Arjun now lives in Delhi and works in the education sector. He loves books, sport, people and travel -- and most of all, Leyla, his German Shepherd.