Rajyasree Sen used to run the restaurant Brown Sahib in New Delhi and is a foodie. Much of her time is devoted to writing on pop culture and TV. She also maintains a blog foodforthoughtindia. blogspot.com, where you can order some delicious food from her catering outfit. And we can’t believe we’re plugging her catering business on a news site. Who approved this copy?
Cheat Sheet – Raisina Hill
Perfect. No better way to getaway from the heat than by escaping to the hills. It’s not that type of hill, stupid. This is the hottest residential address in town this season.
Aah, like Malabar Hill. Well, sort of. It does have the who’s who living there. Or did.
So why’s it called Raisina Hill? After some ex-queen of Europe? Well, like most land in India even this was created as a result of land acquisition.Under the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, 4,000 acres of land was taken from 300 families living in Raisina and Malcha village to construct the Viceroy’s House. Which was then converted into the President’s House – the hallowed Rashtrapati Bhawan. Even the PMO and other government ministry offices are on the Hill.
It’s a modest home – just four storeys high with 340 rooms. It is considered to be a little longer than Versailles Palace. And if the residents feel like exercising their aching bones – they can take their pick from one of the nine tennis courts or the polo ground or the 14-hole golf course, or even play a little cricket on the cricket field.
Sounds spiffy. So whom do I contact to see a place there? Madame Gandhi would be your best bet. She’s the one who’s got the access key to the best house on the hill – Satrap-ati Bhavan. Sorry, I meant Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Any requirements to qualify to be a tenant? Well, currently the brokers are looking at someone soft-spoken, a little conducive, hoping to lead a sedentary life. What’s nice is that unlike most places they don’t seem to discriminate against caste, class, religion or community. Very accepting sorts. Political affiliation though, seems to be a major qualifier. And like any exclusive club, you have to have a proposer and a seconder. And a majority of votes to get you accepted.
They are showing a predilection for fish-eating septuagenarians though. Well, septuagenarians for sure.
Oh it’s like a retirement home? No no. The tenants are usually very hard-working. They often have to dress up as a large rubber stamp.
Who’s the current tenant? A much-travelled lady. She’s the first woman tenant the beautiful Bhawan has ever seen. She’s like Magellan, Amelia Earhart and Marie Antoinette all rolled into one. Been to 22 countries across four continents in the last five years. And spent a mere Rs 205 crore. You know how expensive international travel is nowadays! She did slum it out on a Bhutan trip though.
And when she’s not wandering the globe, she spends her time speaking to spirits.
I heard there’s already a short-list of tenants. Quite the mixed bag actually. Some of the ones we’d thought would definitely be lining up haven’t. And there are some new names which have suddenly been proposed.
There’s a sweet old Sardarji, who has a keen mind for numbers and is quite economically sound, been in semi-retirement as it is. And there’s a silver-haired gent who was a former tenant, has a thing for missiles. And there’s one more – he’s holidaying abroad though, so might get ignored – who has shown subaltern leanings by saying he wants to be a “servant of the country”* (Not a servant from Bengal though, as predicted by the Ms Oracle Ghosh).
What about the fish-eating septuagenarian you’d mentioned? Aah, the dark horse. Thing is no one’s quite sure whether he wants to really shift in or not. A wise old Bengali gentleman who’s always the bridesmaid and never the bride. He does have a keen sense of finances and might just sneak forward in the race for tenancy. Oh, there’s this sweet gent who’s really been hoping to get chosen, he’s even familiar with hills of his own, but he doesn’t really fit the bill. On the wrong side of 70 you see, and too honest and too strong-willed. Who needs a strong-willed tenant nowadays? You know how they are when you expect some repayment for giving them a fancy place to stay in. Too much trouble.
Good day to visit the area: July 19th. When the keys to the estate will be handed over. We are guessing there’ll be much joy, merriment and long knives being pulled out of various backs.
Bad day to visit the area: January 16th. We hear it’s the day Raisina Hill gets all spooky. **
Image Source: [ http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=raisina%20hill]