in good company
A magical Red Fort experience: A splainer X Urbanaut special
We are absurdly excited about our first ever offline experience—a memorable event at one of India’s greatest architectural gems: the Red Fort. Yes, we all know the good old Lal Quila, but few of us have experienced its hidden wonders. Get ready for a magical tour in the company of erudite guides—the Shaleen and Akash who helm Cities of Dehli, which offer deeply researched and unique tours of the city (much more on these awesome folks later). FYI: the title of the tour is no less poetic: ‘The Resilient Phoenix: A ghazal of sandstone and marble’.
The event includes a unique immersive visit to the recently opened Dalmia Museum, an unforgettable after-hours viewing experience of the lit up Fort when the sun goes down. The icing on this cake: ending the evening at the rooftop of one of Chandni Chowk’s treasures, Gumbad Cafe—nibbling on appetisers as you admire its lovely views of the Jama Masjid.
The date/time: November 26, 2022. We start the tour of the Fort at 4:30 pm—a 2.5 hour experience followed by the chill-out at Gumbad.
The ticket price: is Rs 2,000 which covers all tour costs, museum entry tickets and nibbles at Gumbad. You can buy them over here.
Very important to note: We are capping the number of guests at 20. And they are being offered exclusively to splainer subscribers—and their friends and fam until November 19. After that, they will be open to Urbanaut and Cities of Dehli audiences. FYI: we aren’t making a dime on this special collaboration—which is one of our experiments in expanding what we offer to our subscribers. So be sure to take advantage of it!
Also important: We have done a recce of the walk multiple times—since this is a very crowded part of the city. We have identified two times when you will have to navigate the chaos. First, when you meet us at the entry gate—which will take about five minutes to navigate. And then when we leave from the Fort for Gumbad. You can choose to walk about 12 minutes with us through the narrow lanes or hop on an auto instead:)
What will my Red Fort tour look like?
This is the map of all the places you will walk through during those 2.5 hours:
Where it begins: Start at the Red Fort entrance with a guided walk through the moat and its ramparts—which served both as military fortifications and as a stage for that historic flag-hoisting by Pandit-ji on Independence Day. Move on to the Lahori Gate and the lovely Chatta Chowk—India’s first covered marketplace—for a lively history lesson.
The immersive museum: Then you arrive at the Dalmia Museum—located at the old British barracks. The building was renovated and transformed into a world-class museum by the Dalmia Bharat Group as part of the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project. Unlike traditional museums, here you don’t just look at artworks—but interact with the exhibits that recreate the sights and smells of the Fort. You can build the Qila’s walls using tiles, check out the augmented reality room—or admire a spectacular mirrored room with millions of Ashok Chakras twinkling at you.
All this as your guides talk you through the centuries of history witnessed by this monument—from Shahjahanabad until now. Hindu Business Line has more on what you can expect. Here are some pretty images below:
Red Fort, after hours: Next you head to the Diwan-i-Am or Hall of Audience—just as the sun begins to set. You will move through the hall—entertained by excellent stories of the Peacock Throne, Kohinoor and even Bollywood myth-making. Hang at the two viewing points to admire and understand the significance of the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences), Aramgarh, Moti Masjid and Rang Mahal. All of which make a wondrous sight as the lights come on—glittering under the nighttime sky.
A special send-off: Saving the best for last, you will receive a small but very special souvenir from Akash and Shaleen—along a snatch of a ghazal sung by Akash—to mark the end of a very special tour. This is where you will say goodbye to them—and head to Gumbad to hang out with us.
Wait, tell me more about Akash and Shaleen…
Shaleen Wadhwana: is an independent researcher, art curator, and culture professional. She trained in Art History at SOAS, London—and in Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Geneva-UNESCO. She has curated a number of notable exhibitions at leading galleries, including FRIN/GE at Vadehra Art Gallery, Delhi and OSMOSIS at TARQ, Mumbai—and she has worked closely with cultural institutions like the British Museum, London, National Museum, Delhi, and Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, Mumbai. As a Visiting Faculty at MIT Institute of Design, Pune, she teaches Big History and Design Futures and is the Humanities curriculum designer for their Innovation Programme. Check out her Insta handle.
Akash Chattopadhyaya: is a cultural maven with an abiding love for India’s great capital city. He has an MA in Medieval Indian History—and is well-versed in Farsi and Urdu. They offer him a unique insight into his beloved subjects—which include Mughal dynasty, Medieval and Early-Modern South Asia and the Perso-Islamicate North India. He has led many heritage walks in Delhi—and worked with the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library on the Prime Ministers’ Museum. Check out his Insta handle.
What you really need to know: You won’t find two people more passionate or knowledgeable about Delhi—which they describe as “narrator, the lead, the storyteller, the writer, the listener and the pathway into understanding past, present and future.” And here’s how they describe their jugalbandi of expertise:
“While both are experts on Delhi from military to architecture to historical figures, Akash specifically brings in a narrative storytelling contextualising symbols of past kingdoms and historical figures, their follies and foibles and Shaleen brings in the lens of ‘big’ historical trends and how they shaped policy, memories, and possibly our future.”
Also: They are just very good company:)
Ok, what’s Gumbad like? Can we get a sundowner cocktail?
Lol! No, since Gumbad Cafe is right next to the Jama Masjid. But our editorial manager, Rachel, personally went down there—and swears by their delicious mocktails. She also tasted their appetisers, which were very good. But what will knock your socks off is this view below. Most of the team isn’t in Delhi but Rachel is looking forward to meeting all of you. It will be nice to end the evening by putting our feet up, discussing our amazing shared adventure—and getting to know each other, yes?