The invite said: ‘You’re invited to the Kingdom of Dreams.’ My first reaction was to run to a mirror and see if I was still my old self or had there been some magical transformation during the night. ‘Well, I’m still the same,’ I said to my wife, ‘so why would I want to go to this kingdom of dreams? I mean I’m not a kid!’
Specky looked at me with a strange smile and replied, ‘You should be the last person to say such a thing. People who write stories aren’t just dreamers but have a kid too somewhere within them.’ She always surprises me… as this time I was just pretending to be surprised to see that invite to attend a blogger’s meet at the Kingdom of Dreams. I knew I wanted to go and see what this place was as I had seen so many full-page advertisements that my curiosity had been fingering me for quite some time now.
Yes, we did go there… and no, we did not like everything there. Now this obviously means that we liked a few things there. But then let me first tell you all that I did not like.
- I did not like the fact that I took a wrong exit from the expressway, got fined wrongly by the Haryana Traffic Police, and then struggled through the absolutely horrid interior roads of Gurgaon to reach this place. I think Gurgaon needs to wake up and get their roads in order, make their cops attend embrace-honesty workshops, and start putting up road signs at the right places! I did not like it all because the moment we reached the Kingdom of Dreams or KoD, we were in a world where every sign was proper, every road tarmacked, every parking slot defined, and every pathway attractive.
- I did not like the fact that there was an angry sun looking down through a colourless sky outside and the moment we stepped inside the Culture Gully in the Kingdom of Dreams, we had the loveliest of skies to greet us and a cool zephyr blowing! It was literally like having discovered some mythical portal and stepped into a different universe altogether! So unfair on all the poor souls in the real world outside this mythical and magical portal! However, the poet in me loved what I saw… but then we’ll talk about this later.
- I did not like the fact that our bloggers meet was limited to the Culture Gully and did not allow us access to the auditorium where they have those wonderful plays and dance-dramas! However, just a few days after this, I was back to the KoD to attend the launch of Samsung Galaxy S4 and did walk up the grand stairway to this audi to watch some scintillating dances presented by Shiamik Dawar and his team.
Now if I say that everything else inside the KoD was good and memorable, I wouldn’t really be too off the mark. What I liked best here included the smart interiors, the wide scattering of culture trivia categorised under the various states of India, the food served that had a regional twang and was quite authentic in taste, and strategically positioned sales outlets.
The smart interiors
Well-designed interiors aren’t necessarily smart… but here the interiors are made to mimic the state to which a section belongs and going beyond this, even the sky painted on the ceiling has changing hues according to the time of the day. So one will find the sky changing hues from a deep poetic blue to darker shades and the street lights in the ‘gully’ inside switching on to give the impression that it was late in the evening now!
‘This is so like stepping onto the sets of ‘The Truman Show’. I almost though I would bump into Jim Carrey anytime,’ said Specky.
If you think having sections shaped like the prevalent architecture in a state was enough to impress, think again. The interiors aren’t just a small-sized reflection of the sort of state-orientation you get when you go to Pragati Maidan during the Trade Fair, they are more real and more intense! To add to the overall experience you have dancers and other performers from various states doing their act at regular intervals… and for those who are some distance away busy with some other activity, there are large tele screens placed so you don’t miss any of the fun!
One has the freedom to enter the restaurant or eatery with a décor of a particular state and order, for instance, a Hyderabadi Biryani in the Andhra section… or you can very well get a seat for yourself in the street itself and taste food form various states in the surreal setting of an Indian street. Yes, there will be the monkey-man hopping up behind you… or the ubiquitous Charlie Chaplin smiling for a photo-op with your kids… or just families gawking at you gorge your pile of food!
The food here is… and I admit to having gone around and tasted from the plates of a lot of other bloggers too… well, delicious! I am prone to remark that the KoD is actually foodilicious! You get a different feeling as you savour well-cooked food that gives you an authentic flavour of where the dish comes from! For instance, the biryani that I had was better than those I have had even in some better known eateries of Delhi… though I must again admit, not as great as the one I had at Paradise in Hyderabad!
To me these outlets were the sore point… but then I noticed that a majority of the people there were quite excited about them and busy choosing things from regional curios to even getting a massage! To people coming from other towns or those who don’t go out exploring other cities and little known areas where craftsmen work and stay, these sales outlets will appear to be sheer delight!
So, is the visit to KoD worth the entry ticket? Well, spending a few hours inside, browsing through all the sections here, learning a bit about our culture, getting to watch live performances, and then having an opportunity to taste some dish that you’ve only heard of or read about in a book… all for the cost of your ticket, is an irresistible offer! An offer that I would go for, more than just once!
One final thing that I spent some time thinking about was: will student gain anything by going to a place like KoD? Yes, coming face to face with a few culture facts converts all the theory about how Indians from other parts live and even what they eat, becomes so real and so easily grasped. Places like the KoD do serve a purpose in communicating the diversity of our country rather well.
Written on 19 May 2013
Published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 20 May 2013