Food by Naini’s Tal

The lake district is easily the most popular part of Kumaon for tourists. Within easy reach of Delhi if you want a long weekend’s vacation, Naini Tal fills with crowds which are, if not madding, at least maddening enough for me to avoid. I prefer to stay near one of the fuddy-duddy Tals, any lakeside whose peace is not broken by unending crowds and late-night Bhangra discos. But in this second COVID-19 year, as our holiday drew to a close, and cases exploded in Delhi, tourists were staying away in droves. We had lunch on the terrace of a completely empty cafe overlooking the lake (featured photo). We could stand the music because we were outdoors, we weren’t trying to sleep, and the selection was largely from the 70s (with surprise appearances by Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley).

Tal is the local word for lake. After lunch we took a short walk by the tal. At the street food vendors’ end I noticed that the most popular food seems to be chai with bread, or with some combination of eggs and bread. Naini Tal is part of the hills, so a bowl of Maggi is also common. The number of vendors selling corn on the cob was much smaller, and there was no chanawala in sight. The man selling sweet pastries out of a tin box was a whiff of the times when Buddy Holly was all the rage. In these times you might expect that street food vendors would be distanced and masked. Not so in Naini Tal. Masks, if they are seen at all, are used as chin guards. The stiff breeze from the lake is perhaps the only thing that has kept this place safe until now. I saw four other people whose masks covered both their mouth and nose. Of them, the cotton candy man is the only one who seemed to have discovered what I find in the hills: that a properly worn multi-layer mask is a wonderful face warmer.

There are just three simple things to remember about COVID-19: mask up, keep your distance when possible, and do not gather with many others.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Bread Omlette, the lure of hot maggi in cold weather non withstanding – I was searching for the unforgettable cotton candy. We loved the fresh spun ones that come out hot while we were in Nainital, but that was a different time altogether.

    Is the cable car to the snow view point operational, and did you take it?

    Nainital and the base camp you mention attract me so much, unfortunately “Hanuz Dilli Door Ast” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We didn’t walk up to the cable car station, since we didn’t want to take the chance of being shut into a gondola with strangers, but I think it was working.

      You can’t go back to the same place, as I keep discovering in the mountains: Rishikesh, the Tals, Lava, Almora, Kausani …


  2. The featured photo is enough to draw envious attention from people like me. Most of the people on the street aren’t masked up and so it was just a few weeks back and hence we are where we are 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry for the situation in India. It’s not comfortable to wear a mask in the heat, but it seems to have become a necessary addition to daily life. I’m glad that you found a little peace in such a beautiful spot, but those traders will not be.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: