Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Asli Taste of India


Almost two months have gone by since I shifted to the Millennium City aka Gurgaon. It seems to be struggling to cope up with the rapid pace at which transition is happening here and is lost somewhere between its erstwhile rural social structure and the newly developed ultramodern glass houses. Designer suits and traditional Kurta-Dhoti walk side by side here often with a degree of suspicion. With the glaring disparities between the original inhabitants and the outsiders, Gurgaon still has a long way to go before it does even an iota of justice to the name tag. As of now with the dark streets, tall structures and gruesome tales Gurgaon is more like Gotham City as my wife pointed out when she first visited the place. The stay here meant a big paradigm shift for someone who has spent all his life in comparatively mild temper and docile background of Western and Central India. However having ridden the initial shock the mind is much more at peace to explore this place with urbane attire and a rustic soul.

A long weekend beckoned around Christmas last year. Quite apt for exploring one of the many getaways this city offers. After Lengthy discussions we chose Pratapgarh Farms as our destination which was making its presence felt in the local advertising space. For those who have been treated with overflowing hospitality at the Chowki Dhanis of this world this was the Haryanvi version of the same. A simulated rural setting where the shining India takes a day off and enjoys the glimpses of the other section which till date has not been so fortunate.

Pratapgarh Farms is a drive of around 50 kms from Gurgaon. The distance is misleading as you traverse through villages and small towns on a single lane state highway 15A via Farookh Nagar. It takes close to two hours to complete this journey. We might have taken an alternative route through Pataudi but were advised not to due to some ongoing construction activities which are omnipresent in this part of the world.

As we reached the outskirts of the old town of Gurgaon the stark contrast became quite evident with women in primitive attire with “Purdah”. This was the age old partriachic society. You only wonder how their conscience might have been mutated as they were thrust upon with an “imported” culture where women venture out in their modern avatar just a few kms away. Driving further there were more construction activities and we were sure that the village we just saw will be lost between the high rises very soon. By the time you are on the highway the essence of the concrete jungle is left behind and a pleasing surrounding of mustard swaying in the light breeze takes over. The swanky “sectors” of Gurgaon would have been something like this some years ago. Your smart phone will make it easy to navigate the way as it is mostly a straightforward drive. If the technology fails you then there is the foolproof Indian method which always works. Do look carefully for the sign board for the resort once you have crossed the highway which goes to Rewari. We missed it and ended up taking a route which was more like a back entry to the place and avoidable.

Anointed with a big “tika” we entered this farmhouse which was brimming with energy. A seemingly large number had decided to spend their Christmas either with their friends or family in this model village. Right at the center under a “shamiana” a music console played some popular numbers. Perhaps a tad incoherent with the setting. I thought the digital noise was not in sync with idea of recreating a rural aura. Imported sound from the urban landscapes ousted the tranquility which should have been there.

However one thing which indeed was true to the nature of Indian villages was a series of small compartments with muddy plasters and the sight of age-old chulhas. The local women exercised their expertise in cooking their traditional cuisine with such a soulful taste which the urban grills can never replicate. Having being cooked to perfection, Bajre Ki Khichri with Ghee Bura gave you instant satisfaction. If you are a fan of the evergreen combination of Makke Di roti and Sarson Ka Saag you are bound to fall in love with what you get on your plate. The Garlic Chatni being served along with some freshly baked Baajra rotis had the perfect savory taste. Right next to all this there were Jalebis with hot milk to satiate the sweet tooth. Truly a delight!

Food was not the only attraction. People queued up for short camel ride around a small perimeter. You can wait for your turn or try your hand at a charkha or have some mehendi put on your hand. A little further, instead of going up the hill you will have to cross a rope bridge built over a small pond and then fetch yourself a pail of water. If you wondered what it felt like to be carried in a tractor trolley then you can hop on one and circle round a small vegetable garden to get a feel of the routine activity of a vast majority of our fellow Indians. For the ones who love to play there was cricket, badminton, football and table tennis.

As we exhaustively explored all that the farm had to offer the sun had decided to greet the other half of the world and it was time for us to take the road back from this small rustic setting back to the glossy framework of Gurgaon.