Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beyond the palaces of Jaipur


I had landed in Jaipur after a short flight of an hour from Delhi. We were there to attend my brother- in-law’s engagement. Holy matrimony had brought me to the Pink City again!

For me it was the third trip to Jaipur but my wife was visiting this city for the first time and hence we had a plan to visit the main attractions of this city, abound with a rich heritage, tightly squeezed between our social commitments. There was also a small matter of our first anniversary which we were about to celebrate in this royal city!

Our burgeoning urban populace, whose propensity to spend on eating out has taken an upward trajectory owing to the changing lifestyles, has become accustomed to places which offer a truly wholesome experience coupled with an appetizing meal. Choki Dhani surely must be counted as one of the pioneers who lead this transformation of what an average Indian seeks when he goes out to eat. If literally translated Choki Dhaani means an” Ideal Village” and it is definitely not a misnomer as it showcases the true colours of the rural Rajasthan, a place you must visit if you are in Jaipur. It was 8 .00 pm on  a Saturday when we got there .It seemed as if the entire city was out  to have their share of the sumptuous Rajasthani meal this place is famous for .There were two very long queues which were moving at a snail’s pace. Every now and then the tempers ran high culminating into a heated argument. Amidst all the commotion we tried to muster enough strength and patience to get through to the much sought after village and after a wait of about half an hour we entered it. It was teeming with energy and chockablock with people gathered around various huts to watch the folk dancers perform to the local tunes or to enjoy a puppet show or to simply know what future had in store for them. There were stalls offering jaljeera and lemonade, selling tea and pakoda or inviting you to play that simple game we have grown up with, shooting the balloons with an air gun. It was a perfectly designed village replete with activities to keep anyone engrossed for hours! We joined one of the queues which would take us inside one of the enclosures where the Thaali with Daal Baati and Churma was being served. The wait was worth it as we were treated to an absolutely satisfying mix of the sweet and the savory, the very best of the Rajasthani cuisine which you can get anywhere. It was rich yet simple.
Jaipur is also a city which loves its snacks, very similar to my previous base Indore where the day used to begin with a dose of poha and jalebi for majority of the city dwellers. Here in Jaipur they have the “Misthann Bhandars”, which seem to have a fixation for abbreviations. So you would call Lakshmi Mishthann Bhandar as “LMB” or you can choose to go to “DMB” or Doodh Mishthann Bhandar .While travelling through the city I also managed to notice a place called as KMT Tadka or in other words Khatta Meetha and Teekha tadka. All these stores with their abbreviated names serve the famous and the delicious Pyaaz Kachori of Jaipur. However as the conviction stands here, Raavat’s serves the best Pyaaz Kachori in the city .We  did have one while on our way to the Amber Fort!

We had already made a guided tour to the Amber and Jaigarh forts the day before but it was the splendid evening on my anniversary which will be etched in my memory forever. We began the day by visiting the Moti Doongri temple to seek Lord Ganesha's blessings and then  spent the afternoon in and around Johari Bazaar. It was fascinating to see the foresight of the planners of the Pink City when you wander around this old market. It had an order which you do not   associate with the old traditional markets in our country. The Blue Pottery Store left us amazed by the ingenuity of the process behind the beautiful creations made from stones sourced from Sanganer. We also shopped at Rajasthali for some Sanganeri sarees to be taken as souvenirs back home while also managing to locate “The Bharat Bakery “  famous for its biscuits. We were back well in time to our hotel to get ready and get going for an evening at Amber fort. The light and sound show followed up by a dinner at 1135 AD were calling.

The sun had already set as we reached Amber Fort. There was an eerie calm as we walked alongside the walls of this huge structure. Gone were the hustling horde of tourists which overflows through the corridor of this gigantic structure through the day. The light and sound show had already started as we took our seats. The effect of the sound and light with the giant silhouette of Amber fort as a backdrop was magnificent which intensified as the night grew darker. As the narrative went on the relevant sections of the fort illuminated every now and then presenting a thrilling contrast against the dark sky .The show had totally engrossed us and the hour just flew by. It was now time for our dinner date at 1135 AD to celebrate our first anniversary.

Nothing would have prepared us for what was in the offing as our cab made its way through the narrow meandering lanes of Amber up to the Chand Pol. 1135 AD was a royal setting in a section of the Amber Fort named owing to the fact the foundations of this great structure were laid down in 1135 AD. As it turned out we were the only ones who had booked a dinner that day and hence this grand setting was for us to enjoy exclusively .As we stood marveling the place we had chosen for our anniversary celebration we were shown the way to our table. Known as the Amber Fort view it was candle lit table laid out specially for us on one of the balconies overlooking the entire palace. Out in the distance the lights of the city of Jaipur lit up the horizon as small lamps decorated the courtyard below .The place was deep into its slumber with the silence being broken once in a while by the conversations of the caretakers. Having indicated our preferences of veg/non veg platters we settled down to absorb this experience which was simply out of the ordinary. The plates always precede the palate but not very often they are made of silver perhaps apt for a dinner in an erstwhile palace. The food was served and it was as immaculate as the scene where we found ourselves remembering how we spent the first year of our marriage. The kababs melted in the mouth, curry was scintillating and the pan ice cream had the freshness which you won’t find in any “Natural “ice cream. Just as we finished our date and got going rain gods joined in the celebration and it started to rain! .It was perfect timing.

Jaipur stands for its royalty, historic monuments and the folklore which comes along with such a  heritage ,however it is also a city where you would want to spend time understanding its culture, craft  and delighting yourself with an amazing cuisine.

For me it will always be the place which gave me an unimaginable evening on my first anniversary!












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