End of the wait finally, after 12 loooong years....
Imagine a guy, a young chap of 23 outsourced to planet Mars, walking in the red-sand hot deserts, looking for some serious change (vacation on another planet??) and to quench his thirst, in urgent need of water (why don't you get Coke/Pepsi there I think!?!? I always see a business opportunity in adversity - signs of a bijnej tycoon..eh?!? :)) You get the picture?? (Ok now don't start looking @ all the pictures around you and in your neighbor’s houses). That is how I was feeling bcoz, holidays (some "cool Rajasthani" holidays) for me were as far as the distance between earth and mars, and were something that I desired as if to quench that deep thirst.
Well, coming back to Rajasthan, "memories" is the word, for my association with that place. For every Marwari (that’s the native language of the place and hence is something that the Rajasthani’s are also better known as) settled outside Rajasthan, it a custom to visit the Sun-God’s own country (that is the only reason I can think of for its HOTness in summer!) at least once every year, ideally during the summer vacation of the bachcha-party (kids). So it was during my school days until the 6th standard that I got to enjoy this cherished vacation every year.
The joy of meeting - my maternal granma, uncles and aunts, all my dear elder sisters and of course the young brigade - was something special. Remember those days when we’d sleep on the terrace chatting and whiling away the time playing well past midnight, wake up in the morning as sandy-demons due to the sand-storms that would strike unusually in the early mornings, and wake-up to some pleasant aroma coming from the kitchen and watching granma do her artful task of “billaahno” (really an art I would say, a laborious process wherein she used to generate ghee and butter-milk by swirling a big wooden rod back-and-forth, in a wooden pot full of milk that she used to get from our pet cows @ home).
And on every 2 days of the week when she did billaahno, there would be people coming in from the locality to get that butter-milk, and we would stand there watching her generously pour the content in to their vessels. And as kids when we used to query her on this, she would say in her caring style that what better dharma or punya than to help people quench their thirst and use this butter-milk for their cooking needs in this sweltering heat. And she does this till date even when she is in her high 70’s, wow I really admire her strength, both physical and moral. You are so dear to me granny :)
Both my uncle are in to jewellery business (Being goldsmiths, we manufacture and sell gold ornaments), and part of the after-noon would be spent in me watching and admiring the process of that coming-to-life of those beautifully glittering rings, necklaces or bangles which would “significantly increase” the beauty of the other beauties – the ladies :)
Also flashing across the mind are those memories when in the evenings, we would wait in the big verandah – our playing area @ the entrance of our home waiting for that ice-cream wala (vendor) who would sell those milk-made kulfis for 25 paise; wow, how tasty they would be (would trade the baskin-n-robbins anytime for them), we - the bachcha party - would just sit back and relish them. Wonder what inflation can do, a little bulkier versions of the same were available this time round (after 12 years) in range of 5 and 10 rupees!
In a town spawning over a diameter of mere 10 kms, one could “walk” up and down to one end of it any day. So I would enjoy such trips walking (or sometimes cycling) across the town through those narrow lanes into the busy market lined up with shops that served the varied interests of diverse set of people – for instance the garments shops for my dearest sisters, those fruit juices shops for me and my cousin brother and not to forget those Paan shops for my younger Uncle. Oh he would relish them and could treat himself to about 10 such biggie paans per day. And his was a personalized version that was so popular across all the paan shops in town by his name such that anybody of the kids from home could be ordered to collect one from the paan wala uncle while coming back from the market.
Though these paans are available in any typical north-indian weddings out here @ Chennai too, I don’t remember treating myself to them, but have had them like crazy (which for me is even 2 per day) in my life whenever I am around with my younger uncle in Rajasthan :) And one does not need a detective’s license to find out if one has had a paan, for your lips, tongue and everything remotely connected to your mouth would be colored dark red after having a paan :)
In the evenings, along with most of my family members I would visit the famous latiyaal ma’s mandir (Latiyaal Goddess’ temple). A divine feeling it is to be there – the tale has it that the Goddess was crossing the hot deserts through this part eons of years back, thirsty and tired, when her chariot hit a trough and @ that particular point, with her divine power when she blessed the place with lots of flora and fruits, there sprouted a tree, today whose roots are believed to be spread across the entire town – thus came the name of the town “Phalodi” - full of Phal (fruits).
So this was one part of the Rajasthan trip – about the visit to my maternal native place, Phalodi. Equally fascinating is the other town, my paternal home town in Rajasthan called “Merta City” – would pen down my memories about it some other time.
On a signing-off note, though its been 12 years – a long time – the small town has grown and transformed in to a big junction, but the one thing I noticed did not change about such a town with a population of few thousands is that every other (I would say about 60%) passer-by recognizes you easily and stops by to have a small chat and so when we city-bred youngsters walk along we cannot go unnoticed out there. Resounding contrast to the hectic and fast-paced life that we experience and live ourselves out here in our so called “developed and modern” cities where people don’t have time even for their near and dear ones and where that bank-balance of love in the bank of heart is dwindling away… it hurts!
So, though a long wait, it was worth the wait, for all the love that I could garner out there in that wonderful place on the map of earth, called “Rajasthan” - Waiting to come back to you again next year! :)