White Bengalis spotted in Jaipur

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October 18th 2007
Published: November 26th 2007
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It is quite rare for us on our travels to backtrack and return to a place, but we had made an exception this time due to the kind invite from Parth to visit his family and home. It is always a different experience returning to a place you have been before, as there is a certain familiarity and therefore less stress when you arrive. You know how the bus station looks like, and which exit to take to avoid all the hassles. You know where you are in an autorickshaw, and you know if the driver is taking you for a ride somewhere you didn't ask for. You know what the accommodation is like, if you return to the same place, which we had, to Devi Nivas. The whole returning thing is a whole lot more comfortable, not so exciting or new, but comfortable, which at this stage in our travels suits us just fine.

We had no real plans for Jaipur, just to visit Parth, so it was a very relaxed affair. There was no need to go sightseeing, as we had already done so. This gave us the time to take it easy and sort out our usual
Masala ChickenMasala ChickenMasala Chicken

From cookery lesson no 1, at the Chakravati Household
jobs of internet, washing, and planning the next stop. First on the agenda was the meeting we had planned with Parth. We were lucky enough to be returning on the weekend of a large Bengali festival, which is celebrated here in Rajasthan too, with quite some scale. We did not know what to expect really, but we donned our most reasonable looking clothes, Josie slipped on her sari, and headed off to meet the family. The plan for the day was some cooking lessons (how could we come to an Indian family without stealing some secrets?? 😊 ), followed by relaxing and then to the events of the evening. We cooked a delicious Chicken Masala with Puri for lunch, which was not as complicated as we had thought. Or at least Poppy made it look easy, whether we will be able to create it at home is a different matter entirely. Lunch over with, we chilled out for a while and chatted about India and discovered a bit about how life is for an average family. It is quite eye opening to talk to people about everyday things, and hear their viewpoints and ideas on things. It is only through
Poori , esentially a deep fried, puffy chapattiPoori , esentially a deep fried, puffy chapattiPoori , esentially a deep fried, puffy chapatti

From cookery lesson no 1, at the Chakravati Household
such conversations that you can gain an insight into the national psyche and begin to understand why a country is, the way it is. We found out that water in that part of Jaipur is being "delivered" only twice a day. That means that you have to fill up a tank to actually have water throughout the day. It just showed us how used we are to these things being in abundance, water, electricity, we take it for granted. Also we learned another interesting thing. You know like they ask you when you rent a property if you are smoking and or have any pets? Here they ask you if you eat meat - it's true! They can reject you based on the fact that you indulge in evil carnivore dishes. But to be fair we did not miss meat too much in India, their vegetarian cuisine is so varied that you do not get bored so easily. During the afternoon Josie managed to make friends with the neighbours from upstairs, and it turned out that Shambu owned a dance school. Well actually, Shambu turned out to be quite famous in Jaipur and was part of a professional dancing groups
The Happy FamilyThe Happy FamilyThe Happy Family

Parth, Hreezu and Poppy
which is regularly booked for all sort of functions. Not one to miss an opportunity, Josie inquired about learning how to dance like a Bollywood Princess. A dream of pretty much everyone here in India, and actually you will find as many if not more boys that would love to devote their lifes to dancing and singing. Shambu said he would accept the challenge to train a "gringo" and offered to give her lessons for a week. How much? was the obvious question and FREE was the unexpected answer!! It just proves that Indian hospitality knows no bounds sometimes, and reaffirms your faith in the good nature of people.

The evening saw us attend the festival in central Jaipur, first to the temple for a quick stop and then onto the festivities. Here we experienced how it is to be the only, and we mean the very only white people in the crowd. Hundreds of eyes were glued on us and there was no escape. We thought it would be a good business idea to put us in a little cage and charge entry to everyone who wants to see a white Bengali (our new adopted family was from Calcutta) Again, good fortune has shone on us and we blagged an invite to a dance show that Shambu was organising, so we got to see some traditional Indian dance first hand. This was then followed by an evening of "stick dancing". There was a massive circle in the middle of a field where lots of Indians, dressed in their best gear, danced clashing sticks. Had they not all been smiling and laughing you would have been forgiven for mistaking it for some kind of mass brawl to music with wood flying all over the place. The riot police would have been proud of some of the stick wielding on display that night, with even the only 2 white Bengalis' there getting into the fray for a dance. Dancing continued till late into the night, and we returned to Devi Nivas having experienced something very Indian and feeling great that we have found a different site to Jaipur.

So..... the next week was planned then, Josie would have dance lessons every day. We would eat in Four Seasons our usual lunch of Dosa and a pot of tea/coffee, relaxing and taking our time discussing our plans for the future. Oh yes! We have sooo many plans 😊 We would stroll back and do a couple of hours of internet. We would then head off to the dance school with our new friend "Uncle Sikh" the rickshaw driver, to meet up with Poppy and Hreezu. Josie would go off dancing, whilst Andy played games with Hreezu. This continued pretty much unchanged for several days until we decided that it would make more sense to move closer to the dance school and save ourselves the 40min ride each way, each day. We found a little hotel opposite Parth's place, and moved in there to spend the rest of our time in Japiur there. Days followed pretty much the same pattern as before, with internet and dancing. We had bought ourselves a flight to Kochi, in the South of India, so had a date of departure set.

There were ,of course, a couple of eating events of note before we left Jaipur. Not to mention the daily treats cooked by Parth - the star in creating great food with very little. So, firstly, there was the very kind invitation of Shambu, that saw us getting a cooking lesson in some traditional

looking very Regal in his outfit
Rajasthani specialties. On the menu was Dahl Batti Churma. It turned out to actually be a pretty long winded and complicated recipe/ operation, one which we will never be able to repeat at home. Shambu's wife Neena, spent several long hours skillfully preparing the dish while we looked on, taking notes and photographing everything. This may seem a little over keen to some, but then some people love to take pictures of animals or birds, our obsession is food (just in case you didn't notice). At least you can eat it at the end!!!!! Anyhow, back to the food, several hours of skillful cooking later, and we tucked into the feast of food. It was a a scrumptious meal, well worth the wait, but filling in the extreme. All the ghee and rich flavors fill you up, and the Indian hospitality saw us eating enough food for a family of 4, each.

Next food event, was us cooking some Western Style dishes, to thank everyone for the hospitality and kindness they had showed us. Lacking ovens and lots of the ingredients that are so familiar to us at home, and working to the vegetarian diet, including no eggs, we
Stick DancingStick DancingStick Dancing

Joise is deadly with a stick in her hand, believe me
picked to do a BBQ. Now, this was our first mistake, as the BBQ is an unknown object in India. The closest they have is the Tandoor Grill, which is essentially a BBQ, but a very specific thing which you must have custom made for your restaurant to cook for about 100 people on. This was not really what we had hoped to hear, but undaunted, we carried on as we figured we could improvise something that would do the trick. Then we hit the stumbling block of finding the ingredients to cook our chosen feast. Lots of things we could not find, so we had to improvise,again 😊, which was probably our second mistake, but once again we carried on. We had chosen what we thought was quite a conservative menu of: Potato Skins with a cheesey filling, stuffed capsicums, a rice salad and some chickpea burgers. We have learned our lesson of cooking in foreign lands on this trip, as invariably it turns out crap, so we figured we had picked a simple task. Back to the issue of the BBQ, Poppy turned up trumps for us on that one and took us to a local market. This place was truely amazing, with everything you could ever want being sold or created, right there in the market. It never ceases to amaze me just how industrious the Indian nation is, and what they can achieve with seemingly very simple tools and materials. There were people welding things, people hammering all manner of items from sheet metal, there were shops selling every imaginable nut, bolt, washer or screw you would ever need. All sold by weight, with every shop keeper an expert in their wares. I think this is where the West has really lost out through our supposed "development". Shops are now staffed by clueless clones who know nothing of what they are actually selling in the majority of cases, and very often don't even care enough to crack a smile or offer help. India wins hands down here, as they are all experts in their trade, and always happy to help or assist you in any way. Nothing is ever too much of an imposition, as you are after all the paying customer. One day Josie brought her one and only jeans to the tailor as they were so worn out that they started to rip, and guess what, he fixed them perfectly. You would never notice! All for 15 rupees, wheras back in England she would be probably shopping for a new pair. We should send our, bored looking shop staff over here for a while and show them how it should be done!! Where was I , oh yes, the BBQ. Poppy had found is just the thing, a little grill contraption with legs, made totally of sheet iron. It was a work of art, if not a little sharp around the edges, and a damn sight better than anything we had imagined we would find at this late point in the day. Twined with a flour sieve, to place on top, it was a winning combination. The price, 120rupee in total, we where astonished and extremely chuffed. We toiled in the kitchen for several hours after this cooking up a dinner which we figured would be relatively quick, but then these things never are. We had decided to grill upstairs on Shambu's terrace, so everything was taken up to start the party, a little later than scheduled. Food was cooked and we awaited for the reaction. The potato skins, we had figured would be
dahl bati churmadahl bati churmadahl bati churma

Dahl being the dahl curry, bati being the ghee soaked bread balls, and churma being the desert, a sweet ball of ghee soaked goodness. Very tasy, very Rajastani, very very filling
a hit with the kids as all kids like that kinda thing, right? Well first, they stared at them with bemusement, then they asked how to eat them (which is fair enough if you have never encountered them before), and finally they tasted them, with a resounding thumbs down. SHIT, not a good start. The rest of the food followed, the stuffed peppers were pretty spicy hot and the filling a little bland, the chickpea burgers were also bland and very floury, the rice salad was the star of the night and went down well. So, all in all not much food got eaten, and we felt kinda bummed out at cooking a bit of a crapfest. One saving grace was that I think everyone appreciated the effort, and they didn't know it was so crappy as it was all new to them 😊

The following food event was Hreezus birthday. He was 11 years old when we were there and we were invited to his party!!! Little did we know that this would turn into us arranging all the catering and decoration for the party. Poppy and Parth were not able to get the time off from work
Dinner at Shambu's PlaceDinner at Shambu's PlaceDinner at Shambu's Place

Andy, Shambu, Nena, Josie and Poppy
to host the event and after seeing Hreezus dissapointed face we gave in and took on the challenge. At least we managed to persuade Parth to be there to do some translations if needed. Not that we minded of course, but it wasn't what we had been expecting when traveling to India, that was for sure. Our task this time was to bake a cake, and cook pizza, all without a conventional oven. Hmmmmm, luckily Poppy had a kinda plug in metal pan/ oven thingy, which she assured us did actually function as an oven. I had to say we were highly skeptical, but once again where surprised by its effectiveness. It achieved an amazing chocolate cake, made by Josie, which was frankly the star of the party, and saw the kids wolfing it down. Andy was tasked with the pizza making, and cooked a total of 8 pizzas that day in all, in the little oven, one at a time. Once again they came out surprisingly well, and went down pretty good too. All in all Hreezu seemed to enjoy his day, and so did all his friends, so we class this one as a culinary success for once.
BBQ NightBBQ NightBBQ Night

We cooked "Western Style" for our new Indian family. The BBQ was improvised for all of 80rupee, the food was improvised from the ingredients we could find in Indian markets. The result was not what we hoped, but was interesting all the same :)
It was a valuable lesson for us in child management too, it is damn hard work!!!

The final food event of this stay (and yes, there was a lot of eating going on) was on our last night in Japiur, where Parth invited us to sample his Franky. Not some lude sexual advance, but a chicken and veggie wrap thingy, with an Indian flavour. And we have to say they were absolutely delicious. As was the Muglai that he cooked, which was a kinda roti with chicken and egg wrapped inside. Yum Yum.

So fattened and with tons of memories we left Jaipur for the beaches in the South of India. It was time to say goodbye to all our new friends but it has become a regular occurance on this trip, and one we no longer see with too much sadness. It is good to enjoy the times you have together as they are limited, enjoy them as the moment they are and hopefully you will meet again. If not then you always have the memories you shared, which is special. We will definitely have special memories of Jaipur, the people we met, the things we saw,
The reactionThe reactionThe reaction

Hreezu and the others were less than impressed by what we gave them to eat. They had never seen anything like it before, and asked how to eat it. It was a potato skin filled with cheese and BBQ sauce, we figured all kids liked this kind of thing, no?
the food we ate and the sicknesses that occurred there. NEXT STOP, beaches and some sunshine!!! WOOOHOOOO

Additional photos below
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26th November 2007

Keep on enjoying!
Hey! we're traveling too.. I think we saw you in Udaipur a few days agao ( 24/25 november?) Keep having fun! Two4deroad
29th November 2007

BBQ on!
OMG, if I had to cook for them - I´d freak out! As I read on, I realized I can´t cook anything vegetarian (except for Yakisoba) which is Japanese. So that wouldnt count! lol I´ll give it to you, you guys are brave! :) I think you were too hard on yourselves on your own food review, and I´d say you´re ready to start your cookery school soon!! ;) Lovely posts, as usual... I love reading you :)

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