Wednesday, 24 August 2011

An A-Z of India Part 3

K is for Kheer and Kulfi.

We saw many Indian sweets being made and sold as we travelled around, but the dessert options on restaurant menus seemed pretty limited.  I was however keen to try both Kheer, an Indian rice-pudding, and Kulfi, a cardamom-scented ice-cream.  But fate seemed never to be on my side - I was either too full of curry and naan bread to even consider a dessert, or on a couple of occasions I ordered, only to be told that they had none left.  Gutted.  I'll have to try making them myself...

Here is a recipe for Kheer.
This Kulfi recipe sounds intriguing.

Boiling up a huge pan of milk for sweets.

L is for Lakes.

Two of the later stops on our route were Udaipur and Pushkar, both settlements built around lakes.  In Udaipur our hotel was set up on a hill just outside the city centre which gave us wonderful views over the city, City Palace and Lake Pichola; but we also spent a memorable evening eating at a lakeside restaurant named Ambrai which had beautiful views of the very exclusive Lake Palace Hotel.  The accommodation prices there are eye-watering, and sadly you can't even just take a boat over to the hotel for a meal, due to worries about terrorism, but Ambrai was an excellent place from which to see it as the sun set.

Pushkar is a smaller town, but a much holier one according to the Hindu religion.  The lake is surrounded by 500 temples, from which 52 'ghats' lead down to the water.  Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were scattered on this lake.  Our Rough Guide informed us that in days past the lake was infested with man-eating crocodiles that would regularly pick off bathing pilgrims, but eventually the British intervened during the Raj, transporting the crocs to a nearby reservoir.  You'd have to be dedicated to bathe in the holy waters if you were sharing them with crocodiles! 

No reptiles in evidence today, only pilgrims and a few sacred cows!  We only spent one evening here, but enjoyed wandering down the bustling main street, doing some shopping and going for a lovely meal (pizza... *blush* - we were a bit sick of curry by then, and we found a restaurant that cooked their pizzas in their tandoor oven!)

M is for Monsoon.

As I mentioned earlier, we had some rain in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, but none so heavy as the monsoon rains we encountered in Pushkar...!  Our driver had dropped us at one end of town and we had arranged to meet him back there a few hours later.  We found the above-mentioned pizza restaurant at the opposite end of town, and as we sat there enjoying our meal there was a crash of thunder and the heavens opened!  Now we're used to torrential rain - we live in Brunei, it happens fairly regularly - but this Pushkar rain was every bit as dramatic, and showed no sign of easing off.  We had no choice other than to set off through town once we had finished eating...  the water was literally around our shins, and it really didn't bear thinking too hard about what it was that was swilling about around our legs!  Soaked to the skin, we got back to the car to find our driver chortling heartily at the state we were in!

Slightly damp (and taking it in turns with the umbrella!) at Nagda, near Udaipur.

A more positive aspect to the monsoon is the amazing blossoming of greenness that suddenly covers the country.  We drove through parts of the Thar Desert, and many other places that our driver told us were usually parched and dry throughout the year, except during the monsoon season.  It was hard for us to imagine, as these places were looking so lush and beautiful.  What a harsh life it must be to live in such a climate.  Indeed, our driver informed us that one year in recent times the monsoon rains never arrived, leaving many animals, and I suspect their human owners, to starve.

Not quite lush greenery, but plenty of trees here growing in the desert dunes as we drove away from Jaisalmur.

N is for Naan.

When you think of an accompaniment to curry, I'd imagine most people choose rice, Basmati perhaps.  But in Rajasthan we hardly saw anyone eating rice.  Instead they ate breads with their curries, perhaps fried breads such as poori, or more often grilled breads such as naan.  We quickly found ourselves judging a restaurant by the quality and price of their Garlic Naan!  40 rupees was what we thought was acceptable, but we saw them priced at 3 times that amount too.  We became connoisseurs of the naan, preferring those that were soft and puffy rather than drier and crispy as some were.

Pictured here are the good and the bad:

Good - very good in fact - in the 'Kwality' restaurant in Delhi (naff name, great food).

Bad, dry naan at a restaurant in Jodhpur.  Good mini-bucket of dhal though!

O is for Orange.

Orange?  The colour of pilgrimage.  Our driver told us that we were in India during a month of pilgrimage, and indeed everywhere we went we saw orange-clad, barefoot men carrying containers of water from the River Ganges.  They might be walking for any length of time, sometimes many hundreds of miles, depending on their fitness and the challenge they had chosen for themselves.  The water was eventually to be poured onto a shrine to the god Shiva.  

We saw many pilgrims at the Taj Mahal, but also many hundreds on the roads.  Their journeys looked like quite sociable events, as they would often be followed by a brightly-painted truck with music and horn blaring - and generally causing huge hold-ups on the road!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love all your photos! They are great and you did a good job with the commentary as well. India do have some hidden gems but as you said there are other aspects of India which are so grim. Will there be more posts of India? :)