Stories from the Road

Hemendra Singh of Bhainsrorgarh Fort started cooking as early as when he was 11 years old. During my stay at Bhainsrorgarh recently, he drove me personally on his 4WD jeep to his private lake and cooked the most delicious Lal Maas, a traditional Rajasthani red meat curry in a jiffy which we devoured with baflas (wheat dough balls). "I remember coming to this lake with my father as a kid. I used to hang around see what's cooking and that's how I learnt," says Hemendra pointing to an old trunk which served as a spice box. "It's a part of our lifestyle and sometimes I drive to my friend's estate close by with my spice box, where we cook in the outdoors, eat, drink and have a good time together. I particularly love spending time at Ramathra. Ravi of Ramathra Fort is a fantastic cook himself," he adds. Should you have clients visiting Bhainsrorgarh Fort I would highly recommend that they ask Hemendra to drive them to his private lake and cook lunch in the outdoors. When we were there, very interestingly, the plates and bowls were made out of the leaves from a Flame of the Forest tree. "This is an integral part of outdoor cooking, the Rajput style. But I will have good cutlery for your clients," smiles Hemendra.

If an age-old tradition amongst the women in the Rajput community of Rajasthan had led to a fine culinary practice of outdoor cooking in the region; another age old tradition, the other day, allowed me to reach home on near empty streets in 20 minutes flat, for which otherwise, I take close to 90 minutes every other day. On 22 October, Tuesday, I left office for home at around 8 in the evening. It was a working day and it was still "peak hours", but the streets wore a deserted look. It was Karva Chauth; a festival where married women of North India fast from sunrise to moonrise, praying for a long-life for their husbands. Obviously the husbands left for home early to their wives, so did the working wives who were fasting. Quite inexplicable a tradition for someone like me from North-East India, where no festival is complete without copious consumption of food, particularly fish and meat and where the very idea of fasting is balked at, unless there is a death in the family. But that's the magic of India; diverse, plural, eclectic and I enjoyed being back home early, minus all the traffic for a change.