Tripping on Pushkar… Daal Baati Churma at Mamta. Malpuas.

I just found out that Windows Live Writer doesn’t save posts automatically. So the long post I wrote has disappeared and I have started afresh. This will be a very different post. Will the full story be told someday? I am too sleepy right now to even think of that

This is the story of  seven hour car ride made for a three hour visit.

We stopping opposite Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal in the morning just after we set off from the hotel. Our driver, Govind, had to repair the car’s broken number plate. Broken during the floods and the rains the previous night.

Rains? In the ‘desert state’? So much for geography lessons in school.

Well, I got to soak in a bit of the lazy morning mood before the local markets opened as I walked around languorously. I chatted with Shafiq and his brother, fifth generation shoe shop owners who offered to click my snaps and offered me a welcome hot chai off the streets. A pleasant twenty minutes spent taking in the atmosphere though I was sore at Govind for my loss of a few extra minutes of sleep.

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I was headed to Pushkar on the super helpful @pathfyynder’s suggestion. A Jaipur tweep whom @PBNair connected me with earlier in response to my tweet asking about Rajasthan. 

The plan was to get a feel of the desert with just a day at hand. @pathfyynder also spoke of the 70s hippy’ish feel to the Holy Town thanks to the Sadhus who float around and the foreign tourists. ‘Will remind you of Goa’.

We drove down highways smooth as the proverbial cheeks of Hema Malini. An analogy fathered by Lalu Yadav sometime back. A mini traffic jam caused by a million sheep before the highway ended. I was tempted to whisper ‘lal maas’ (meat curry) in their ears to speed them up.

  @pathfyynder’s contact Satish at Pushkar Valley Resort provided a welcome pit stop as I used the facilities. A shower is just what one needs before and after the desert.

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I got on a camel and much to my apprehensions wasn’t bent double like Lal Mohan Babu in the movie Sonar Kella. The camel was the slowest camel in the world and I later found out that the poor thing had fever as it was stuck in the previous day’s rain. I got off apologetically and patted its head and got onto a younger, fitter and more uncomfortable camel.

The slow camel ride and a stop for lunch put paid to my desert plans as we had to head back the moment we reached the desert as I had a flight to catch. The rains had made the fringes green. I had seen the desert. Or at least some sand. Why quibble over the fine print?

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In the process I had lunch at Mamta Restaurant outside the Brahma Temple recommended to me by local shopkeepers. I went for the daal baati churma recommended by the waiters. Unlike Santosh at Jaipur, the DBC at Mamta was different. The Baati here had a hard shell and had ghee streaked over it. I knew now that you had to shred it now.

The daal was yellower, hotter and more flavourful. There was the classic gatte ke sabji with gram flour dumplings instead of potato curry. The gravy piquant and memorable.

The churma here was served as a laddoo and had coconut in it and didn’t work for me and I preferred the one at Santosh.

Overall the DBC at the 20 year old Mamta at Pushkar came at twice the price (Rs 120 vs the Rs 60) of the forty year old at Santosh at Jaipur but clearly trumped the big city one in terms of taste.

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Folks on twitter kept asking me to have the malpua at Pushkar so on the way back the guy chaperoning my camel, the English speaking, mobile toting, Sodan, parked the camel at a sweet shop and got me a malpua (Rs 15) while I was perched on top. The malpua was thin, sweet and just right, crisp and tasted out of the world, especially when had on camel back.

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Pushkar is a Holy City where alcohol and meat is not allowed. So my dreams of eating a sheep roasted under the desert sand would have to wait till I one day met the Bedouins of Arab. Due to the lack of time I didn’t get to see the only Brahma Temple in the world. I saw the Pushkar lake with Hindu Temples at its banks from far much to the consternation of young men who said they were Brahmins and offered  to do a prayer for me for twenty Rupees…the cost of salvation.

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They didn’t know that Mamta was more my sort of temple.

We headed back to Jaipur down the highway, stopped for a super spicy and yet beautifully flavoured, deep fried yet pleasant to bite alu paratha at a local dhaba before catching my flight out after a last minute traffic jam caused panic attack and then home to Mumbai.

So a seven hour trip for a three hour visit. A trip where I got to just see the desert which I had actually wanted to journey in to. A town I saw perched on top of a camel missing  the local attractions of the Brahma Temple and the Holy Lake. Where I did not find the Bhaang shop that a Wikitravel search had promised.  A trip where I ate some great locally recommended food and met some kind people on the way. A trip where I suffered a traffic induced scare on the way home and reached home late at night. Welcomed by the crashing rains of Mumbai.

The story of a day which had a life and mind of its own. A day which didn’t go entirely as planned, which challenged my preconceptions and led to new experiences.

Was the mad mad trip to Pushkar worth it?
‘I am listening’ as Frasier would say.

According to a story I heard this evening it turns out that my grandparents and my aunt went to Pushkar and Ajmer too from Jaipur. Dadu took a dip in the holy lake and aunt pointed out that there were little baby turtles. Didu said that water got into his ears and years later he became deaf

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