Thursday, September 24, 2009

‘Khamma Ghani Sa!’

What would be the one place where you can enjoy camel rides, ‘kathputli’ or puppet shows, view the ‘ghoomar’ dance, and enjoy delicious ‘daal bhati’, ‘malpuas’, ‘sangri’ and ‘sag-gatta’? I’m sure the first answer that comes to mind would be none other than ‘Rajasthan’.

But you couldn’t be further from the truth! All this and more can be experienced at ‘Chokhi Dani’ a Rajasthani theme village located on the outskirts of Pune. A fee of about Rs 300 per head includes entry, a few coupons that can be redeemed for games or rides, and a traditional dinner.

As you enter, you are welcomed with peppy ‘dhol’ music and colourful ‘Kacchi Ghodi’ dancers. A counter with snacks and starters including ‘chaat’, ‘pakodas’, and cool beverages awaits you so you can nibble on something before having fun.

Taking a cursory glance around as I savoured the food on offer, I could see children and adults alike enjoying camel rides, horse rides, and a spin in the ‘bail gaadi’ or ox cart.Some were busy testing their skill at pottery-making.

We decided to try out the rides as well. After a camel ride and my first ever ‘bail gaadi’ ride, we were just in time to watch a performance of the ‘ghoomar’, and the ‘panihari’.

Seated on traditional ‘charpais’, with front row seats, we were soon transported to a different world altogether. The graceful dancers with their bewitching moves and seemingly impossible maneuvers kept us in thrall all along.

From there we moved on to the games section where one could test one’s skills at archery and bowling amongst others. And then one could also have pretty ‘mehendi’ designs drawn on one’s hands.

Nearby was a stall where you could get your names written on a grain of rice. This is then put in a vial of special liquid to preserve the grain and attached to a keychain!

We also got the opportunity to dress up in traditional Rajasthani attire and have our photographs taken to keep them as a souvenir of our memorable trip. Fire dancers were our next stop before heading to the dining hall to sample the sumptuous fare on offer.

One can have as many servings as one wants of any of the mouthwatering dishes served on biodegradable plates made of dried leaves. The stewards were all dressed traditionally complete with colourful turbans.

They kept refilling our plates until we could not eat another morsel. By the time we were done with dinner, none of us were inclined to walk back to the exit!
(Photos by Upendra Nayak & Chandana Nayak Shenoy)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Traipsing Down Memory Lane

It was nearly seven years since my last visit to my alma mater, and I was somewhat nervous as I peeked in the door of the English Department. To my utter surprise and joy, all the teachers remembered me and gave me the warmest of welcomes notwithstanding the fact that I had unwittingly gate crashed a departmental meeting!
In a moment I was made to feel right at home; it did not even remotely seem that it had been a decade since I was a student there. As one of my teachers put it, “the department was as mad as ever”!

Fun, friends, freshers, favourite teachers, food, fashion, and fights, were some of the things that had rushed to the forefront of my mind as I crossed the threshold of the college where I spent three wonderful, idyllic years.

Fun requires no further explanation whatsoever. It was a time when everything had a funny side to it and the slightest provocation was sufficient to send us into peals of laughter. Getting to and from college, attending lessons, and hanging out with friends, were all enjoyable activities.

Friends were numerous and the whole class was closely knit, getting into mischief all the time. Planning and preparing for the regular ‘literary hours’ involved more giggling and skipping of classes than was deemed necessary. The faculty of the English Department definitely had a lot more grey hairs by the time we graduated!

Getting introduced to the ‘freshers’ was an annual event, awaited eagerly. Snide comments and genuine compliments would flow forth as we took stock of our successors. Alas, we were never satisfied that there was a bunch of the right mix that would be worthy enough to be our replacement.

The whole of the English Department was a favourite, with each teacher making her class unique with her own individual style of teaching. Be it phonetics, grammar, poetry, or drama, learning was enjoyable and effortless with the quirks of every teacher staying with us long after we left college. Remembrance by association made answering exams a breeze.

The food in the canteen was nothing to write home about and one chose to sample the menu only in an emergency. However, the canteen itself was the venue of many a shared lunch and gossip sessions. Partaking of the scrumptious food our moms packed for us each day, was a ritual in itself.

It was cool to make your own fashion statement rather than going with only the latest trends. Every new look was sure to be noticed and received either criticism or appreciation—both were sure to be delivered in large helpings.

Guarding your turf was yet another integral part of everyday life in college. Inter departmental competition was pretty strong but the rivalry always remained a healthy, even jocular one.

Today, looking back at these different aspects of student life that I encountered and successfully navigated through, it is hard to believe that so many years have passed by.

Talking to my college mates only reinforces this feeling, for it seems as though we are easily able to carry on a conversation from where we last left off!
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