Dhola-ri-Dhani

We visited Dhola-ri-Dhani, a Rajasthani resort in the outskirts of Secunderabad, last weekend. Its ethnic facade had always beckoned me to pay a visit whenever we passed it en route to our farmhouse. When Prasad came across a groupon for a meal of 300 rupees (about 5 dollars) per person, he pocketed the deal.

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A trumpet and vermilion applied on the foreheads of the men greeted us at the entrance.

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All I was prepared for was for some good ‘ol batting (i.e. eating, in case you didn’t know what it meant), but I was surprised to find a sprawling interior holding a ton of activities other than just dining.

wpid-20140824_124006.jpgFirst we met a ventriloquist with his dummy, who called Medha upon stage and she marched up without a hitch. He asked her to sing a nursery rhyme and she did! “Twinkle, twinkle”! Seriously! She had never been that bold! And I had never heard her sing a whole rhyme before!

wpid-20140824_124138.jpg A free welcome drink in the form of Jaljeera, served at a stall, provided cool refreshment from the prickly heat. It gave our energy and enthusiasm a boost to explore the resort.

wpid-20140824_124328.jpgBut a server in traditional Marwari (a native or inhabitant of Rajasthan in India) attire, on the threshold of the Dining Hall, insisted we have our lunch first. He said we’d kill our appetites if we waited too long! He directed us to a wash basin first. Then we took off our footwear and walked into a cool, dark space with Chokhi-style seating arrangement. There were cushions and low individual dining tables throughout the hall decorated with folk art.

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All the dishes were prepared without Onion or Garlic. I never thought Paneer Butter Masala (cubes of Cottage Cheese in a buttery Tomato base) could be cooked without the 2 ingredients. It didn’t taste bad. Along with the small Missi (Indian bread made with Wheat and Gram flours) and Bajra (another type of Indian bread made with Millet flour) rotis, the 3-4 dishes served tasted good. Dal-Bhati-Churma (a sweet and spicy preparation without which a Rajasthani meal is incomplete) evoked memories of dining at the Aggarwals, our close friends in the US. All in all, the food tasted good, not fantastic, but good. Without unnecessary fat or a number of dishes, it felt as if we were consuming a home-cooked meal.

wpid-20140824_125047.jpg After a meal that didn’t feel too heavy, it was, finally, time to explore the place. There was so much to see and do- a lake, a swimming pool, an open-air theater where we watched a spoof of the movie, Sholay, a play-area for the kids and so much more.

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There was a gaming area where Prasad played a couple of games like toppling down a stack of tumblers with a ball and won the kids a few toys.

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Then it was time for the puppet show. There was one every half hour. Tiny dolls in traditional garb were made to entertain us through stunts and dance. Both Medha and Madhav sat wide-mouthed, mesmerized by the show. I couldn’t decide what to focus my camera upon- the performance or my gaping kids.

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As I mentioned before, it was unbearably hot and so we decided to cut short our stay and head back home. Had the weather been pleasant, we’d have hung back a while longer to explore the temple or row a boat down the lake. all within the premises of Dhola-ri-Dhani.

Letter to Medha

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Medha,

We went to the Doctor’s yesterday to have your ear checked, because you complained of a pain in your right ear. Before the doctor checked and diagnosed it as a symptom of Cold and not an Ear Infection as I’d feared, the nurse checked your height and weight. I was pleased to note that you weighed 18.9 kg, a tad higher than the upper limit (18.1 kg) of the normal weight range of a girl your age in India. Even your height measured at the maximum limit of the range. You were always under-weight in the US. Grandparents’ pampering and playing at school are doing you good, I suppose.

Assessments are coming up in September and a whole list of syllabus to be taught to prepare you for them has been sent out. That list makes me nervous! So much to practice and so little time left (a little over 15 days)! I need to draw a plan. Instead of tackling the whole thing in the nth minute, I want to spend time breaking the lessons down, so you learn a bit each day. But how? And when? It’s hard enough, getting you to finish your homework! When will we find time to revise the lessons?

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By the way, you had an awesome time with aunt Shruthi and baby-sister Shristi. Not a single day went by without us heading out to shop or to dine. You missed them for days after they left for the US. When she was here, you were so protective of baby Shristi from your brother, Madhav’s attacks. He was too jealous of her and snatched stuff from her and pulled her hair or whacked her left and right! But you cuddled and kissed her all the time. You even shared your favorite possessions with her, that you hardly ever allow Madhav to touch.

I think and hope Shristi will be much more than just a cousin. I think and hope she will be your best friend and a confidante (like MY sister is in MY life).

Medha and Shristi, sisters sharing gossip about their naughty bro!
Medha and Shristi, sisters sharing gossip about their naughty bro!

Love,

Mama.

Letter to Madhav

This feature is inspired by Elise at eliseblaha.typepad.com. I plan to write a letter each to Medha and Madhav once every month.

Dear Madhav,

You turned 15 a few days ago, 15 months that is. At 15, you are tall and somewhat bony; You possess beaver-like sharp teeth that you sink into my skin when I’m not paying attention to you; You also possess long, wavy hair and a big, naughty smile. You don’t walk yet, but crawl like a pro. You can crawl real fast, sideways and even in reverse gear. Crawling comes easy to you, so you don’t put the effort needed to walk.

But hey, you did take a few steps sometime back. Your dad and aunt Shruthi said so. I was cooking then, so I missed it. But I believe them. You’re a bit on the slower side (You even came out about 10 days later than the due date, kicking and screaming. If you had your own way, you’d’ve chosen to come later than that, the doctor said!). Pretty soon, you will be walking and exploring and getting into trouble I’m sure. I truly don’t mind your being slow.

You’re so competitive, beating your 8 month old cousin in crawling races, demanding to be changed when I change Medha’s clothes and pointing at your forehead when I apply a bindi on her face. You fight a lot with your sis and don’t let her finish her homework; You snatch her stuff and make a ‘run’ for it. You’ve ‘Mischief’ written all over your face!

But when sis is fast asleep, you hold her tight and smother her with kisses. Of course, if she doesn’t wake up you whack her forehead until she does!

This Rakshabandhan I helped sis tie a Rakhi to your wrist in the hope that no matter what, you will be there for her, always.

It will be interesting to watch the brother-sister dynamics evolve as you both grow together.

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Will you protect me bro?
Oh ok... First let me get this thing off me!
Oh ok… First let me get this thing off me!

Love,

Mama.

Medha’s speech

On Grandparents’ Day (7th of August) at school, Medha was to give a speech about why she loves her grandparents. I wrote a few lines (like ‘My grandpa plays with me’, ‘My grandma cooks delicious food for me’ and ‘My grandparents in Dubai sent me a bike for my birthday’ etc.) for her to practice. And practice she did. But…

Medha went to a preschool in the US and so speaks better English than most kids her age. One of her teachers noticed this and gave her a chance to speak on stage. To memorize the lines I made her practice every morning for a month (maybe more). Her teachers did stage-rehearsals very often to prepare her for the big day.

In the beginning, she found it hard to remember the lines. For someone who finds it difficult to even recall lines of her favorite nursery rhymes, it was an achievement indeed to be able to say 10 sentences correctly.

Then her teachers told me she knew all her lines but spoke without any variation and needed to be a bit more expressive. I thought that was funny, until I listened to another girl from her class giving her speech. It was a big surprise to realize what kids at 4 years old are capable of.

My husband and I tried teaching Medha to smile when she spoke and to add a bit more energy into her speech. And when she did that, she broke into a fake smile and looked constipated! Chuck it, just do what you know and can, we said to her. We wanted her to enjoy the whole thing.

Her teachers almost decided to not let her speak on that day in front of an audience full of grandparents. But I asked them to give her a chance. Medha was so into it by then, she herself was determined to speak.

I was miserable I wouldn’t be able to watch my little girl give her first speech as only grandparents were allowed to attend the program. I made sure her grandparents knew how to capture a video of her on stage and sent a huge camera along.

So it was a bit of a  disappointment for me( and a big one for her grandparents) that she bailed out in the end. (She tells me she was not allowed to give her speech. Her teachers tell me she did not want to go on stage. Who is to be believed?!). I wonder if we pushed her too far.

This is just the beginning, I know. There will be speeches galore in her future. A few months ago if someone had told me that kids from nursery could give speeches I wouldn’t have believed it. I might have found it hilarious! I know now kids can be pushed, gently (not too far into boredom or aversion or depression), to achieve new heights.

(One of these days I will post a video of her speech, that is when she doesn’t shy away from my camera!)

Corn Puri

I love to cook. I am always on the hunt for new recipes to try (Well… not when I’m reading or writing). But I am not creative enough to come up with my own recipes. My mother-in-law is. She is a passionate cook (You’ll find her in the kitchen trying out one dish after another or surfing channels for cookery shows); Cooking traditional South Indian dishes is her forte but she also dabbles in inventing one of her own, with any ingredient at hand. Corn Puri is just one of the many recipes she created. This treat can be eaten as a snack or accompanied with a side dish like the normal puri.

I want to compile the recipes the mothers in my life have created and tried, so that I can pass them on to my children. So, expect more recipes in the future.

Here goes the recipe for Corn Puri:

Ingredients:

Corn – 1

Green Chillis – 3 (or more if you prefer)

Jeera – 1 tsp

Wheat flour – 2 cups

Sugar – a pinch

Salt – as needed

Water – just enough to knead the dough

  1. Find the most tender corn available, preferably Indian corn which isn’t as sweet as the American one. Also, look for the one with more grains.

P10804012. Remove the husk and the silk.

P10804023. With a sweeping motion of the knife, remove the grains from the ear. This takes a bit of skill (which I lack) and can get a little messy (in my case, a lot). Chop the green chillis.

P10804044. Grind the corn and chillis to a coarse paste. Add Wheat flour, Jeera, Sugar, Salt and Water. Knead the dough.

P10804055. Pinch off lime-sized bits of dough and begin rolling puris.

P10804066. Deep-fry them like you would, the usual puris.

P1080409They might not LOOK good but they taste awfully good! Try them…

Currently

I love to document my everyday life, its highs and lows. Instead of making scrapbooks filled with pictures and colorful embellishments, which is awesome but so hard and time-consuming for me, I like to scribble in a journal. As I was looking for more ways to capture the fleeting, everyday moments,I  stumbled upon Rukristin Papercrafts. Its author, Kristin, came up with a novel way of documenting the “right-now” as she puts it. She created a simple journaling card with the prompts already listed. I decided to give it a try. But, instead of printing the card out, filling it and then losing it, I decided to type it in my blog.

At the start of each month I plan on taking 5 minutes to make a note of what I’m currently watching, reading, listening, etc..

Currently:

  • Watching – the dense foliage through my window
  • Reading – The Holy Geeta
  • Listening – The Lively Show
  • Making – plans for upcoming birthdays
  • Feeling – grateful
  • Planning – future posts using Google Calendar
  • Loving – the rainy season

What are doing “Currently”?