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