Jaipur Pink And Dal Batti
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Of late, I’ve come to realise how thoughts really do become things. Hardly do I think of something, I want to do, see or experience, and the opportunity presents itself out-of-the-blue. And so it was that I landed in Jaipur a few weeks ago, literally a couple of days after having leafed through an old magazine feature on the city, and having thought how nice it would be to visit the place.
I landed at the airport in the afternoon and drove straight to The Jaipur Marriott property who was kindly hosting my stay. The welcoming staff and the cool lobby with a stunning water feature backdrop quickly dissolved the effect of the heat that had hit me as soon as I had alighted from the aircraft.
After a quick, but wonderful multi cuisine lunch at Okra, the 24-hour coffee shop, I headed out to explore the city. I was told not to miss the market which was “pink” and which gave the city its pseudonym “Pink City”. Much to my surprise, the pink was not the Jaipur pink as we know it – it’s more a brick red. Another surprise was the fact that the market was a collection of identical shops which did not announce their existence with loud signage. The whole complex was united and the architecture was typically Rajasthani; it instantly gave me a feel of what the old city must have looked like with its horse-drawn carriages of a bygone era. The driver pointed out the next surprise - the legendary Hawa Mahal, which I had almost missed. Only having seen the monument in magazines and on television, I had always imagined it to be colossal in terms of size. In truth, however, it’s a beautiful and intricate monument of modest proportions. After a purchase of mojris and puppets, and after an unsuccessful attempt at resisting temptation at Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar (whose doorman proudly displayed the entire length of his moustache), I drove past Moti Dungri (the former residence of the gorgeous Late Rajmata Gayatri Devi), Albert Hall and Birla Temple to Chokhi Dhaani, to experience an authentic Rajasthani hospitality.
I had read and heard a lot about Chokhi Dhani, but after having experienced the joy and fun of camel cart rides, watching artisans create beautiful wood block prints and learning how to make a small piggy bank on a potter’s wheel, I realised that not enough justice had been done to Chokhi Dhani in print, not to mention the elaborate meal which left me breathless. I had looked forward to tasting the Dal Batti Choorma, and I was not disappointed. Of course, there were numerous other things in the thali like Gatte ka Saag, Bajre ki Roti served with huge dollops of freshly churned butter, Bajra Khichda which to my amazement was served sprinkled with grated jaggery, kadhi and buttermilk served in earthenware glasses. But, for me, the Dal Baati and Choorma took the cake.
The next day, my driver (and new friend) Ali Baba took me to the City Palace. During the course of our conversation, he explained the culture of Jaipur and his eyes moistened visibly when he spoke of the late Rajmata. The Queen Mother had brought about many positive developments in and around the city, and had ensured the welfare of her citizens in such a way that every person respected and loved her. “She gave our women a new inspiration through education,” he said as he told me that his daughter, like most other girls in Jaipur, attended a school established by the Rajmata. The City Palace museum was fascinating enough, but what lingers in my memory is the lane leading to the palace where merchants sell grain for pigeons to be fed. From the palace, I drove to Pushkar.
The old town is home to one of the very few Brahma temples in the country. After a long hot walk through the market and having paid my respects at the temple, I relished an authentic Papad ki Sabzi at the eatery just behind the temple and headed back to Jaipur. I was in for a special treat as I dined with the General Manager Rohit Dar, and F&B head Sudeep Sharma, who through their efforts have breathed in a new life into the food scene of Jaipur. We enjoyed refreshing drinks and scrumptious snacks at the newly opened Lounge 18, and over a typically foodie conversation sampled the soon-to-be-introduced menu at The Saffron. The meal was indeed special thanks to the company, but also due to the well-created dishes like the Gobhi Kheema (a dish which changed my perception of the cauliflower), Dahi ke Kebab (kebabs made of hung curd), Laal Maas and Sitaphal Kheer. Again, I ate till I couldn’t breathe.
I was to fly out the next evening , and had decided to stay indoors all morning, but was told not to leave the city without going to Amer Fort. Situated atop a hill, the fort is wonderful example of an artistic architecture. I almost lost all track of time, but was able to enjoy one final meal at Okra, where the friendly staff made me want to stay back for a few more days. I had to come back though and I did – but not without promising myself another trip very soon.