Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Aromatic Ode to Rajasthan: The Earthy Beauty!

I met her rarely… mostly during my summer vacations. Still she never failed to do this to me. The moment I touched her sun kissed skin, it was as if an earthing absorbed all my worries and tensions away and put me in a state of eternal joy and bliss.

I always tried to find this out… what was it about her that did this to me? Was it because I was the child of her womb? Or it could be the chatter of the Rajasthani women – cloaked in a ghoonghat or was it the magic of the dancing dunes that mesmerized me while I wandered around. Or maybe it was the odd camel who (always!) smiled beatifically as he clip clopped his way past my window or was it something else - an aspect that I had never cared to discover about her?

That trip of 2007 to my ancestral village in Rajasthan changed my perspectives; the smells inspired me... revealing her in a way I had never seen her to be. Something about her was intensely and insanely gorgeous this time. Something that I never could figure out after all my encounters with her. Something that was not in no way like the tourist brochures always claimed it to be. May be in parts - yes, but certainly not entirely. Something… that was something more. A matter of the mind perhaps. An untapped, unclaimed territory neatly contained, revealed only to those who had the audacity to step further and the oddity to dig deeper.

I rolled down the windows of my car soon after it hit the red mud tarmac. A gust of chilly January breeze combed my hair, sweeping through a vast landscape of rolling dunes stretching into infinity. At first it smelled nothing. Then it smelled something. A tantalizing fragrance rising from the earth, one that was rustic, fresh and mystical – all at the same time; the fragrance invaded my soul and senses in no time.

This earthen, dusky beauty was immaculate, unsullied; it was intoxicating, almost addictive. I loved the scent of it. The best part – it chased me for the entire trip, no matter where I went.

Dadaji’s Haveli

I stayed in my Dadaji’s ancestral house where he had lovingly spent a few years of his life. A massive Banyan tree standing right beside the thick iron gates at the entrance invited me in. Huge cobwebs hanging from the ceiling bore the stamp of abandon. Rusted locks slept on many of the rooms inside, deserted and motionless to eerie silence around. The haveli had not been opened for around 3 years or so. A heavy grinding stone sat idle right across the 3 legged charpoy in another. But it was the Tulsi pot that caught my attention. The same pot which once bloomed with the sacred plant nurtured by my grandpa, today, was no more. It lay bare, naked with the words Ram randomly inscribed. Moving my palms around the pot in reverence, I offered a few drops of water and the soil soaked it up all in.

That same scent of earthiness again – I felt it entice the deepest corners of my heart.

The house resonated in an all encompassing silence and yet I heard him. I felt his presence and I heard his voice - He was speaking to me through a language which transcended corporeal boundaries of existence and extinction – fragrance of his mitti which he had nurtured with his love and which in turn had fostered his devotion all life.

House temple – no idol or picture. Just a coat of geru.

I offered my prayers at the mand – a small structure housing our family god - the ancestral temple dedicated to our lineage deity located on the open terrace. I squatted on the uneven floor and creaked open the pretty little temple door. There was no idol inside, not even a photo. But an image - hand painted with geru (wet mud) on the chuna coated walls.

A whiff of earthiness hit me, again.

Many strands of sacred red threads called moli in varying sizes and lengths decked the walls of the sanctum. As I closed my eyes and muttered a silent prayer for me and my near and dear ones, the one that I had learnt from dadiji as a kid, I felt the presence of a higher force. Perhaps I had been hallucinating, what with me having traveled nonstop for the last 16 hours. Or was it for real? - The power of a force higher than us - The God?

Perhaps the molis weren't as ordinary as they had initially seemed to be. After all, these were diffident bundles of faith and beliefs tied since hundreds of years ago, perhaps even more. I guess it were the same beliefs that cumulated as stories and legends which my grandma narrated to me in my summer vacations. Even today, I could hear her soft whispers swirling around bringing those stories alive. I closed my eyes and clasped my hands tighter. Beneath the deep blue skies beaming with a golden sunshine, the breeze permeated my senses.

I felt blessed.

Local bazaars: Surahi

I plunged lazily into the warren of the local bazaars where heaps of vegetables were set on display and piles of spices lay for sale. But it was the fragrance of wet mud wafting on the village breeze that drew me into a tiny pottery shop. Amid a sea of mutkas – decorated by colors red, golden, brown – I saw women immersed in coloring pots while men waiting for the customers. Brown colored surahis with their artistic lion shaped mouth and a narrow trunk bowled me over. There was a reason. The surahi would provide me with cool water all through the year, claimed the grizzled craftswoman as she prepared to hand it over with a smile so wide that it amplified the folds on her face. A testimony to the hardships she had borne all her life, isolated from the outside world. And yet her face glowed with a sense of rich contentment. And her face radiated in a smile that lit her eyes. And warmed my senses.

That scent of earthiness, again.

It was not only about the surahi, which was now mine. But also equally about the mitti that had gone into its making – the sweat of labor, the talent of the craftsmen, and a connection to their roots.

A cup of chai and a bear hug

I drank tea with the cow herders of the village and swapped stories with them. I was amused by the sight of the watered down cow dung cakes drying in the courtyard outside the brick mud thatched roofs. These dried to a smooth hard surface on which they would thrash the harvested grains. Just before parting, she grasped my shoulder to bring me closer, and I immediately sniffed the aroma arising from her henna decorated hands which had been freshly ground and prepared by her own self.

That same earthy beauty again.

She laughed heartily and hugged me like a bear. I never wanted to leave, I could spend hours in that balmy embrace but I realized this was the nature of a yatra. I bid farewell but not without taking something along that would never part my being – the scent of the earthy beauty, a concoction of her henna dyed hands and the dried cow dung cakes in the courtyard. A smell that was real, warm and humanizing in a certain way.

Evening times brought me back to the haveli courtyard where bonfires were lit up and strains of music regaled in the air. The village was a family and it humbled me to realize, I was a part of them. A temporary stove was put out with wood and bricks to cook the food in the open. It was a time to leave all the sorrows and disappointments behind. Instead it was a time of sharing, caring and bonding over daal baati choorma, jalebi and mangodi ki kadhi. The slow drifting air carried the music and the aroma of food billowing up from the huge heated cauldrons. Filled with love and the same earthiness that had now become my companion for the journey.

The fragrance just didn't stop in Rajasthan – the stories and the sights carrying it, many. It wafted out from the parched blistered skin of the earth, swiped across radiant smiles, seeped through the fables of lore and swirled around vast heating cauldrons. No matter where I went, this fragrance dogged my steps and stuck to my memory. I couldn't help but drool over a sense I could barely figure out – something I chose to label as earthy over time – it tickled my traveler’s senses. This earthy beauty was as much a part of the city as the rustic havelis and the rolling dunes – as it is now mine… a fragrance that swaddles copiously every time I think of her, even now, while I write this piece … cocooned in the concrete of my house enjoying the pitter patter on the tin roof outside.


Aromatic Earthy Memories: An Ode to Rajasthan ... A Photo Montage


Glossary words:

Chuna - Limestone
Dadaji - Grandfather
Dadiji - Grandmother
Geru - Red-ochre colored mud, generally considered pure, hence used to paint images of Lord
Ghoonghat - veil
Haveli - Ancestral house
Mand - Ancestral temple belonging to local lineage
Mitti - Mud
Moli - Red sacred thread


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37 comments:

  1. Beautiful post took me to your ancestral village and I could feel the various scents right here in city.....

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  2. This is so beautiful! Lovely read :) i hope you rem me..we met at the Milaap meet :)glad to reconnect virtually!

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  3. Oooooh, Arti dear - what an amazing read.. I looove this piece, the things you write of your granddad and the emotions you express on this lovely yatra tale... Very moving and simply lovely. Enjoyed every word. I love what you say: I bid farewell but not without taking something along that would never part my being.

    Best of luck in the competition - you rock, lovely lady!

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  4. Love the way you narrated it. The smell of earth is my favourite too. All the best dear :)

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  5. Arti, your presentation is a star.
    I'm becoming a fan of your multimedia skills, now.
    So as to say, your blogging had floored me eons earlier.
    Best wishes for the contest. :)

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  6. Great post, Arti!
    I beg to chip in with an humble suggestion if you please...'geru' is teracotta perhaps..

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  7. Arti, Great to read your post, Beautiful.Thanks for the photos.
    Wish you all the best for the contest. ~ da

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  8. Arti, the post brought back the nostalgic memories of Jaisamer and places in western UP I visited in childhood where the fragrances of the matka water,roti prepared on choola ,and khus sherbat still linger in the memory. Best of luck for the contest!

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  9. Such a beautiful and aromatic post Arti...I could almost feel that earthly smell...:-) best of luck...

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  10. Such a beautiful post, Arti. Best wishes!

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  11. You have got a unique set of fragrances in your travel diary.... All the best... :)

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  12. Beautifully written Arti! And the photos are breath taking (loved the music too).

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  13. insanely gorgeous, and intoxicating indeed! from your captivating words, to your videos, I can say I almost am there intoxicated by the aroma of a very beautiful and magical place.

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  14. Wow - Arti! You have outdone yourself with this post full of feeling and remembrance. First, I used your words to take me with you, but I was so happy to see you included a slideshow. Your presentation is wonderful - I enjoyed the trip to your ancestral village. I would give you a bear hug if I could!

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  15. Lovely post, Arti. Amazing Photo-Montage ode :)
    A winner for me :) Best wishes!

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  16. Your writing here is exquisite Arti - i can smell the sensual, earthy scent as i read, dreaming away to Rhajastan with you ... Have a happy day!

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  17. Beautiful Arti. Loved the way you have showcased Rajasthan

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  18. Beautiful post Arti ! I reveled in the smells of Rajasthan through your wonderful post.

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  19. Through your stories, I smelled the fragrance that invaded your soul and senses, Arti.

    I turned off my TV and read this my heart, I love reading your posts loudly. Your words are poignant!

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  20. Hi Arti,

    Such beautiful writing, and almost feel like I am there with you and seeing all the beauty and smelling all the fragrances around. Thanks for sharing a little of Rajasthan.
    Hope that you have a lovely week
    Carolyn

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  21. Beautifully presented....I have put in my share too...do visit when you get a chance..http://paint-my-word.blogspot.com/2014/07/fragrance-from-subconscious-mind.html

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  22. What lively narration and I loved the video. Very earthly! :)

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  23. Arti I just back from rajashtan :( , we should met ya, next path mybe ..

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  24. Love the photo montage, Arti. What a heartfelt and beautiful post. Your words are always so vivid. Thanks for the glossary - it helped a lot.

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  25. beautiful selection of words and they are bringing out everything you want to say in their own way :)

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  26. I truely enjoyed this post, Arti! I remember well your writing about the memory of your dadaji and his tulsi tree.
    Fragrance closely connects us with memory. Your photo montage is great along with earthy and nostalgic music that really matches. Wishing you good luck for the contest!

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  27. What lyrical writing and gorgeous collage!

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  28. I'm impressed the trip to your ancestral village. I nod about smell of Rajashtan in your mind. Pictures are helpful for me. Enjoy Summer!

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  29. Very nicely written. Nice pics too. It's like going to a place from the past. The memories of the place will always remain etched in the hearts :-)

    Good luck Arti :-)

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  30. beautiful and so so engaging!!!

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  31. Loved the Narration. So Soul Filling.

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  32. What a satisfying and great trip, Arti!!!
    Excellent post...must be a fab haveli and village :)

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  33. Just went thru your video...FABULOUS!

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  34. Hi , Thanks for sharing your beautiful experience . It is beautiful . You have nicely wrote this .

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  35. You've added to the beauty of Rajasthan, what a write-up!

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