The Maharaja & the Camel 

This is a tale of a time, long ago when I went dune bashing on a bully camel that help aid the digestion of one delicious dish. That would be my explanation of my trip to Rajasthan- the land of Maharajas.

A place filled with rich culture around every turn – Rajasthani’s are known for their love of food and it’s quite evident in their preparations. I have a bucket list – one was to ride a camel in the desert which i wanted to complete before my back gave way later on in life ( I’ve been told it was bumpy and by George were they right!!!)

Being the history buff I am I love everything antique and troll for stories on culture. My day started like every normal day. I woke up early (in this case to stand in line at the house I was residing in to ensure i got a bucket of hot water- the temperature was averaging between 7 to 11 degrees, something which my Mediterranean hot blooded body is not equipped to handle)

After a heavy breakfast I head out by bike with guide in tow to witness Bada Bagh- whose literal translation means Big Garden. It’s a garden complex ( not much of a garden now due to poor maintenance) 6kms north of Jaisalmer that contains a set of royal cenotaphs (a word derived from the Greek language kenos- empty / taphos-tomb these are empty tombs erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere) of Maharajas of the state of Jaisalmer way back from 1743.

Bada Bagh (Big Garden)    With the morning well spent in these peaceful dusty tombs with a sense of the souls chanting from ages past it was time for lunch. I read up on dishes to savour and asked for the Dal Baati Churma as I was warned never to leave the state without trying it. The Baati (Rajasthani name given) is a hard unleavened bread with high nutritional content prepared in dry areas where water is scarce. It is traditionally prepared by coarsely mashing Baati and pouring ghee on top of it. It is served with dal (lentils) and a spicy garlic chutney or with besan (gram flour). Churma is a sweet side dish that accompanies the Dal Baati and has various ingredients ranging from dry fruits like Cashew almonds or raisins. This depends on the social status of the family at host.

Now while I’m sure your salivating at the description no one bothered to mention the minuscule fact that it takes a while for this to digest given how heavy the ingredients are.

Unassuming me gorged as if this was my last supper. After all it was an experience to savor. Right about the time when I was gearing up for my siesta my bubbly guide alerted me that my camel ride was due shortly.

My ride post the churma. 

Pic courtesy: Nolan Mascarenhas Photography 

Camels. Have I mentioned before -I love camels and horses. However I’m petrified of them.Mind you they are NOT comfortable. Much like a lumpy saggy undulated mattress. Quite the pain in the a*^*, literally!!

And here’s the kicker. My churma was churning. And not in a good way. Speeding across atop a camel across the dunes on an undigested stomach is definitely a bad idea. Not advisable. Luckily for both our sakes I managed to retain my inners – I’m sure the camel was grateful.  The plains of the dessert are beautiful and hollow. So much tranquility in such a harsh space. Beauty at play indeed.

All said and done it was a wonderful trip. Definitely if you long to live amongst the halls of royalty in an era past.

Time for that digestive. Over and out.

The heav’y’enly -Dal Bati Churma   Pic courtesy: Anchal Kandpal 

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