A bunch of guys with Jeeps headed to the Heartland of Haryana, Hissar. Haryana has the GT Road, the Punjabised version of Haryana with Panipat Karnal, Ambala and there is the real Wild West Texas. Jhajjar, Beri, Rohtak. That’s a lot of Ghee, Beedis, and Blankets for entertainment. We were traveling in a Honda CRV, a Bolero and the good old trustworthy MM550 very nicely modified to suit the terrain.
We drove in the still of the night, stayed at the Hunting Lodge as friends, Sanjay, Abhijeet and others fondly called it.A Hunting lodge is a place which lacks a womans, touch which makes it a home. Next morning at the crack of dawn, we were dancing with the wolves. And at sunrise when the shadows grew short and the birds were resting and the canteens ran dry we got, Hungry. We headed to the Chuck wagon; in this case it was a Haveli at village Dabra. Abhijeet’s maternal grandfathers place. The 40 feet high door with metal and wooden embellishments spread open to a wide courtyard, the sun was strong mouth was dry. From the corner of my eye we saw the gringo whose forefathers have been serving seven generations of the Haveli and it’s Household.
We waited before breakfast, in the large and high ceiling drawing room with rafters which were over 107 years old the Haveli is 107 years old. The photos of Risaldars and Risaldar Majors of the Royal Bengal Lancers, though the carpets are plush and the toilets are modern. The haveli is an old building with modern amenities. We were very hungry and the Gringo called out.
I entered I was dismayed at the simple and frugal spread, few rotis, butter and pickles. When I focused better and dug in, the simplicity and the natural taste overwhelmed me and all of us. There was Missi Roti, with Cow’s milk and butter made from cow’s milk. Served with Kachri Chutney (a cross between cucumber and small melons), also used to tender game meat and pulverize table meat. The pickles, simple and delicious, a relish of Carrot, Turnip and Cauliflower also a pickle of fresh green chilies. Delicious. More Rotis rolled six of us wolfing them down the gringo is doing a marathon from the kitchen to the dining room, we are eating and eating.
The accompaniments, a raw and rudimentary Laadoo (a course sweetmeat, as the Haryanvi’s call them), a plate of Pinniis (more sweets) and some caramelized Gajar Halwa or Carrot pudding. You can run but you cannot hide from the Gringo who is serving us. The Food is delicious we all have nearly 6-7 rotis each, with milk that taste so light smells wonderful. Nothing that I have ever eaten, back in New Orleans, sorry in Delhi.
Amidst the feasting the old timers in Abhijeet’s family uncles and grand uncles tell us stories of the Old hunting grounds of the British India which transport us to the Rudyard Kipling’s India, The Hunter in the Sola Hat. Truly, you have to have, a simple and hearty meal and enjoy the simple pleasures of a simple meal, sharing stories laughter and mirth.
So good , not put on like a commercial Haveli of Rajasthan and quite far from the Bhoppa’s and Bhoppis serving the French in the Neemrana hotels, masquerading as the true Indian experience of this simple meal . Of course it did not cost us anything other than Goodwill Hunting ! Thanks Abhijeet and Sanjay. (Two photos of the haveli are courtesy Randeep. Thanks).
So whats your simple meal story ?