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home > journal index > india diary jul 2004

One (or more) for the road - jul 2004

08/07/04 Siddhu - local food
filling the siddhu paste with green poppy seed nut sauce, ManaliSiddhu is Manali's answer to the Tibetan momo and our favourite local speciality. Siddhus are hand sized steamed pasta thingies, stuffed with a viciously green paste made of poppy seeds, fresh coriander, nuts, garlic, onion and spices. Local wisdom has it that they are winter food, not suitable for consumption in summer since the ingredients are so energy-ridden and also because they're fairly work intensive to make. As we'll be leaving for Europe soon it's not all that difficult to persuade Rabet and his family to make an exception, and after Woody and I come back from a day in Kullu we stuff ourselves with their excellent Siddhu - good stomach lining for the copious consumption of whisky that follows.
11/07/04 Vishnu yagya
devta or god statues lined up at the Vishnu yagya in Sajla, Himachal PradeshTwo years ago a Baba (holy man) settled at the Vishnu temple at Sajla village, between Manali and Naggar; one year ago he had the idea to make this place the venue of a big puja (pray) for world peace, to last for 11 days. When we have a look today this Vishnu Yagya has been going on already for the past 5 days. In Hinduism pujas are usually started with prayers to the elephant headed God Ganesh; this is also true for Gods as we can see at Sajla: a long line of devtas and devis (village Gods) is placed at the back of a huge roofed area with only the statue of Ganapati (or Ganesh) from Godaur village being granted a special position a few metres in front of all the others. The Vishnu Yagya is attended by 28 village Gods, about 160 Brahmins from all over North India and countless visitors from the Kullu Valley. It's a special event with a great atmosphere - even if omelettes are not to be had for breakfast during these 11 days, since Vishnu is a vegetarian. [See another picture in photo diary and read the blog]
16/07/04 animals for the Goddess at the Dhungri Mahaser
Hadimba temple in the Dunghri during the special pray for the GoddessHadimba Devi was invited to the Vishnu Yagya in Sajla too, but couldn't attend since today is a special pray in Dunghri for her. This puja is called Mahaser and the principal aim is to placate the bloodthirsty Goddess with animal sacrifices. 18 animals are slaughtered: 12 sheep, a pig, a buffalo, a hen, a fish, a pumpkin and a coconut (yes, you read correctly; the last two are considered animals in a sacrifice ceremony). The sheep are turned into mutton curry in massive pots cooked on open fires, and are eaten by villagers in the evening together with rice and dal. The foresty ground around Hadimba temple is crowded with people from the area, so that you won't see a thing unless you're an 8 foot giant - so instead we enjoy the blaring trumpets plus hypnotic drums of the temple band with an enticing view onto hundreds of shoulders and heads. [See another picture in photo diary].
19/07/04 leaving party
Suresh drinking at the leaving party, Old Manali, Himachal PradeshThe last few weeks were pretty heavy on our livers: lots of Indian whiskey and shraab (locally distilled rice wine); time for us is running out in Manali. And today we're having our leaving party; Rabet and Kurma have been busy for us all day: shopping, chopping, cooking, organising. Friends were invited for 5 pm, which was rather stupid of us since nobody would come at that time of the day. At 7.30 when still nobody has shown up we start to get seriously nervous, reluctantly admitting defeat and suspecting that nobody would turn up after all. But then, yippee, they come and we merrily work our way through fifteen litres of shraab and 3 bottles of whisky, and the whole thing wound up at 3 am. A good fun evening, a sore head in the morning: cheers to everybody!
21/07/04 taxi to Delhi
a mountain of luggage waits for a taxi to Delhi, Old Manali, Himachal PradeshHelp, help, help: "we have too much luggage" is a vast understatement. We have abnormal amounts of stuff. So thinks the driver of the big 4-wheel drive Qualis taxi, we had ordered yesterday. After actually having started loading trunks and bags into the car, he chickens out and heaves the baggage back onto the path; the driver refuses to take us and our "few" belongings - though, honestly, us and our stuff doesn't weigh more than the 9 Punjabi tourists he would have normally transported. A few glasses of chai later, Amit (a friend who is going with us to Delhi) turns up with another taxi and we're on our way. Never mind that after a couple of kilometres one of the suspension leaf springs pings off. A last mineral bottle filled with fine "local" made by Lalaji's mother accompanies us. Prost, Cheers, Ram Ram! [See bigger picture in photo diary].
24/07/04 failed monsoon, cargo office blues and tequila
The Met Office predicted a normal monsoon for this year. Uh, they seemed to have got it thoroughly wrong; apart from some pre-monsoon showers end of June, Delhi hasn't seen any rain this summer. Temperatures hover around 35 to 40 degree, which is particularly delightful if you have to spend half of your life (or so it seems) in a 4 square metre non-air-conditioned cargo office in overheated Paharganj. Of the little time we have left in Delhi, we also spend some with much loathed present and souvenir-shopping, but are absolutely thrilled by the vast choice of bindis, the more traditional ones to stick onto your forehead, the less conventional ones to wrap around your arm or the belly bindis to put over your belly button; they are great! To rid us from our shopping woes and cargo worries, Amit invites us for a Punjabi dinner at his parents (Shashi, Amit's mother, for sure makes the best aubergines in the country), followed by a less traditional definitely-non-Punjabi bottle of tequila; such a healthy drink it is, with all those lemons and rare rocksalt from a cave in Pakistan. Cheers!
26/07/04 a last ...
taxi ride through Delhi at night to the Indira Gandhi International AirportTime's over - tonight we have to go to the airport. Against all expectations (though we should have known better by now) our cargo stuff is still in Delhi and not yet cleared by customs; another sweaty day in Paharganj it is then. In between, a last visit to Mahatta Digital in Old Rajender Nagar but no last chai at our favourite pavement chai stall there. Instead a last (or rather several) lassi at the "Best Lassi" stall in Paharganj - and best it is. A last rickshaw drive, a last beggar child incantating "Chapati, bukh lagi, chapati, bukh lagi" (Chapati, I am hungry), a last chai behind the Odeon cinema. A last shock when the phone rings at 7.30 pm and we're told that the paper work for our cargo boxes is not quite finished yet - about 3 1/2 hours before we're supposed to leave the hotel - and that they need Woody's original passport and original flight ticket at the cargo terminal NOW (in spite of them having photocopies of both). Later, a few last Kingfisher beer gulped down at record speed, a last look over Connaught Place from the balcony at the Palace Heights hotel, a last taxi drive with Amit through Delhi to the airport with a last paan stuffed into our mouths, some last rupees spent on overpriced coffee, a last good-bye... [See bigger picture in photo diary].
Kirsten Sep 2004 << previous
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