Lunch in Rural Rajasthan- A Thali to be cherished
On our second day during the Tal Chapar visit, Mr. Poonia was kind enough to take us to a section that technically is outside of the sanctuary, but has a lot of rare birds coming. The challenge is this section is near mines where limestone and other minerals are being constantly taken out, leading to loss of vegetation and habitat for the birds. Fortunately no new mines are being allowed in the area and hopefully, the current ones will also be stopped soon. Just look at the picture of the Butterflies and you will know what mining does to the green earth. One can clearly see the difference between the land that has been mined and one that was not touched by the earth-moving equipment. We saw a sparrow couple trying to find a nesting place because there were hardly any trees
in the mined area, the male was carrying a feather for the nest and the female was examining a discarded Tyre to see if a nest can be made in it. I was very happy to click the pictures of them as they are rare in cities like Hyderabad. But this post is more about the big heart of folks from Rural Rajasthan, whom I have not mentioned I any of the earlier posts about our visit to Rajasthan.
We reached the boundary of the mines early morning and have just had some tea with biscuits with the idea that we will come back by lunchtime to the Tal Chapar forest rest house ( The food there, by the way, is awesome, especially the Kachoris). But we were so engrossed in watching rare birds and clicking their pictures that we totally lost the sense of time. Soon all of us explorers were famished and we were almost 45 minutes away from the guest house.
We found a small shelter kind of thing next to the mines, the guys in it knew Mr. Poonia and wished him in chaste Rajasthani, which we could not understand but could make out that they are requesting him to rest for some time as it was very hot. We all liked the idea and settled in the small room that the guys were using. There was only one small bed in it but they soon kept some dari (bed sheet) on the floor for us.
We settled and had the last remaining drops of water from our bottles. One of the guys in the settlement asked us if we would like to eat something, hungry we all agreed and the 3 men in the room started making some bajra rotis for us. (The millet was grown in the field right next to us) One of them went to a field close by where apparently his family lived.
Soon three thalis were ready for us, since we were 6 in the group, three of us took the first round of eating and I continued to click some pictures outside. What a difference shade can make in the desert! The temperature difference between outside and inside must have been a minimum of 7-10 degree Celsius. Once the first group had food, the guys cleaned the thalis and brought food for us. I must say this was the best thali I have had ever in my life. We had chach (buttermilk), Bajre ke rotti (Bread made of millet), some local vegetables, raw onions and chutney (sauce). But the best part was the owner of the hut, a boy of around 17-18 was treating us as his family guest and insisting on taking some more. Needless to say, this sumptuous meal was too much for us city-bred folks and soon we were unable to eat even one morsel more.
After the meal, we asked the boy, why they don’t have enough plates for the guest and how he manages to run dhaba in such an isolated place. His answer opened our eyes and made us understand when they say in Rajasthan, ” Padharo Mhare Desh“
“ Sirjee, this is not a hotel, we just live here to take care of our fields, since you people were hungry so we offered you food. This is not our business we keep some atta etc. here to cook for ourselves and vegetables we just take from our fields, but I do hope you liked our simple food ”. All this while smiling shyly.
We could barely mutter thanks with a feeble smile before getting in our cars to come back to the guest house. Trust me friends this experience of a having a home cooked food in rural Rajasthan in a small cabin next to the fields I will not forget for the rest of my life. In this post I would once again like to thank Shree Surat Singh Poonia, Assistant Conservator of Forests, who was kind enough to share his knowledge about birds and other flora and fauna of Tal Chapar with us and helped us in finding some very rare birds. As I have mentioned earlier this trip was with Shreeram MV one of the founders of Darter, a specialized photography + travel company, they are organizing more trips to Tal Chapar in January and if you want to look for some beautiful birds with experts helping you, I would suggest you get in touch with him for the same.
Earlier Posts in this series
- Birding in Tal Chapar Rajasthan
- Salt Pans of Tal Chapar Rajasthan
- Reptiles of Rajasthan in Tal Chapar
- The Cunning Fox of Tal Chapar
- Train to Rajasthan