Trip to Shekhawati (Rajasthan) holds many ‘first time’ tags for me. It was my first long drive. During this trip, for the first time, I saw an ‘only women’ run petrol pump. It was for the first time I was traveling with another family, usually I am a solo (I mean me, my wife and kids only) traveler.
We planned the trip to Shekhawati with Anirudh and his family. The route we took was Noida – Delhi – Dhaula Kuan – Gurgaon – Rewari – Narnaul – Singhana – Chirawa – Jhunjhunu – Nawalgarh.
On D-day, after picking Anirudh and his family from Delhi, we stopped at an all women petrol pump station. Girls appeared enthusiastic and excited about their job. It was republic day. The festive mood was in the air and their enthusiasm was palpable. I was pleased to see women entering in this field as well. I am convinced that a measure of a country’s progress is the growth, safety and independence of its fairer sex.
Roads were in good condition in all the three states of Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan. After crossing Rewari, the traffic reduced significantly. In winters, both side of the road presents a visual treat. In this season, the Supreme painter, dips his brush in sweat of hard working farmers and paints the landscape for miles and miles in festive yellow mustard color, announcing the arrival of spring.
After driving a while, we stopped at a small tea-khokha and had the luxury of enjoying tea with home-made Idlis cooked by Dhanshree (Anirudh’s wife). Near us, a small boy was giving bath to his horse. Gargi, my friend’s daughter, and Rachit burst into laughter when they saw the horse rolling in the soil immediately after the bath and getting its original hue and color back. ‘You can give bath to a horse, but you cannot stop him from rolling again’.
We were stopped at Haryana border, a sticker was put on the car and we were asked to pay for Red Cross Society. The only option was to pay and move ahead. We were given a receipt, but when we tried to verify the authenticity of those people by calling the number printed on the receipt nobody picked the call. It was evident that we had paid to road-rowdies for their republic day celebrations.
Agitated, but unable to do anything we entered Rajasthan. After driving only for another five-hundred meters, we were stopped again. This time our car was stopped by a few policemen. One of them asked us to pay to the police department for the Flag-Day. We were furious. The situation reminded me of a Czech proverb, “The big thieves hang the little one”. I tried my luck complaining that some people hardly at a distance of around half a kilometer in Haryana were also stopping illegally. He showed his helplessness, claiming that he cannot help us much in the state of affairs in Haryana. On our persistent resistance he suggested to pay less than his initial demand. We paid and moved. The episode make me realize, its not Czechoslovakia, but India with Indian proverb चोर चोर मौसेरे भाई being more suitable and here we were complaining about one to the other.
We reached Singhana after five hours of almost continuous drive from Delhi. I was brought-up in KhetriNagar, which is hardly one kilometer from Singhana. My father was an employee of Khetri Copper Complex till he got retired in year two thousand. Till his retirement, the routine of my alternate Fridays was to rush to Dhaulakuan after office hours, catch a bus going to Shekhawati (Sikar or Jhunjhunu), get down at Singhana at midnight and to walk from there to my home in Khetrinagar. Life in small town changes at slow pace. Everything looked similar. There was a rush of emotions, Singhana evoked feeling of being close to home.
हूँ इस कुचे के हर जर्रे से वाकिफ़
यहाँ से मुद्दतो आया गया हूँ|
On the way towards Chirawa, my eyes longed to see the chimney of copper mines. This landmark, which always ignited the feeling of being close to home while returning from college days of Jodhpur and Pilani, was indeed also the life-line of its employees. Lifeline! A chimney throwing sulphur-dioxide in the air, being a life-line! It may look like an oxymoron, but it was a late realization that the sulphur-dioxide it exhaled in the air reflected the health of the organization and in-turn the future of its employees and to the well-being of the economy of the near and even some far-flung areas.
The lines of sweet-shops selling पेड़े (peda) made us realize that we touched Chirawa. It had been years that we tasted these पेड़े (peda). I was of the opinion that after tasting the famous pede of Mathura and Haridwar, I would not find them so tasty. I was proved totally wrong. A single bite and I was forced to utter, “Awesome!”. No other पेड़े (pede) that I tasted these days can match the taste of चिड़ावा के पेड़े. These पेड़े are less sweet (matching the taste of new generation) and are prepared after heating the milk at medium low flame for a long time, which augments the taste and also its shelf life. There are many shops selling “Chirawa ke famous Peda” and there can be personal favourites as well. I learnt that the best among these is the one of Lalchand Halwai and that of Kashu Halwai.
Chirawa also has the distinction of being the birthplace of famous wrestling coach Guru Hanuman.
For lunch We stopped in Jhunjhunu. Jhunjhunu is famous for “Rani Sati Mandir”. It is reputedly the wealthiest temple in India after Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh. It receives hundreds of pilgrims and big donations each year. I had been to this temple as a tourist but did not like it. I did not find much to see and appreciate in the temple. Deep inside, I find the practice of Sati gruesome, and a blot on our ancient traditions. “Sati” reminds me of Rajah Ram Mohan Roy, a religious, social, and educational reformer. I feel thankful to this hero for getting the barbaric ritual of “Sati” banned.
As we approached Nawalgarh, the vast expanse of mustard field gave way to semi-arid landscape. The mustard yellow changed into the desert yellow with modest sprinkling of Khejri trees.
There were also a few green patches of farm in the midst of desert – the oases.
Kids were sitting in the car for a long time. The charm of sand made them impatient. Finally, we stopped and allowed them to play.
DS bungalow, our accommodation, was at one end of the Nawalgarh, but we missed that side and entered Nawalgarh through another end. So we had to cross Nawalgarh sharing its narrow crowded lanes with donkey driven carts.
At DS Bungalow, Hanumanji welcomed us in this unique way. The best part of Hinduism is the way God mingles with the mortals.
Few words on DS Bungalow, the accomodation: It had a friendly atmosphere and clean rooms (with attached bathroom), clean bed sheets, hot water and a tastefully decorated dining area. One room’s cost was Rs 450 per night. It was economical and a value for money.
Contact number of DS Bungalow was 0159-7422703.
DS Bungalow at night.
They have few rooms and there was a farm behind the house. The owner Babli was planning to add few rooms around the farm too. DS Bungalow is in-fact not a hotel, but a homestay.
Word of caution: Don’t take meals at DS bungalow. There was no menu card. In our greed for home cooked food, we avoided asking for the price and in the end paid exorbitant price (price comparable to any expensive restaurant in Noida) for the food. Food at Natraj hotel in the town was equally good, and was much cheaper – Rs 30 for a wholesome thali.
Those looking for luxurious accommodation in Nawalgarh can plan to stay at Roopniwas Hotel. It is adjacent to D.S Bungalow. Am I putting it in wrong order? I guess, I should say that the D.S Bungalow is adjacent to Roopniwas Hotel. Not the other way round 🙂