Nature has amazing ways, does it not ? It has ways of consoling—otherwise why else, when temperatures in North India touch 45 degrees, would the most fabulous tasting fruits be available ? You have a huge variety of mangoes, of course—most in our part of India revere them. They get written about, sung about, their forms get embroidered or woven into fabric. And, certainly, they are eaten with utmost respect; eaten raw, semi-ripe, ripe, sun-cooked, stove cooked and uncooked. Then you have phalsa, the fantastic deep purple berry, a variety of tarbuz and kharbuza(melons)and, making us all ecstatic, litchis ! And I am not counting fruit we get for a short while from our hills–apricot, peach and plum !
Remember I wrote about the beautiful palace of Gabhana in my last post ? If you have not read it,you can read it here. This post is in continuation…
So—the very kind Umesh Singh, as I had told you, offered to drive us to Gabhana, Morhaina and his home in Veerpura. Veerpura is about half an hour from Gabhana.
Umesh’s family had a zamindari of 14 villages in that area. The Singh family, like many other thakurs from this area are from the clan of Jadhon rajputs, originally from Rajasthan. You know, I don’t stop getting astounded by the variety of people we have in India- varying hugely not just by religion but by sects, sub sects and, unfortunately, by caste. In places such as west U.P. it is prominent because people are still very traditional and clannish—okay, they are that way in the rest of India as well. Wonder what holds us together ?
We drive along a bumpy road, for which Umesh Singh is apologetic, along a tiny railway station,Somna, and reach the village , Veerpura.
Veerpura has 2 Inter colleges, 1 bank, a market place and little kiosks that sell Coca cola, gutka and Vodafone sims–what tentacles these goods have !
One of the inter colleges, Kalyan Singh Inter College was built by Umesh’s great grandfather and is named after him. We drive past this college and reach the house.
When or how could I have imagined such a quiet, old-world place to even exist ! What chance that I was getting to see it ! It is a large haveli–when you face it- on the right, you climb a few steps to an elevated,open courtyard, leading to a large sitting room. On the left is the main doorway leading to a courtyard on the inside and the private quarters.
The doorway is in pink sandstone with intricate carvings, again straight out of Rajasthan.
It was built by Umesh’s grandfather, Hodal Singh in 1916 and took 4 years to complete. Craftsmen from Rajasthan were brought in to carve the doorway.
It is a traditional structure and very well maintained. You can figure out the reason why– Umesh’s parents and elder brother live here. We go straight to meet Umesh’s mother, Tara Ratan Kunwar, who is sitting on one of the verandahs. She is welcoming and warm. We are joined by Umesh’s elder brother, Rakesh Kumar. Seeing him I think no one could be further removed from the picture I have in my mind of a thakur sahib—both in appearance as well as subjects that interest him ! He looks like a good professor-slim,clean shaven, kind faced and his interests range from history and ayurved to cooking. Now, Umesh, on the other hand, is very much the picture of a thakur–a gentle,kind thakur- big built, luxurious moustache and a diamond in his ear and he makes, I am sure, a loyal friend !
Each of the verandahs are sitting areas and because the courtyard is right in the centre, you feel you are connected with anyone coming or going— fabulous way of keeping an eye on everything ! To read my post on the uses of an Indian courtyard click here. One side has healthy potted plants, carefully tended to by Rakesh Singh.
The walls, pillars and floors are made of beautiful pink sandstone-
Umesh’s father, Mordhwaj Singh, has been out and has just returned. What impeccable manners and hospitality ! His namaskar with head dipped low and hands joined together near the forehead, he welcomes us with humility and warm words. I feel humbled. With his attire of crisp pyjama and kurta with a cap on his head and a walking stick in his hand – he is the picture of old world grace !
Here is a picture of Mordhwaj Singh, his wife,Tara and the two brothers–Umesh on the left and Rakesh on the right (Umesh’s wife, Rita, was busy in the kitchen–I have a picture of her,below)
I am surprised by another family picture- a much better one- shared by Umesh Singh—it had been taken on the same spot ! The parents, the three brothers, Rakesh,Umesh and Brajesh with their wives and children are in this picture-
They are a well-knit family and look really nice together !
A photograph of Rita Singh-
We move to the dining room where a Rajasthani lunch cooked by Rita is waiting- it is delicious- arhar daal with lots of warm ghee, bhindi, gatta and a couple of jugs of lassi made by Rakesh.
The quaint, round room lies beyond the courtyard and next to the kitchen. It is shaded and cool-
Outside the kitchen are two clay stoves — one, I learn, is called a barosi-a clay stove fired with wood or coal or cow dung cakes, used especially to slow cook milk. Rakesh Kumar takes special interest in maintaining it and uses it often. A cowdung fire is allowed to smoulder. Milk is put into a clay pot in which it cooks overnight and gets reduced to a thick consistency, becomes pink in colour and acquires a lightly smoked flavour- a beautiful dessert ! Here is the barosi-
Another regular chulha used by Rakesh Singh-
Beyond the house lie the family’s mango orchards and farm. A lot of the grain consumed in the house is grown on their farm—and all the milk and milk products, of course. Umesh Singh and his family invite us all-both during the mango season–to enjoy all the mangoes- as well as during winter to eat grouse found on their land . To be away from the cacophony of our cities and be in a quiet, traditional place among warm people who are welcoming and have time for you–would be an absolute pleasure !