Hues of Rajasthan
MANY THINGS Rajasthani came alive at the Taj Residency, Kochi last week. There was entertainment, food and bangles, all from that State of many colours. The puppet show at the Rajasthani Exhibition (It started on the November 2 and will go on till 15th.) It was ten minutes of pure, unabated, magic. The puppets themselves were two-foot figures or smaller, dressed in Rajasthan's own vibrant colours, reds and greens and yellows. There were at least twenty-five on display, in front of the puppet enclosure.
The first show was of Anarkali, suitably (and exceptionally) dressed in black for her tragic role. `Ek padaro mara desh... ' sang the two vocalists, accompanying themselves on drum and harmonium, and Anarkali danced her little heart off to the music. Up and down the floor she went, shaking her slender hips and dancing seductively for all she was worth. This was followed by the magician's dance (Ararare kado gayo... ') which is now titled `Indian Michael Jackson' for the twenty-first century; then came the snake-charmer (Champalan Safera) with his golden cobra (`pallo lat kelo... ').
The young man with the strings was kind enough to show the audience how he worked. He used his ten fingers as he demonstrated his art form to us, one hand to move the puppet along, and the other to make it move its limbs and dance to the music. One could not help wondering whether in centuries past, his ancestors did not bring other roles to life in the same manner, somewhere under a tree, in Rajasthan.
From the colour and vibrancy of the puppets, it was across the corridor to look at the bangles being made with natural shellac (insect larvae, collected from leaves, and filtered), and soapstone mixture, melted over a coal brassiere. It took only three minutes for Ahmed to roll a bangle and finish it with the aluminium insert. Again the bangles were on display in dazzling colours, some inlaid with mirror work. Perfect accessories for the vibrant `Delhi' materials that are made into Salwar Kameez outfits locally. Much more stylish than a handful of gold, and much cheaper.
Across from the bangles, a selection of Rajasthani watercolours was on show. The shades were more subtle than that of the bangles, and the paintings, on parchment paper, were reasonably priced, like the bangles. The ubiquitous Ganesh and other deities presided, but mostly, the paintings were of regional scenes, weddings and battles and coronations. There was no hard sell anywhere and the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming.
To finish off the evening in style the utsav restaurant had a Rajasthani theme. The waiters were dressed in bright waistcoats of Rajasthani material and sported saffas, in matching colours, on their heads. Musicians on traditional drums and Sindhi sarangi, singing folk songs, provided the floorshow. The buffet was a tasty menu of Rajasthani delicacies, including Baajre ki roti for the purists.
However, the punters were few and mainly resident foreigners. The restaurant manager bemoaned the fact that Cochiites appeared to be reluctant to be that little bit more adventurous to sample food other than Kerala food. We always seemed to want our fish curry and braised meat with whatever. A pity because the items, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, were subtly spiced and well prepared.
Three types of rice were served. Two of them were laced with dry fruits; one was garnished with fried shredded potato and the other was a little sweet. Sweet rice, like sweet yoghurt, is not a very Kerala idea, but it is very palatable. Young children would really enjoy it, on its own.
The Rajasthani experience sure makes you ask for more.
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