Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tiffin at the Falls

When a VSO colleague, Liam, came to stay with me, I decided it was an ideal opportunity to visit to our local picnic spot – the Phurli Jharan Falls. I still haven't mastered the art if Indian cooking, so I did a deal with Baijayant and Gita - we would pay for the car (about £7 for the day) and they would provide the picnic or, as it's called here, the tiffin. The car was due to turn up at 9am which I thought was a tad early for a Sunday but in the end Gaida, my maid, was so keen to view my houseguest she had turned up 7.30am which put paid to any thoughts of a lie-in. Round at Baijayant's house there was the usual chaos that precedes any such excursion. Soyem, B & G's three-year old son, was racing round the house shouting "Chello, chello!" (Let's go, let's go); the car had turned up but Gita was still making the roti – she had got up at 5am to prepare our feast; there was "crockery" to locate – they don't do plastic here, the plates and bowls made out of leaves; and shoes and shirts to find. Finally we piled into the car and glided out of Bhawanipatna with Soyem standing up in the front helping the driver to steer. I suppose when children ride on the front of motorbikes as a matter of course – strapping one into a car seat must seem a bit superfluous. The Falls, located in the Karlapat Sanctuary, aren't particularly high but are in an idyllic location. After a quick shower from the waterfall's spray we went a bit further down the hill to sit by the river. For men, a trip to the river includes a ritual bath and Baijayant had brought soap as well as lungis- a kind of skirt that a lot of men here wear - for himself and Liam. Whilst they had their bath, Gita and I sat on a rock and cooled our feet in the water. She was surprised to learn that I could swim - no-one she knows can, male or female, despite childhood visits to the seaside etc. "You're so lucky – you get an opportunity to try everything". I offered to teach Soyem but, on hearing his loud protests floating upstream as he was dunked head first in the water by his father, we decided he probably wasn't a natural water-babe. Suitably refreshed we sat down to lunch. Like all Indian meals they don't do anything by halves. We had roti, curry, a mango chutney you would die for, home-made sweets, fruit and tomato ketchup that you suck out of the sachet rather than putting on your food. Everything bio-degradable was then chucked into a ditch which made me feel a bit uncomfortable given the pristine surroundings but, whilst we were having a quick swing on the trailing branch of a banyan tree and a final paddle in the river, I noticed that the cows had moved in for their share of the picnic and were busy demolishing our rubbish. Click here to see more photos.

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