The majesty and grandeur of India’s timeless festivals has to be seen to be believed.I got these pictures in an email and I just have to share these with everyone. With gratitude and thanks to the site responsible for these pictures. I hope to be there amongst the crowds one day.

The majestic elephants

The majestic elephants

The traditional drummers

The traditional drummers

The faithful gather

The faithful gather

The temple elephants come out to a rapturous welcome

The temple elephants come out to a rapturous welcome

The tourist join the faithful for a unique experience

The tourist join the faithful for a unique experience

The elephants in all their finery surrounded by the crowds

The elephants in all their finery surrounded by the crowds

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This is probably why Reliance Fresh and its counterparts have had so much dificulty in establishing their retail feifdoms.Inspite of the stories of gloom and doom about the impending death of the chota dukaan wala and the rehriwala this unorganised retail industry has continued to carry on its business, serving every nook and corner of the country, where there is a demand for their produce.Absolutely fresh and crisp, juicy apples (unwaxed and inexpensive-unlike their imported, American counterparts now selling in supermarkets) were being sold all the way between Meerut and Modinagar and all the way further to Muradnagar and Ghaziabad.(our return route)

These amroods (guava) are the pride of the area around Moradabad.In my childhood we used to gorge on these delicious,almost seedless beauties on every visit to my Dad who was then working in a small place Raja-Ka-Sahaspur.It was so much fun to be kids once again on this trip and gorge on fruit and moongphali (peanuts) all the way to our destination (the retribution for all this gluttony would come later.)
 

Talking of moongphali, I found this unusal combination of moongphali and bolied eggs being sold near Hapur.Notice the red crisp packets being sold in the kiosk next to the cart? This is the resourcefulness of the Indian dukaan wala. From these two ramshackle outlets (the cart and the kiosk) the guy has managed to stock whatever a hungry traveller might need on the more desolate stretches of the highways. 

This is where we hit the jackpot.My brother insisted we stop here to have lunch instead of the more formal and sanitised hotels in the area.This is the favorite haunt that he and his colleagues stop at on their way to their work place in Kashipur.It comes somewhere after Gajraula. Bhajans has a very basic menu but what he does he does well.We had the stuffed tandoori kulchas with some pickle and curd.We had mooli,aaloo and gobi kulchas and my vote would be for aloo kulcha followed closely by the gobi one.

 

 

Have a look at the menu.I love this guy for his sheer chutzpah.Notice the Cha-Sha; Thanda-Wanda; Meetha-Sheetha;bread de item on his (ahem) well used menu card.

 I am a stickler for my tea bag wali chai with exactly 1 teaspoon of milk added.I travel the whole world with my Lipton Yellow Label tea bags tucked away in my luggage.After we had finished with the lunch  the guys ordered their sweet lassi, I asked for chai.My brother knowing my absolute dislike for oversweetened milky chai warned me that this was not the place to ask for the beverage.I stood my ground, asking for chai as without it I usually get a bad head ache and then I give everyone around me a bad headcahe.

Husband dear resorted to cracking poorjokes about women and their nakhras but my brother(God bless him) got into action and mustering all his organisational skills, asked the waiter to get some hot water.The waiter had one look at my very urban persona and giving a resigned shrug of his shoulder went to fetch me the hot water( I guess I was not the first nakhre wali madam at his joint ).While I dived into my suitcase to get the teabags the guys exchanged some jokes on my expense.When I returned to my chair there was a glass of piping hot water with a bowl of sugar and some milk waiting for me.I finally got meri wali chai !!!

While I have my chai, please have a look around the precincts of this Bhajan eatery.He has rented out some shops( I am sure he gets a cut out of the business generated due to the fame of his eatery) and runs one or two himself but what a business enterprise!!! There is one outlet exclusively selling achaars (pickles). You can get the standard Pachranga or you can go esoteric and ask for teent ka achaar (sorry,I have no idea what the english word for teent is but they are small green things like oversized peas that grow on bushes in the North)

Then there was this gift cum souvenir shop that sold everything from Khurja pottery (atleast I hope these are not some cheap knock offs from China) to ceramic kullads (of the Laloo Yadav fame.Remember he introduced the mitti wala versions in the railways for some time). BTW, Khurja is a small town near Bulandshehr whose mainly Muslim craftmen produce a certain type of blue pottery (although modern tastes have seen other colors come in) that is akin to the Persian one.I am reminded of the Chinese one too although the motifs are distinctly of Islamic tradition

We are still on the Bhajan eatery property.This music shop was selling CD’s and cassettes.We were first treated to some Kishna bhajans and then he switched to latest numbers from Dostana and that ‘talli’ number from the Mallika Sherawat film (can’t remember the name).
Next door was a general store selling everything from Pan Masala,bottled water to crisps, namkeens and chocolates.This is what we could see.I am sure his ‘under the shelf’  inventory is even more detailed.
I haven’t got the pictures but on the other side was a pan wala and a supari and chooran shop that sells a staggering variety of these things.I am told that the thing to buy when travelling these parts is one Damroo chooran that is supposed to cure every sort of stomach ailment ( ok I am not giving any details here although by the end of the trip I was myself a candidate for Damroo chooran)

Okay onwards after cha-sha.We settled back into our seats content and comforatble.My brother ofcourse had the driving to do.The roadside retailing kept bringing one amazing product after another into view.This grand Durbar of regal seating was one of the many mooda stalls that line the highway.They come in all shapes and sizes.You can get one to seat a little doll and ones that would do a shahanshah proud.I couldn’t help noticing that the one shaped like a recliner, that was selling here for about Rs.800 (pre-the grand indian tradition of haggling), sells in  the Fab India outlet near my home for over Rs.3000.

I clicked enough pictures of these for the other occupants of the car to protest that I was going plain crazy with the camera.

 

 
 This is it folks for the time being.You take a seat here and have cha-sha while I go to work on my next post of the series