CHAI, MASALA DOSA AND DHAL

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Looking back on my days in South India I must say that I enjoyed the food very much there.  All the dhal dishes, the variety of vegetable dishes, the spices and fragrant herbal dishes were all very much to my taste, and rice as a accompaniment was delicious.  While sorting through photos the other day I found some of my visit to Vijayawada and the surrounding area in Andhra Pradesh, and I picked out some of the ones that portrayed foods, street food sellers, and chai shops.

Man selling his vegetables using his bike as vehicle, both practical and colourful.  The carts on wheels are also very practical and you see them a lot in all the towns and villages.  The young boy was minding a cool water stall, big smile on his face as he was obviously enjoying this job.

Along the road on the way to Vijayawada we came across a rice harvest, the people harvesting were working in the hot sun, laying the stalks of rice on the road, we were told that the trucks and busses driving over this would dislodge the rice grains and make the job easier for them to gather the rice.

A lovely lady preparing vegetables, and a storage place where the cabbages and green chillies seem to be a popular food item.

Another popular street selling item would be the bananas, I ate some lovely little bananas in South India, they tasted so creamy, a bit like banana ice-cream, delicious. The hot food stall in the dark, this was around Christmas 2009, the smell was very nice and wrapped itself around us while we browsed the other stalls in the area.  It was the first time I saw the Christmas stars on sale, beautiful crafted from light cardboard, I bought some and took them home to give to my grand children.
IMG_5485I’m always fascinated with the vegetable types that I am not familiar with, here are quite a few on display, the okra, and the bitter gourd (though I have tried to grow these in Ireland), not even sure what the purple vegetable is.  I would want to try them all out.  And when I find spices or herbs between them I go altogether enthusiastic.  Loving it all.

Another street food seller, love the amount of green beans, they make any meal worth eating. So colourful too.

Here I cannot remember what this man was selling, I thought some sort of nuts perhaps.  And on the right it was the children that caught my attention more, they were very curious about me for some reason.

About the chai houses I have fond memories too, you would be walking or driving along the road and there you would regularly come across a chai seller, lovely to sit in the shade and drink a delicious glass of chai, and chat with the local people who would be just as curious about you as you about them.  A relaxed way of living, having all the time in the world, the way it should be.  Materialism has not reached these parts it seems.  I still think that rural areas are healthier and nicer to live in wherever you go in the world.  In India you are never far away from other people even in rural areas, it is not a lonely sort of place.  It’s colourful and friendly.  I was fortunate to travel both in Tamil Nadu, in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala, in each place I made very good friends.  In Kerala my good friend Mary even gave me demonstrations in preparing traditional Kerala dishes, she and her husband also took me into the mountain areas where they showed me a variety of trees that produce spices, very interesting, but I will write about that another time.  My friends, I do hope you enjoyed my little photo journey through this delightful part of the world.

GANDIKOTA FORT

In India, somewhere about 15 km from Jammalamadugu in the Kadapa district, in Andhra Pradesh, there lies a village called Gandikota. It lies on the right bank of the river Pennar.  This river creates a deep gorge while it runs through the ancient red granite rocks of the Erramala hills, whole big bolders of them, a magnificent sight!  About seven years ago I was there. It was new years day of 2010 and together with some friends we visited the fort there and the temples and mosque all well maintained ruins now. Gandikota Fort was constructed around the 12th century during the Pemmasani Dynasty, and became one of the most prominent forts in the country. Gandi is the Telegu name for gorge and the village and Fort got their name as a result of that. There was quite a bit to see at Gandikota, most immediately when you enter the area there is the impressive ancient Jamia Masjid mosque with its beautiful architecture, its elegant arches. Then there is the granary which is a very robust and dark building, very cool inside while intense heat outside, only air vaults letting in a tiny ray of sunlight.  Before long the eye catches another interesting building, this is the ruin of the Ranganatha Swamy Temple, very impressive with its magnificent carvings and pillars. The carvings depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There are also the ruins of the Madhavaraya Temple and some other ruins in the vicinity.

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The rock structures of the gorge are magnificent, the red granite majestic in huge blocks precariously grace the tops of the gorge, you have to climb over them to get to the edge and see the view. Granite is an igneous rock made up of a variety of mineral, like quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende. The composition of small amounts of mica, amphiboles, and other mineral is what gives granite its red colour.

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I spent many months in this vicinity over several years but alas it is now seven years ago I was there last.  This visit was one of the outstanding natural and archaeological beautiful places that I visited in Andhra Pradesh, but there are many more. It’s been too long since my last visit to India, me thinks.

FLASHBACK TO SOUTH INDIA

I would like to share some much treasured memories of my travels in South of India with you all.  Somehow being in Gozo reminds me of my time in India, not sure what it is that brings up the memories but there you are. A page out of my travel journal describes a trip that I made by taxi from Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu to Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh, it was a most interesting and beautiful journey.

We left very early in the morning while it was still dark, this meant that we would be able to watch the sun rise over the landscape.
I was simply glued to the window of the taxi, this was a large comfortable Indian taxi, in front the driver and our friend Ramesh and beside me the friend that I was sharing the journey with.
We travelled fast at first, there were many signs of people, of life starting to happen in the little hamlets which we passed, though I saw far less people than I had seen in Tiruvannamalai the last few weeks because of Deepam Festival.  I saw the sun rise over the farmers already working on the land, early and in the cool of the morning.

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The landscape started to change, the mountains became quite different in shape, edges more sharp and irregular.
The vegetation and the trees became very lush. In the hamlets along the roadside we passed women getting their children ready for school, we saw them carrying colourful plastic water containers on their head. We passed men herding large flocks of goats with silky coats.

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Many of the houses and huts, some of them circular in shape, were made of woven materials, making full use of locally produces building materials, the roofs becoming a bit higher as we got nearer to Andhra Pradesh, but we also passed many of the cement houses, they have flat roofs with railings and stairs leading up to the roof. Roofs are made good use of in India, these houses too were changing in appearance becoming more elaborate in their decorations, often with iron and stone trellises.

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Many farmsteads have chickens running around. These hamlets and roadside villages are centres of commercial activity, shops, teashops, workshops, craft shops were people were working at making the crafts such as basketry.

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Outside the villages and along the road there were also many brick making places where people would be making the bricks and they would all be piled up and then baked either in the sun or in a special system of piling them and firing them.
Lots of basket weaving places near to Vellore also. Vellore is a large town with lots of colourful shrines and temples along the road, their use of colour reminding me of the choice of colour used in Celtic art, very vivid and bright.
It was very hot in the taxi, we were drinking some water to keep going.
There was so much to see along the way. I noticed two high Termite heaps which really impressed me.
The journey now took us into a much more agricultural land, with lots of crops tended along the roadside, crops such as peanuts and rice.

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Wonderful trees also, and banana plantations. In Kanumolapati we came across a very ancient Hindu temple, but the closer we came to Tirupathi the fewer the Hindu temples became, I was now seeing the equally lovely and interesting minarets of the mosques, some of them very beautiful.

In Kadapa town we had a bit to eat at the AP Tourism restaurant which had very good value for money, lovely food and good restroom facilities.
This journey took 12 hours, we stopped off at Agaral about 20km outside Tirupathi at the Park Avenue Hotel Gardens to have some excellent Thai.

All my memories of India are very precious to me.