A Trip to Navadvip

The weather here has changed, and it gets very misty in the morning, and quite hot and humid during the day. Here’s a view from the roof of the apartments where I stay.

misty morning in Mayapur:

And talking about misty, I was desiring to taste the famous Bengali dessert Mishti Doi (literally ‘sweet yogurt’), since I haven’t tasted it for decades. The other evening an old friend from my early cooking class days in Melbourne named Suchi, pronounced Soochi (who is now the headmaster at the school here) invited me to Navadvip to purchase some. Even the slightest of desires are fulfilled in Mayapur.

care for a spot of boating:

So next morning we hopped on a rickshaw and headed for the ghat (bathing place and boat ramp) at the end of the road. Navadvip lies across the Ganges and the best and quickest way to reach there is by motor launch, for the colossal fee of 10 rupees (about 25 cents).

When we landed at Navadvip, Suchi suggested we stop at the paratha shop near the ghat. Here’s the resident brahmin cook in full swing.

paratha maker:

Balls of soft, ghee-enriched plain flour dough are rolled into discs and griddle-fried on what appears to be a very well-seasoned large tava, a sort of slightly concave handle-less frying pan over a gas flame.

on a roll:

As they cook, our brahmin cook turns them with his hands until they reach a golden colour on both sides.

turning paratha:

Then they are stacked ready to serve with a fresh potato curry. The shop does brisk trade.

hot, fresh parathas:

The paratha shop also doubles as a sweet shop. Bengali sweets are world-famous, and there are a purported 2000 varieties. This is a very modest shop, with just a few varieties, but even these are quite spectacular. This particular selection are just made from milk, milk products and sugar.

navadvip sweet shop:

On our way to the Mishti Doi shop we came upon a local personality, a tiny hunchback beggar-devotee who very persistently collects alms as her daily income. I gave her 5 rupees; but she was not very impressed, and she told me so with a semi-smile. Here she is in mid-chastisement.

vaisnava beggar:

We cut through the vegetable markets. This sobji-walla (vegetable salesman) is selling snake beans, amla, winged beans, eggplants, a seasonal, submarine-shaped vegetable called portal, okra, eggplants and others vegetables I was unable to identify.

sobji walla:

Finally! On the corner we found the purported best Mishti Doi in Navadvip. Suchi bought 3 of these 2kg bowls, and I purchased a more modest 500g bowl. Mishti Doi is so much more than just sweet yogurt. To prepare it, fresh, unpasteurised and unhomogenised local cows’ milk is boiled in giant pots over moderate heat until reduced in volume, richly thickened and condensed. It is by then a slightly caramel colour.

mishti doi:

Local raw sugar (and when in season, the special gur, date palm sugar) is added, the mixture is cooled, then yogurt culture is added. The mixture is poured into clay pots where it sits overnight to form a wonderful thick condensed milk yogurt, rich and mysteriously sweet in flavour, with complex culinary subtleties that are quite beyond written description.

the monkeys of navadvip:

On the way back to the boat we encountered some very naughty monkeys who were eyeing off our shopping bags. We eyed them back and they scurried to the roof of this local temple.

monkey business section:

OK, I didn’t take the photo above, but believe me, monkeys are pretty smart, and very very mischievous, though they don’t get much out of the daily papers.

boat people:

On the way back to the Mayapur ghat, we asked some fellow travellers whether they were off to visit our Sri Mayapur temple and they answered to the affirmative. Over 5000 visitors come through the front gates daily.

Tomorrow is my last day in Mayapur. We take a taxi to Calcutta in the evening, then the night train to the state of Orissa, specifically the famous and holy ancient temple town of Jagannatha Puri which sits right on the Indian ocean. So stay tuned for more Travels with Kurma.
Posted by Kurma on 6/11/07; 5:40:55 PM

Life and Travel

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