Dhola Ri Dhani, Hyderabad
What do you get when 18 friends, who haven't met each other for a good two years, come together for a day of fun and gay abandon? Well, if those friends are former members of 10D, you get a spectacular day at Dhola Ri Dhani, an ethnic Rajasthani village on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
The ride wasn't exactly smooth as the bus came a good hour late: blame it on Indian Standard Time! Nonetheless, we finally reached our destination. And it met our expectations, for sure!
When you walk in, you are greeted with a pretty display of a Rajasthani wedding, followed by a cool glass of jal jeera, a refreshing Indian (Rajasthani?) drink. Once in, you can explore the place by yourself, as it is not a guided tour. A puppet show (they spelled it 'papet show') follows this, which is essentially free and entertaining, although the owner of the stall does expect you to pay a small amount as a token of appreciation.
After that, we saw a magic show, which was fun unless you are a member of PETA. But the real highlight was next to the magic show: a little game in which you try to destroy a pyramid of glasses and win prizes (cheap Chinese goods). It's fun, although the prizes are worthless, except maybe the slinky.
After that, if you have time, you can have some fun the Laughing House, a room full of mirrors that take advantage of reflection to alter your features in a most-amusing way. Lunch follows this. Now, if you've never had Rajasthani food before and think you are prepared for it anyway, you are wrong.
Ghee (clarified butter) assumes a king-like position on the plate. The setting is traditional: you sit on the floor and eat with your plate on a stool. Apart from a mixture of curries (the paneer and dal were my favourites), you also have an all-you-can-eat supply of Bajra Mishri Roti (a roti made from a mixture of grains, primarily bajra), regular roti and some wonderful rice. You also get the traditional boti (a hard ball-like eatable typical of Rajasthan), gulab jamun (a round, Indian dessert), chaans (a yogurt-based drink), papad (a crispy Indian side-dish) and dahi vada (a form of chat). You will be so loaded with ghee, food and more ghee that you will take weeks to burn the calories.
Or, you could dance them away! And that's exactly what we did: dancing to some hit Bollywood tunes for an hour. Now, this was, I think, the first time I ever danced. Luckily, no one really knew what to do so we were all in on this together. Except a few, all of hit the dance floor in full view of a curious audience of tourists. We looked dumb, we didn't care! After all, we were here to have fun, and that's exactly what we did.
However, an hour of dancing left us exhausted and in desperate need of water. Luckily, we found a wonderful little stall where we could quench our thirst. After that, we headed off to the park. A caveman, monkeys, a giraffe and several other plastic exhibits adorn the path which, thanks to the cruel sun, seemed like an oasis in the desert. So while some went off for a camel ride and others tried to take a boat ride, the sands of time flowed fast and we were out of time!
None of us, even in our wiped-out state, wanted to leave. But after failed attempts at a game of STD, we gave up and headed for the bus (parental pressure was also involved in this). A game of Antakshari, a few wise cracks and that was the end of the best day we've had in months, maybe years.
A few hugs and goodbyes later, I was back home. But the memories live on. Till next year friends, when our lives go back to 'normal'. Good luck, and good job. Till time do us part...
PS: A special thanks to Sinjini and Rizwan for planning the event. They deserve all the credit!