Friday, June 4

Nandan Farms

Driving to Sindhudurgh, in Sawantwadi district of Maharashtra was a great experience... as you see the commercial-ness of Goa disappear.. you get to see and experience the raw nature of rural Maharashtra!

Thought the place is owned by Amrita Padgaonkar, we never got to meet her. She was apparently holidaying in the Haimalayas... only crazy people like us would holiday in the heart of rural Maharashtra in the middle of the summer heat. Her brother, Madan and Sandeep Sawant who works with Culture Aangan, the same NGO that Amrita is involved with were around and made sure we did not miss her. Culture Aangan supports the arts and crafts of Sindhudurg.

We were glad we had planned for only one night there as the heat was too much - though the nights were very cool... I’ll get to that in a little while. 

The drive from Margoa was only a couple of we reached Our fifth Mahindra Homestays destination  Nandan Farms by lunch -  and were treated to some great food, cooked from fresh organic veggies picked from the farms all around us. 

After a brief siesta we took a drive around the area... in search of cashews, kokum and alphanso mangoes - all local speacialities. Sandeep first took us to a cashew factory where we learn the various ways that cashews are extracted from the fruit... by boiling and roasting... and the most important part - grading. All this work was done by women... some of them were self-help-groups... and some co-operatives. Needless to say we bought some great cashews... and ate a lot of them too.

We then went to a Alphanso pulp extraction factory - unfortnately the ‘season was over’ so all we could do was pick up some bottles of pulp... which we later enjoyed with phulkas (in Pune)... yummy!

Though we could not visit the local toy-factories that were so famous... but we were very dissapointed to see that the local stores only stocked wooden toys these days are ‘painted’... with chemical paints... instead of the traditional lacquered technique. We expected something like the toys of Channapatna... 

Sandeep took us to a Vengurla... a very ‘local’ beach... that was really beautiful... natural... untouched... pictures are better than words.

Our cottage at Nandan Farms was a restored outhouse with some ancient solid wood beams supporting the sloping tiled roof, along with a large covered verandah that we used as a sitout. The doors were made of sold wood... and the door stoppers were shaped like fish. In the daytime the heat was quite bad, but the star-lit sky and the cool breeze made the nights a great treat. Thanks to the absence of any lights in the vicinity we were able to look at a quite a few constellations.

We also learnt that the fruit known as mangostein (one of Prabha’s favourites and referred to as the ‘king of fruits’ by Prabha’s late father - an eminent horticuturist) was locally known as kokum. Kokum juice... very popular all the way from Managalore to Mumbai... is ‘cooling’ to the body, and also makes for a great substitute to tamarind in rasam, when it came to cooked dishes.

The Malvani food at Nandan Farms was great - though it is very similar to the konkan cuisine it had the unique taste of kokum, dried kokum (amsul) and dried mango (kairi) in all the dishes. The bread fruit bajji, the bhendi curry, cluster beans curry,  and everything with it’s unique taste - ending with the Sol kadi (made from kokum juice and coconut milk) for digestion. 

Over the next few days we drive thru Pune, Nashik (to check out the Xylo plant), Amadavad (Ahmedabad) and finally reach Castle Bera near Pali in Rajashtan.


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