Not a Tinsel Town- Memorable 24 hours in Kota
This time during my visit to Kota, I experienced the city for the first time as a tourist since I had a visitor, born and brought up in Delhi, visiting my native place with me.
End of the trip she tells me…’ what made you leave this place and come to the jungle of concrete?!’
Aah! falls so bang on…a different set of rose glasses you wear and the drab township known for its massive & dreaded Coaching Industry, Kachori, Kota Doria Saree, Kota Stone and the deadly Chambal Ka Paani starts to appear rosy.
The Kota Factory!
Interestingly, the city’s heroes are the ‘Sirs’, the teachers coaching in these colleges that attract students from across the country. The industrial township Kota is now associated with tough coaching centres for JEE, IIT and more. The number of students getting selected out of these centres was alarming at one point in time, forcing the media to dig into the cause. The robust coaching industry is estimated at 4000 crores, generated from a lakh and a half students taking admission in the coaching centres every year.
As one strolls in the city lanes, every nook and corner of the city has a food mess, small restaurants and hostels catering to the students and their parents. Yes, parents too come and park themselves to support or to say monitor their children. Sometimes parents are more aspiring than their children, and young blood succumbs to pressure, which remains the sad backdrop of the serials like Kota Factory.
The massive walls of the malls in the city are dressed with hoardings and posters of their local heroes, the ‘sirs’ who attract the students or shift students from one to the other college.
The Saree Affair
Saree is not a mere garment or a piece of six-yard cloth. It is a story, a confidence that one wraps around, and a taste of a fine fabric that you flaunt. My fondness for sarees comes from my growing up years in Rajasthan. The Kota Doria threads is a lightweight fabric made of tiny woven squares (Khat), handwoven on traditional pit looms in and around Kota, Kaithoon. The weaves and the handwoven Jaal is intricately crafted by adept hands passing the skilled craft from generation to generation. Despite hand woven-crisp yet soft, Kota Doria is marginalized for multiple reasons yet remains unparalleled in Elegance & Grace.
Due to its exclusive hand-weave, the pure Kota Doria is considered expensive and is now gradually not commercially popular. To drape a Doria saree for a saree enthusiast is certainly is a matter of elegance and pride. Someone who understands texture, fabric, and love for the handloom can never go without possessing a Kota Doria.
Interestingly, Kota Doria and its variations can be found in the beeline of saree shops in the city. The concentrated market of sarees, Rampura (Beherugali), is the mecca of saree aficionados. In the same cotton fabric, the variety, variations, the price range can be very tempting for the outsiders, but the stuff is worth the buy. Salwar Kurta, Dupattas with Gotta Patti work are a big attraction since they are modestly priced in the city and make elegant party wear. If you try to buy the same fabric or stuff from outside the city, be prepared to give 3 to 4 times more. Some enterprising shopkeepers have started retailing the stuff online.
The city of Chambal
So for all those who have not visited the city, here is a snapshot – A tourist is surprised to see Seven Wonders of the World in Kota (Coliseum, Great Pyramids of Giza, Taj Mahal, Statue Of The Liberty, Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Eiffel Tower, Christ The Redeemer) and a version of Queen’s necklace or a Band Stand too! Kota Barrage is not to be missed.
If you are into enjoying the gardens, then Chambal Garden & ChattraVillas make a brilliant choice to enjoy the flora, fauna and boat ride.
For history lovers and who have an eye for antique, a fascinating Rao Madho Singh Museum, aka Garh Palace, is worth exploring. It is a small city, so commuting is not a problem, since we concentrate on tourist places within the city.
The current Lok Sabha Speaker, Om Birla hails from the city. A drab sounding township almost lost on the country map at one point in time is now buzzing with new construction. For decades, the city is still struggling to get its airport; its absence is a sore point for people visiting and desiring to visit the city.
The foodie trail
A dope for all those who know that I hail from the city wonder that I do not relish Kachoris (two varieties-with Peethi & Pyaaz filling). The answer is precisely this… that hailing from Kota, I cannot enjoy eating Namkeen or Kachori in other cities. The flavour of Heeng & Mirchi is predominantly its USP.
It would be interesting for people outside the city to see natives of the city eat Kachori morning, afternoon, evening. Adding Namkeev Sev over Kachori is again something very unique to the place and its people. The Chatni (dip) given along with Kachori, adds to the flavour. Typically served on a newspaper piece (here we not discussing if it should be served in paper or not) is a common site of the shops. Sua-lal, back in the day, was very popular for its Peethi (dal) kachori and Jodhpur Nameens for its onion Kachoris.
My morning breakfast trail was obviously Kachori and then Jalebi. Shambhu Jalebi in BajajKhaana (old Rampura) is not be missed. The number of people standing with social distancing very patiently waiting for their milk –Jalaebi glass says the story of the shop’s popularity.
Well, again, the Golgappas here are very different from what one in Delhi & NCR. The thin crust of Golgappa and its perfect size is a delight to eat as it melts and softly burst its flavours in the mouth.
A beeline of Thelas (hand – carts) serving different flavours of Golgappa Paani can be fascinating for many. Aloo ki Tikki is served with Chola, topped with onion until you ask not to and want it somehow. Again unlike in usual cities, where Tikki is served with Chatni and curd dressing.
A quaint shop tucked for decades in Gumanpura serves Masala Limca. It is a must-have for those who like to burp and digest their day’s food trail.
Well, not luxurious options to stay, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and Umed Bhawan are recommended for stay. If you have more than 24 hours to spend in Kota, then places around the city make good tourist attraction too.
The most amazing part of small towns is its People’s Connection…a familiarity, respect for the lineage one comes from which feels so alive despite the passage of time and blurring memories.