देसी – The Magic Word
देसी, the word which represents our culture and heritage, has been used indiscriminately in recent times to sell anything and everything. It has become a mere tag that help brands sell those goods which, perhaps, will not be sold otherwise. In times when we are moving towards westernization, देसी captures our imagination and revives hopes of return to our own culture and heritage.
We, especially the younger generation, who have only heard from our elders about the aura surrounding everything देसी, rush to anything that is labeled देसी. With the hope that we might get to feel and experience the same aura that our elders have. But often we are disappointed, as the word देसी itself doesn’t come with a certification or standardization.
And so we were apprehensive of what we might receive when we decided to visit ‘Just देसी’ for our morning breakfast while returning from a friend’s marriage in Neem Ka Thana, Rajasthan. From the window of our car we spotted huge billboards of ‘Just देसी’ declaring its ethnic and indigenous charm. The claims looked as tall as the billboards itself. Once again in search of the aura of देसी, we decided to give it a try.
Just देसी – Restaurant truly देसी
Just देसी (literally meaning, only ethnic, indigenous) restaurant is located dot on the NH 8, which connects Delhi with Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. It is exactly 150 kms from Delhi and 120 kms from Jaipur.
In the words of Mr. Gokul (Whatsapp Gokul or Call), who is the partner and founder of Just देसी, “Just देसी is an eating joint to celebrate local food and traditions. The restaurant attempts to restore pristine glory of Indian food and ambience. It brings you closer to rural India. The real India. Just देसी is an opportunity to experience the grandeur of India, tastefully. Frugal, indigenous food is served in rich environment, crafted in an eco-friendly manner, but so aesthetically.”
देसी from Entrance to Exit
The first thing that caught our attention was its architecture. It is unique in every way. Climbing down the stairs of the entrance we noticed a small ‘Johad’ where one could sit for hours with their feet in cold and calming water.
Next up, we spotted a Sun-Dial, a देसी mechanism for keeping time during day hours. Had seen one earlier at Jantar-Mantar (Delhi).
From the time we entered Just देसी we felt mesmerized and awestruck with the aura that surrounded the place. Everything around had a देसी touch, not just deliberate or pompous. You can understand it from the fact that we took a good 10-15 minutes roaming around and exploring it before entering the main eating hall.
The Unique Architecture
Every aspect and the corner of Just देसी has a story to tell. The most prominent and the eye-catching is a panel inside the main hall which flaunts imprints of those palms (hands) which made this creation possible.
It is a touching tribute to all those workers – the masons, the laborers, the electricians, the carpenters, the plumbers, the painters, the artists, and even the contract labor working as fabricators who toiled to make this structure a unique creation. A big photograph of all these workers adorn a wall in the verandah outside. The verandah serves as an air-cushion to help moderation of the temperatures inside.
The walls are made of mud. The simple floors with rangoli make it so homely. Stone lattice add beauty to the interiors besides enabling fresh air in. Paintings all along the columns and false ceiling keep your eyes engaged. Back-lit niches have either beautiful artifacts or got some social messages related to food and rural life.
Even the furniture inside Just देसी is unique. Made of mango wood, the tables have been crafted by artisans with board games. While you wait for the fresh food to be cooked, your kids can play ludo or snake and ladder or the elders can engage themselves with chess. This gives you a homely feeling while you wait for the food. I remember playing Ludo with my siblings while we waited for our mother to serve food to us.
The entire complex is conceived as an integrated complex, based on a holistic philosophy, that is there to be seen. The womenfolk of the village get a prominent working on a चूल्हा (Chullah) baking fresh रोटी (Roti/Chapati). Which are further served with great satisfaction that can be seen in their radiant eyes. A sense of accomplishment sometimes overpowers their fatigue. They do not mind if some extra देसी ghee is added to the rotis, incurring loss to the owners. For them, a broad smile on a customer’s face is more important than the profit of the owners.
Shouldn’t we be talking about ‘Food’
In fact we were so absorbed in the surrounding that food looked a far thought. But eventually we had gone there for food and so we ordered चाय (Tea) followed by “मक्का के पंराठे” and दही (Curd). The tea was served followed by Paranthas and Dahi. It was pure and Just देसी in taste as well as aroma. Simple yet satisfying. Though we found the menu an expensive one, it was worth it. The feeling that they provide with the food is invaluable and cannot be accounted for in the price of the food itself.
Menu – A story in itself
Their menu (click to see) is absolutely different. It has been selected keeping in the mind the availability of ingredients in the close vicinity. This has been done with a view to ensure freshness and purity. Almost all the eatables used in the restaurant are being procured from within a radius of 50 kms and most of the consumables are being/will be made and/or processed within the complex (as per owner claims). The founder cum owner of Just देसी, Mr. Gokul, was busy organizing for a function that was scheduled in the evening but took out time to greet us and inquire about our experience with the food. Very cheerful man in mid thirties. I had brief chat with him on the concept and how it came to them to have developed such a beautiful restaurant. He told me that the idea occurred to him while working on sustainable development projects and they designed an elaborate and extensive ecosystem in form of Just Just देसी which is self-sustaining. An ecosystem that represents the micro structure of our society, where people are dependent on each other for survival and growth.
Finding Divinity in Food
A harmonious relationship between the management and local people brings divinity in the food, described as sparsh (the human touch) and ekatmata (integrated) in our scriptures. While the food inside is indeed divine (without onion and garlic), there is enough treat for those with the Rajsik craving also. There is chaat-papri, rajma-chawal, chhole bhature, pao, bhaji, etc. in the fast food section just outside the main hall.
It is not just about food
While you are at Just देसी, you can have a great time with your family and friends. You can choose to play darts, like we did (see the images below). Or, shop from their collection of organic food (certified) such as truly homemade pickles, herbal cosmetics, wooden toys from good old days etc. There is a lot for your kids as well, if you have any. Solar and wind game kits for kids with which they would love to spend time and learn in a scientific way. One thing is for sure, you will not stop clicking pictures when you are at Just देसी. There are so many places within this small complex where you would love to pose for selfies.
Besides being a unique complex which would soon be self-sustaining, Just देसी is also designed to showcase as to how the entire system can be integrated into a place of gainful employment, self-esteem, delectable and nutritious food, eco-friendly business, worldly pleasures, et al. I have no doubt that soon this unique place will turn into on of the favorite hangouts of families.
So, next time you are driving on NH8, it is worthwhile taking a break at Just देसी. May be, if you are planning an outing with family and friends, its only 2.5 hours from Delhi and less than 2 hours from Jaipur. Or, perhaps, you want to organize a party for your wedding ceremony, marriage anniversary or any other occasion, Just देसी is an ideal place to give your guests an experience to remember. This place is just amazing. I plan to return to Just देसी with my family one fine evening. The prospect of exploring it further will always remain my priority.