Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adventure 9: Banaras Hindu University

After meeting Ranaji, we made our way to Banaras Hindu University, since we were already on that side of the city, at Assi Ghat. Banaras Hindu University, also known as BHU, and in Hindi known as Kaashi Hindu Vishvavidyaalaya, is where my father went to college about 30 years ago. He graduated in 1979 from the BHU-IT, which is the Institute of Technology. When we got there, I’m guessing he was filled with old memories, because he was excited about so many different places on the campus that were obviously there when he was studying there as well. It was my first time visiting my dad’s alma mater, and it made me feel good because he was enthusiastic about it. I didn’t know what he was thinking most of the time though, because after being there for 5 years he had to have made more memories than he could possibly share. We did a simple drive-thru visit of the campus, checking out all my dad’s old hostels (dormitories, for you hard-core American-English speakers) and different important buildings on the campus. Finally we stopped at the main mandir of BHU, called BHU’s Kaashi Vishvanaath Mandir. We offered our prayers and left, making our way out of the campus through what is known as the “Lanka Gate.” There is an area right outside of BHU known as Lanka, which this gate leads out to, hence its name.


We drove for about 30 seconds after crossing the gate, when my dad told the driver to stop, randomly, on the side of the road. I didn’t actually think about it at the time, but my dad didn’t really give me time to think, either. He quickly told me to come with him, said, “I want to show you something…” and started walking towards the other side of the street. After crossing the street, we came across a shop called “Pehelwaan’s” and it was a lassi shop. Now, a lassi  (pronounced LUHS-see) is a sweet, cold, thickened milk. It is thickened up by way of a tool that looks somewhat like an enlarged top, with a lengthened handle. The lassi-maker will hold the tool in between his hands, which leads to (usually) a large silver-colored pot, filled with milk. He will put lots of sugar and ice into the pot, and then start to move his hands back and forth, making the tool spin very fast, and churn the milk. Since the ice is there, the milk thickens very quickly and becomes cold. He will remove the ice, then pour the lassi into a clay pot about half the size of a normal-sized cereal bowl (yes, this is what you drink it out of. How awesome, I know). Along with the thickened milk, he will have a pan of yogurt on the side, on top of which accumulates a thick layer of molasses over time. Once he pours the sweetened and thickened milk (which is by now the consistency of a milkshake, without the froth) into the clay pot, he breaks off a piece of the molasses about the size of the area of the rim of the pot, then carefully removes it from the top of the yogurt, and places it flat on the surface of the milk. This, all together, is known as a lassi. At Pehelwaan’s though, there is one other specialty. After putting the molasses, they’ll put another substance on top, which is essentially the consistency of pudding, but tastes like heaven (it’s sweet too, wouldn’t you know it). It’s called rabadi. And at Pehelwaan’s, all of this together is a lassi, and is probably the best drink I have ever had. It is especially good in hot weather, as it somehow cools your whole body down. I have noticed that I’m having amazing drinks wherever I go. Coconut water in Bangalore, and lassi in Varanasi… My dad said that Pehelwaan’s used to be his favorite lassi shop when he was in college. It felt so cool to experience this place with him 30 years later… If I had simply come here myself, it might not have been as good. Anyways, this was my first lassi (but not my last, if I’ll have anything to say about it) in India. The cool thing is that since the pot/cup thing you drink it out of is made of earth, you can toss it anywhere and it’ll become part of the earth again. Very eco-friendly. We bought three, one for me, one for dad, and one for Nani. We all drank our lassis and moved on…

1 comment:

Mary! said...

sounds SO good!! bring me some back?