Winter has just set in the desert state of Rajasthan and the friendly Tibetan refugees too have pitched their tent in the Pink City for the annual sale of warm clothes. From fashionable maxi coats, fluffy woolen tops to ultra-modern overcoats, winter wears are virtually heaped in the market, set up this time along the V. T. Road (Veer Tejaji Marg) in Mansarovar, Jaipur. This is the first time that the Tibetan market is here. In the previous years it used to be in Amriton ka Bagh and prior to that, in Chaugan Stadium in the Walled City.
The Tibetan market is here alright but the delicious momos, the creamy dumplings filled with meat and served with spicy chili chutney, so much associated with people of the Northeast, are missing. One can say with some nostalgia that it was the Tibetans who had introduced momos to the ordinary people of Jaipur. The authentic momo, whose aroma used to waft all over the market years back revving ones appetite, is being missed. There is one shop set up by a vendor from Shimla which is serving momos but with vegetable filling and cottage cheese. And that is only a poor consolation for the momo lovers.
It appears vegetarians hijacked a perfectly delicious dish and filled it with chunks of cabbage. “Of late, we aren't allowed to serve the non-vegetarian momos. The organisers of the Tibetan market have advised us strictly not to serve the creamy dumplings filling it with meat. We are not sure whether it is true or not but they say the people coming to buy from the market would object to the smell of non-vegetarian food. To avoid chaos organisers have advised us to serve vegetarian momos instead,” said Kelsand from Shimla while preparing his vegetarian version of momos.
While the tongue tickling assorted dumpling, popularised by the Tibetan community all over India, is restricted from entering the market ground there are two non-vegetarian biryani stalls right in front of the momo stall proudly serving the mixed rice dish with a banner proclaiming, 'Non-Vegetarian Biryani Served Here'. Barkat Ali, a vendor at the biryani stall, said, “This is the first time we have put up a stall and it has been three days. No one has so far objected to our selling biriyani here ”.
Waking up to the exceptions we spoke to the Vice-Pradhan of Tibet market Thundup from Dharamshala who has been a part of the three-month Tibetan market organised across Rajasthan (Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota and Jhunjhunu) every winter over four decades. In all praises of government and locals, Thundup denied giving any direction to the vendors for not preparing the meat dumplings. He said, “The traditional meat dumpling was being prepared by the Tibetans here for themselves and later they started selling it to the visitors as well. But it has been two years now that they haven't participated in the exhibition and hence it is not being served.” He blamed the absence of workforce for the missing momo kiosks in the Tibetan market rather than any ban.
He also shared the information that that there are 250 kiosks selling latest fashion long sweaters, overcoats and designer shawls, leather jackets, sweatshirts, sweaters, mufflers and even blankets. The market is decked up with radiant coloured woolen garments, all sold at a fixed price.