Punjab is known for a lot of things, but the one thing that tops the list is in fact the Punjabi hospitality. And having experienced it first hand, I am certain it is one of the few places in India that every visitor yearns to go back to time and again.
It was around late October this year that I decided to take a long weekend off. Had it not been for the job, I would have loved to be a sharecropper somewhere in the hills or surely in Punjab. Have you noticed how happy these people are? Their hearts are content, their minds are at peace, and they live the simplest life with the utmost pride. I always envied that love for life.
As a child, I remember visiting my maternal grandmother in Gurdaspur who cooked food on a chullah that tasted like it was prepared in God’s kitchen. How her gentle hands rolled those thin rotis and placed them fresh out of the oven on my plate only to slather with extra ghee in the end. I have carried those memories with me for years and so I decided to relive them this year in October – also the best time to be in Punjab.
I booked a safe and sanitized Delhi to Ludhiana taxi and was ready with my packed bags around 6 on a Friday morning. Excited and nostalgic we touched the highways in under 30 minutes. The road trip was fun and my driver super chatty. I spent a day in Ludhiana eating at some of the finest local restaurants. Highly recommended – The Pizza King, R.E.D, and Aman Chicken. I called it a day after 8 pm and went to my hotel early to leave for Gurudaspur the next morning.
The following day, I left for Gurdaspur – my mother’s town. My hotel had arranged a car ride for me and in 2 hours we were in Gurdaspur. Nothing had changed and yet everything was different. I was visiting the town after 12 years. With my heart pounding and my eyes teary, I went straight to my mother’s house.
Warm hugs, childhood anecdotes, and emotional reunions continued for at least 2 hours. Soon after, my family celebrated my homecoming with a hearty lunch. We all ate shalgam ka achaar, kali dal, sarso ka saag, and heaps of kheer. After lunch, some char-pais were laid out in the verandah for us to enjoy the soothing autumn-winter sun and yellow mustard field.
We all welcomed the next day with a quick visit to the Gurudwara followed by fiery kite-flying competitions. In the evening, we all dolled up to light the bonfire and an extravagant feast was prepared just for me. Some close relatives were invited and I met them all after decades. It was surreal to be part of this celebration, it was surreal to be loved by people who I hadn’t met or contacted in years. And leaving this place wasn’t going to be easy the next day.
My time in Gurdaspur ended faster than we all realized it. After long warm hugs, we managed to say our goodbyes and I was off on the road again. I was heading to Chandigarh. My last destination on this trip. Chandigarh is beautiful – modern yet traditional. I ate breakfast at Nik Baker’s, another place I highly recommend. I toured around Sector 17, Sector 35, managed to stop at Elante Mall, and finally ended the day with a walk at Sukhna Lake and a few brilliant shots.
This soulful trip was a much-needed break from my work-from-home routine. The good food in Ludhiana, the emotional reunion at Gurdaspur, a slow relaxed weekend in Chandigarh definitely helped me come out of the monotony that was eating me up in Delhi. Given how much it helped me cope up with the pandemic, I am looking forward to more such short breaks over the weekend. I skipped the usual touristy places due to the pandemic, but the next time hopefully I can tick most places off my list. Isn’t it true that we all leave a chunk of our heart somewhere in Punjab?