In today’s column, Khushwant Singh dishes out some tips on how a Punjabi must travel across Europe in the absence of a Punjabi traveller’s app!
Iam writing this piece from Paris, the city of romance, architecture and fashion. I’m here as part of a holiday with my wife, son, another couple and their two daughters.
To be precise, there are seven of us now, though when the plan was being made, our strength had stood in double digits. Let me give you the liberty to imagine the chaos 17 Punjabis, including children, must have created in trying to plan the trip. Each one trying to tailor it to their liking. Oops! I stand corrected - to their better half ’s liking.
I can well sympathise with all the spouses when this trip was being planned because surely enough every morning, a new idea would emerge. “I googled Amsterdam. Looks like a fun place. I think Amsterdam is a must visit.”
My Google said ‘Bruges in Belgium was a must’ and there I was pushing for Bruges. Luckily, Paris didn’t need to be googled at all; the reason I am sitting at a coffee bar sharing my experience and some tips of travelling through Europe over the years. Consider these tips special, because you won’t find an app that is tailormade for the Punjabi traveller. Advice number one: on reaching the Delhi duty-free, please, please don’t rush for duty-free Daroo. If you do, it will change the way you plan your evenings in Europe. I made that mistake and ended up looking for a ‘jugaad’ of how to sit in a restaurant and still swig on my hip flask. You are in Europe, so enjoy beers of various flavours from taps in pubs and bars.
My second advice: since a Punjabi is poor at setting alcohol limits, secure your passport and cash before you step out. If nothing else, there are an equal number of thugs in Europe and of all nationalities. Other than thugs, roaming on the magical cobbled streets and Metros are racists. Just ignore their remarks. One good way to escape this growing commonality is to stay at a central location. Not only is the crowd more cosmopolitan, but you can just walk back to the hotel in an inebriated condition instead of availing public transport.
The money you would spend on taxi cabs or Metro per family could be used for staying at a more central location. And for those interested in checking out the cabarets in Paris, just stick to Moulin Rouge and do not venture into unknown territory. Believe me it is the biggest scandal.
The sun has risen and the hangover is over. It’s time to grab some breakfast and kick start your day. Punjabis must include breakfast in their hotel plan as no one else can do justice to a breakfast buffet better than the people of our land.
No harm in wrapping a few croissants in napkins for ‘bachey-sachey’. Once the day sets in, the aroma of brewing coffee is irresistible. Hold on! Punjabi style, just don’t go and plonk yourself on chairs along with the whole clan – ‘aao ji baitho’ because Punjabis are famous for their hospitality.
Most braserries, unlike the Indian Coffee House, charge you if you sit and drink coffee. Ask, before you regret drinking coffee, because you could have got a bottle of whiskey for the same amount.
We all know wheat and paddy don’t fetch that much and the Indian currency conversion to the Euro is just insane. Save money by researching well on the public transport system of the country you are visiting and try walking to your destination. Walking, other than saving you money, will also help you get rid of the excess calories from last night’s ubiquitous beer and pizza.
Plan your meals well and fix a daily budget. Museum, library and university cafés are a great idea for lunch breaks. Sorry, if I hurt the Punjabi pride, but I always believe money has the power to achieve so much more than just donating it to excess calories. If in Italy, order food via weight and 200 grams per person is a good enough order. You don’t waste good money with this plan.
A Punjabi traveller must have a tryst with Europe’s landscape not only for its beauty, but to realise the importance of maintaining it. We have ruined our landscape because of lack of sensitivity to our environment.
Holiday is not just an exercise to blow your trumpet on Facebook that you have arrived. More important than anything else, it is an exercise in learning. Have a good holiday!