Last week I was sitting in this lovely coffee bar in London’s Mayfair and reading a book titled Experience Punjab: On the road which had been compiled by travel writer, Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu. When I got transported from England to Punjab I have no idea, for the book took me on a lovely journey through the culture and people of my home state.
And just as a sniff of good cognac opens up the senses, the book cleared the cynic in me. Humbled, my mind accepted the centuries of influence on this land which was once called ‘Sapta Sindhva’; agrarian revolutions, religious movements and cultural exchanges all contributed to the vibrancy of Punjab.
And as I flipped through more pages, I cursed the media and the politician for stereotyping this land. Punjab is not just about drugs, guns or alcohol that we have typified it with. If one were to traverse this land they would find remains of the great Harappa civilization, ancient Buddhist relics, Mughal Serais, religious shrines amongst many more architectural marvels and of course the famed lush green fields.
Perhaps all that is needed to explore the land is to crank the car engine and head out in the desired direction, since there is so much on the menu. Whatever be your pick, a pilgrimage or a vacation, the vast network of state and national highways offers ample opportunity to choose your destination with ease.My recommendation would be an eclectic menu, a heady mix of history, religion, food, culture. Neatly packed in Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu’s book are directions, places to stay with their rates and description and other off the beaten path things to do.
If it’s royalty that finds your fancy, the book has enough dope on the two princely cities of Patiala and Kapurthala .Their royal heritage and illustrious past along with details of the palaces, museums , their timings , surrounding religious places and recommended eateries are well documented in the book for the traveler. Also thrown in are gems of information about the various legacies associated with the different places. For example an interesting tidbit is provided about the origin of the Patiala Salwar and the Patiala Shahi Turban , a style founded by the Patiala royals which later went on to become a benchmark in turban styles.
A very satisfying read, I promise you that once you get your hand on this book you will want to head straight for your car.
UK’s first Punjabi restaurant
During my UK visit I also got an opportunity to dine at UK’s oldest Punjabi restaurant called, Punjab Restaurant. Located in London’s Covent Garden the restaurant was first established in 1946 in greater London before shifting to its present location. It is owned by Sital Mann, whose grandfather had set this up since there was no job available for him. The restaurant other than serving delicious Chicken Tikka Masala and its ilk is unique because of its walls , on which are displayed priceless pictures of the Anglo-Sikh connection dating back to the eighteen hundreds. On one of the walls are portraits of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s son Duleep Singh and other Punjabi royalties and according to Sital Mann, they have been displayed to tell the world -Singh is King.
Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu is a Chandigarh based writer, content developer , foodie but mostly writer extraordinaire as she likes to say. She is the author of a travel book ‘Adrift: A Junkie Junket in Europe’ and has penned six travel guides for the Lonely Planet.