A string of roadside camps and kitchens helped Kanwarias beat fatigue and hunger pangs on their long journey home after fetching Ganga water from Haridwar in Uttarakhand. The pilgrims took a nap and savoured piping hot food at these camps along the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway.
While camps in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi offered puri and sabzi, in Gurgaon, Kanwarias were served with ‘doodh-dahi ka khana’ cooked in desi ghee in local Haryanvi tradition.
So much was the focus on offering high quality food to pilgrims that the organisers of the kanwar camp at Signature Tower prepared an elaborate menu. An expert cook aided by helpers finalised the food detail and prepared it religiously.
Subash Saini of Sainikhera village said while overseeing the camp management that the menu was prepared to suit the needs and taste of pilgrims. “We have been organising the camp for several years and know that Kanwarias love to eat the traditional roti and spicy food cooked in desi ghee. It keeps them going long distances,” Saini said. To run the camp, which is a costly affair, residents of Saini Khera village pool money and take contributions from friends.
The kitchen starts around 4 am, and offers hot milk, pakoras, fruits and tea to Kanwarias, who get ready for the morning trudge.
Lunch and dinner are more elaborate affairs. A delectable feast of shahi paneer, mattar paneer, rajmah, channa, kofta, curd, lassi and rotis laced with desi ghee.
Kanwarias were delighted by the food on offer and praised the sewa offered at the camp. “The food is rich, traditional and very tasty. I love the kheer and halwa apart from palak paneer,” Nand Lal of Alwar said.
The Signature Tower camp served around 5,000 pilgrims, who were on their way home to neighbouring districts in Rewari, Alwar and Mewat. “The local youth also help in the kitchen. We serve food, tea and clean up the service area,” Jyoti Parsad from Jharsa village said. Prasad has been coming to the camp as a child, and hopes his progeny will also serve the ‘bholays’ as he and his father did.