For years, Dunera, a small village on the Pathankot-Dalhousie Road, has remained a preferred stop for tourists headed to Dalhousie or Chamba in Himachal. The attraction is the sweet and sour delicacy popularly known as aam papad, which is sold at almost every kiosk or shop in the village.
The kiosk owners offer different types of aam papad, which vary in taste due to different varieties of mangoes used in preparation. Finally, it depends upon personal taste of the buyer who selects and takes a pack for himself and also as a gift for friends and relatives.
Old timers say they have been seeing aam papad since their childhood. During a journey to Chamba, Tisa, Bharmour and Dalhousie, it was prescribed as a medicine to prevent the attacks of giddiness to people, who would face sickness due to sharp curves.
With the passage of time, tourists, who would stop at Dunera during a trip to Dalhousie, made this product popular in the different parts of the country. Local families, who had been making aam papad, get orders from Amritsar and other parts of Punjab, while traders, too, visit the village to book their orders.
They supply aam papad mostly to shrines like Vaishno Devi, Kangra and Chintpurni where this gift is added in the pack of 'prasad', which pilgrims would gift to their relatives.
Mango powder is another popular product prepared in large quantity as the area has a large number of mango trees.
Davinder Singh, who runs the aam papad business in retail and wholesale, claims that this product has not only provided him a livelihood but also name and fame in the country.
"The visitors from different parts of the country come and relish this sweet and sour delicacy. They enquire about aam papad and note down my address to place orders in future. I also send it through postal parcels to many customers," said Davinder, a third generation dealer in aam papad trade.
Aam papad invites curious glances from foreign tourists, who visit Dalhousie in large numbers, he said, adding that, "When I give them a chunk of it to taste, they cannot resist it and end up buying the tangy snack."
Davinder Kakkar, a visitor from Jammu, claimed that during his visit to Dalhousie he never forgets to taste aam papad and also carries a bundle to dispatch it to his married sister who lives in the US.
A trader, Sanjay Kumar, said he takes aam papad from villages near Dunera and sells it in Amritsar and other parts of the state, which brings him handsome revenue.
Naresh Pathania, a local leader, claimed that a huge quantity of aam papad is dispatched to various parts of the country during the mango season and almost every house in the village remains busy preparing this product.
He said though the gains are good from the aam papad business, but the lack of storage facility wastes a good part of the mango crop, about which government should take some steps.
This cottage industry can flourish and can provide job opportunities to people of semi-hill areas of Punjab, said Pathania. The state government should set up big store houses to save mangoes from rotting, which is the main raw material for this tangy product.