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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Hospitality that was hard to stomach

Dr AS Nagpal   November 07, 2012
First Published: 10:36 IST(7/11/2012) | Last Updated: 10:38 IST(7/11/2012)

My younger sister and I both got married in the same year, but she went away to Port Blair with her husband, where he had business interests.

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Six years elapsed, but I could not keep my promise to visit her due to family and business commitments. It was 1993 when I finally made a plan to visit Port Blair along with my family. There are only two ways to reach there, by ship or by air. I thought four days will be enough to be with my sister, so I booked the air tickets accordingly.

But we had not expected the events that unfolded after we reached there. Port Blair has Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu populations living in harmony. However, the Punjabis are a well-knit community who believe in sharing their happiness and grief together. Living so much of distance away from their ancestral places has brought them closer. They meet every Sunday at a gurdwara and also plan family picnics together.

When my sister announced that her only brother is coming to visit her for the first time after marriage, everybody was thrilled. All of them wanted to invite me and my family to their homes. As the requests were more and the days were less, the invitations were divided into three breakfasts, four lunches, four dinner and four teas. Even after this, my sister had to apologise to some friends.

Now every day started with going to somebody's home and ended too on the same note. Punjabis love their non-veg and seafood and everybody prepared different dishes to show their hospitality.

On the last day, our digestive system had given away and even the sight of food was making us dizzy. We had to apologise to the host for not eating much. We couldn't have even a single meal at my sister's place.

Otherwise, not only Port Blair but the entire chain of islands in Andaman and Nicobar is full of natural beauty. It has totally unexploited tourism potential. We visited historical places like the Cellular Jail, Havelock Island and museums.

On the family picnic day, our two families travelled in a boat which was going to a distant island. It dropped us on an uninhabited small island which one could criss-cross in 10 minutes. With the water of the ocean crystal-clear, we could see the sand beneath. It was like a big swimming pool or a private beach for our families for the whole day as the boat was to pick us up on its return journey.

The entire experience of Punjabi hospitality and natural beauty of Port Blair is etched in my memory forever. My sister comes to meet us almost every year and asks us to come to Port Blair, but I have still not been able to gather enough courage to withstand their hospitality.Hopefully, I will go there again someday to refresh my memories.

 gadssldh@gmail.com

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