This story ends in a 5 day course of Norflox TZ. Not a happy ending and not for the first time.
In other ways it’s a simple enough fable with a moral. It’s a story of discovery, challenge, conflict and defeat. Sorry, no victories of good over evil.
We were on our way to Palampur for a shoot with an itinerant tribe that shall remain unnamed for the purpose of our story. For those of us who don’t know, Palampur is a beautiful mountain town in Himachal, 365 kms from Delhi, 80 kms from Dharamsala/McLeodganj and is the capital of Palampur district. Luckily for me, because it’s the headquarter of Palampur government it’s appointed with hospitals and nursing homes and well stocked chemists. (What it lacks in feeding, it makes up in treating. )
While on our way to Palampur we stopped at Zindari dhaba that tempts highway regulars and casual passers by with replicas of statuesque Sikh women in giddha pose, burly hairy turbaned Sikh gents arrested in bhangra pose.
One wonders how Goofy got waylaid into soliciting customers for a hardcore highway punjabi dhaba. One also wonders about the marketing potential of Disney characters in rural Punjab. And while you also wonder at the aesthetics of fake fruit chandeliers hanging from a bamboo and grass roof, strapping young lads sporting spiky gelled hair flit about taking orders and displaying a promptness rather unusual for a dhaba. The dhaba is straight out of the twilight zone.
The food though is remarkably good and seems clean enough. The usual vegetarian punjabi fare, better than most Delhi restaurants that have made butter and cream eponymous with punjabi cuisine.
However, luck is not always on your side in India.
Palampur was a different deal.
Usually I am more than careful travelling in India. I do eat at dhabas but only the ones that seem clean, or have their garbage hidden. I only stop at places that seem to be well frequented, that ensures freshness of food. I never drink out of glasses, I never have tea/lassi/salads at dhabas. What I cannot check is how the serving plates were cleaned, and mostly they are washed in very dirty water. Although I continue eating out, for lack of a better plan, I dread every bite of it and sometimes I’m happy surviving on bananas and chocolates.
I honestly thought Palampur, being such a bustling central town, it would be easy finding clean places to eat at. It’s developed enough to have a Cafe Coffee day.
Having been recommended the so called ‘punjabi dhabas’ in Palampur market we decided to stop there for lunch one day. Despite sitting within clear view of the plates being cleaned by a cloth that seemed to be bearing the sins of the world on its shoulder, and watching the still waters marinating in the drain right outside, my lack of judgement and instinct got the better of me.
Let me just say that I was kept awake all night by force of nature in a room that could fit a small nation but was furnished with a small hard bed, facing a wall of cupboards that wouldn’t stay shut, and a curtain rod right behind the bed that wouldn’t stay up.
And yes, no careless distractions like a television or a facility for a working lightbulb in the toilet.
The room took spartan to another level. It was a long, lonely night. I almost figured out the purpose of life by call time.
Anyway, all my troubles came rushing back in the blazing light of day. Fortunately my deliverance was only half an hour away.
NorfloxTZ kee jai ho.