Friday, June 25

Citrus County

Because we enjoyed Vijay Singh Mankotia’s knowledge of the off-roads we asked him to suggest the most picteresque road to our 11th Mahindra Homestay location - Citrus County at Hoshiarpur and he chalked out a route via the Maharana Pratap Sagar Dam. 

The Siwaliks in this region are soft and friable. These hills are composed mainly of clay sand, sand rocks and poorly bedded sandstones... and unless you go and touch the hard surface you would think they are sand dunes.

Harkreet Singh was among the first hosts to call us confirming our booking (over a month ago... before we left Chennai on this long Mahindra Homestays trip), and was impatiently waiting to recieve us. He was so eager to make sure we got there quickly that he sent his driver with his cell phone to wait on the highway to guide us thru the village roads. But,  he forgot that the driver only spoke punjabi and we had no clue what he was saying!

So between the MapMyIndia GPS, calls to his wife Jasveen (who was in Chandigarh having just given birth to their second child) and some intuitive thinking we made it to the lovely citrus farm.

There was a choice to stay in tents in the lawn area or rooms in the main building... we chose the main building, for no particular reason. The tents were equally plush and airconditioned!

Despite the heat - the monsoon not having arrived as yet, the place was pretty cool, thanks to the powerful air conditioners. The home is set in the middle of a Kinnow orange farm and in the evenings it got pretty cool thanks to the large lawn and huge trees.  

The kinnow, a hybrid of two citrus cultivated varieties, was introduced from California to the Punjab in the 1940s and is known for its high juice content, special flavour, and as a rich source of vitamin C.

In Punjab, every this in King size... the rooms are big... the air conditioners are over 2tons,  the tents are spacious, and the TV in our room was 29 inches... no wonder their IPL team is called Kings XI!

We were joined that evening by Jaideep and Pooja from Chandigarh who had just returned from a trip to Australia and wanted to experience “Punjabi Homestay/farmstay before getting back to full fledged work”.
Jaideep also happens to work with Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and decided to spend his weekend writing about us and our travels. The article was carried in some 20 newspapers all over the country.

Jaideep, who had been here before, took us around the area and showed us a factory where they made sarson-ka-saag (Curried mustard leaves) and makkai  (corn)  flour for export to the millions of punjabis who lived in UK.

We got to eat some great tandoori chicken and paneer butter masala - the signature dishes of punjab at the airconditioned little tent called the Citrus cafe.

Harki and his dad were always around to tell us tales of Punjab, the politics, the culture and the religion. Food and cars were the other favourite subjects... and Harki’s dad had a good joke up his sleve all the time.
Rufus, the family pooch, is always around to entertain and eager to play... when he was not sticking his face in to the swimming pool to cool off from the heat.

After 2 days of King size hospitality we all headed to Chandigarh, Harki to see his wife, Jaideep to get back to work and Prabha and I to start the first leg of our long drive back to Chennai.


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