June 19, 2019

THE RAILWAYS: FOOD CONNECT

WORDS: RANVEER BRAR

From halwas to chhole bhature, our culinary expert, Ranveer Brar reminisces the good ole' railway journeys

IT’S HOLIDAY SEASON AND THAT means the season of travel. For a lot of us, it means train travel. One of the best memories while growing up, for almost all of us, involves travelling by train to holiday getaways, isn't it?

Right from the packing, savouring the sights to sounds of the railway station and bagging the window seat... But the best part was the food! Be it the food packed by our moms for the journey, the snacks from the in-train pantry or grabbing a quick bite at the transit stations. As we grow up, experiences become memories. Some fade away and some remain locked until life leads us to reminisce about them again.

And that’s something I went through while shooting for a show involving Indian Railways last year. I not only relived my childhood train journey memories, I also revisited many transit and destination points with a new perspective.

One of them was Sandila. A sleepy little town en route to Lucknow that barely anyone would get off at, but would definitely wake up for, in the wee hours of the morning. And the reason for that were the Laddoos. It was almost considered a sin for anyone to visit Lucknow without buying them. The miniscule station actually has a Laddoo Kaksh, a warehouse for storing all the laddoos. How cool is that?

NO MATTER HOW FAR WE INDIANS TRAVEL OR WHERE, THE SUBJECT OF FOOD ALWAYS BRINGS US TOGETHER

Abu Road station has a similar sweet tale to tell. In this case, Rabri! Ask anyone frequenting Abu Road or transiting through it, Rabri would be a sure topic of conversation. It’s so popular that people from all over visit the place just for the dessert!

There are many more of those. It’s amazing how even the simplest of foods taste even better during travel, especially train travel.

One cannot pass by Jalandhar without tasting the Chole Bhature at Jalandhar station. And you cannot stop at one! Or the hot and spicy Aloo Tikki at Tundla, the famous Aloo Dum at Kharagpur railway station, the famous Tirunelveli halwa at its namesake station or Kozhikode halwa (and banana chips, of course) at the Kozhikode station.

And not just summers, train travel in winters has its own share of delectable memories too. I can never forget the plate of piping hot puris with Aloo sabzi at Kalka station. It was freezing and the toy train to Shimla was yet to depart. What better moment to grab some hot puris and top it off with masala chai!

No matter how far we Indians travel or where, the subject of food always brings us together. With a cuisine as varied as ours, one of the best ways to discover it is typically via street food. At the same time, one cannot deny that our Railways have their fair share as a carrier of cuisine and culture along the length and breadth of the country. For us, train travel is truly as much about the journey, as about getting from point A to B. So this holiday season, let’s relive and recreate those memories.

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