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Visitation rights

By Nickunj Malik - Sep 30,2015 - Last updated at Sep 30,2015

Should one go back to revisit a place that has certain glorious memories associated with it? If you ask me, it is always a gamble and a wild one because several years later a lot of things change, some for the better and quite a lot, for the worse. Everyone who has lived long enough knows this. 

Therefore when anyone suggests a revisitation to a past happy destination, I am the first naysayer. But when my husband booked our tickets to fly down to a South Indian hill-station last week, I was slow to react. That is because close to three decades ago, I had gone there as a new bride and I was curious to discover if the place was as pristine as it was so many years ago. 

The beginning was not very promising because the hotel, which was a sleepy little dwelling earlier, had expanded to a full-fledged five star. And to make matters worse, it was completely booked out. A telephonic conversation with the general manager helped in securing one of the cottages that was reserved for the owners. I think, in this day and age where marriages don’t last beyond the first few years, the general manager was eager to meet a couple who were not only married for so long but were also wanting to return to a place they had visited as newly weds.

The thing about Indian hill-stations is that if you Google them, they all claim to be “the queen of hill-stations”. This is the absolute truth; I am not making it up. Regardless of its location, whether it is situated in the north, south, east or west of the country, they are all stuck with the same royal epithet and their description is also sort of identical. The only variant is their height from sea level

On my recent visit I noticed that the new constructions were lavish and grand with an army of energetic and enthusiastic staff looking after it. This was definitely very different from the lax and laid-back service one was accustomed to earlier. Thirty years ago, in the same place which was much smaller then, we had ordered lunch in the open plan dining area from where the kitchen was visible.

We had watched the chef/waiter/restaurant manager all rolled into one, hop across to the vegetable garden, pluck a cauliflower, clean and chop it and then cook it for us. Next he kneaded the dough for the bread and prepared piping hot nans. It took more than 60 minutes for the meal to appear but I had never tasted fresher or tastier food.

After three days of perfect liveried attention in our now expanded hotel, we ventured out. Passing a small rustic café we were invited inside by an elderly man. The gleaming stainless steel cooking utensils, lay in a neat row next to the wood fired oven, where he sat. There were no menu cards but he rattled off a list of dishes in his monotone. 

“Peas-potato, peas, butter, peas-mushroom, peas-tomato, peas-carrot,” he said. 

“You have gobi?” I interrupted, calling cauliflower by its Indian name. 

“One minute,” he muttered, jumping to the patch of green behind his kitchen.

“Why did you ask for that? One hour gone! Oh, no!” my husband exclaimed. 

“Oh, yes,” the old man said, appearing with a perfect raw cauliflower in his hands. 

 

“Revisiting delights,” I smiled, settling into my seat for the long haul.

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