It was the perfect season to visit a farm in Punjab. The pre-Baisakhi fields were golden with ripe wheat and the smell of fresh sugarcane juice wafted in the air. The large trees flanking NH1 added to this with their impossibly new glossy, baby leaves and spring blossoms.
Our whole team of six was headed to Gary Farms, a plush 1600 acre farm in Nabha, Patiala, to check out what ‘farm tourism’ was all about.
Our first stop was of course a dhaba at Murthal, barely an hour’s drive from Delhi, for a breakfast which was a preview of what was to come in Punjab, paranthas with huge dollops of white butter and creamy curd.
It was a fairly smooth drive to Chandigarh where we met our host, Mr AS Grewal, a sprightly gentleman well on the other side of sixty. He suggested that we stop by his office in Gary Arts in Mohali before proceeding to the farm.
Gary Arts took us by surprise. With a Spiderman perched on the roof in take-off mode and a gorgeous village belle peeking out of a haveli window, all conjured out of fiberglass, the factory cum showroom transported us to toon world meets model Punjab village. As a result we became shutterbugs and posers. I needed a photograph with my childhood hero Bugs Bunny, the boss wanted to be clicked with Sardarji with mobile and Bodhi found a gun (was it real or fiberglass?) and got an entire portfolio shot by Nidhi.
Mr Grewal informed us proudly that Gary Arts, known for its fiberglass reproductions of Punjabi village scenes, made the Sheras given as tokens to the athletes in the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in Delhi.
An hour’s drive from Mohali brought us to Nanoki, the village where Gary Farms is situated. After depositing our bags in the guestrooms in the family gurudwara where we were to spend the night we rushed off to catch our evening entertainment, ‘kushti at the village akhara’. As we drove through the fields at dusk we realized how quiet and clean the air around us was! At the akhara, while the regular spectators sat in charpoys we sat in plastic chairs facing the pit which we were told had been prepared by mixing the earth with turmeric powder(for its antiseptic qualities) and mustard oil (to soften the ground). The village pehelwans were already in their loincloths and after the customary lap around the pit and some thigh slapping they dived at each other, grappling in pairs matched in weight and strength.
We gathered that the heaving struggle concluded only when one of the pair landed on his back and was unable to extricate himself from the opponent’s grip.
Elaborate photo sessions with the local heroes, some of whom have competed at the national and international level followed.
At night, we drove down to Nabha town to see a parandi factory and got ourselves rainbow hued naras!
We drove to the local fort which looked massive and forbidding in the night and on our way stopped by the grand Punjab Public School located in the vast buildings and grounds of the court of the erstwhile princely state.
Our day ended with a scrumptious dinner served by our hosts which included fresh paneer from their dairy and fish from their ponds. And yes we did locate some of those long forgotten constellations in the star filled sky (a rare treat for us city slickers!).
The next morning we went to see Col Grewal’s (Mr AS Grewal’s brother) fish farm set amidst three ponds which yield quintals of fish every month. We were, however, enthralled by the other animals in his menagerie, the handsome black kadaknaths (indigenous hens of Madhya Pradesh), the charming cow and calf, the ducks, the turkey and the horses.
After yet another lavish meal of paranthas, curd, butter and fresh milk (counting calories is a city fad) at Mr Grewals’ we left the farm satiated, rejuvenated and all set for our next stop…Patiala.