Friday, February 15, 2008

Slice of Punjab

There is nothing real in the picture above, except me. The girls, the well and other objects are all made up. This is actually the photograph taken at a restaurant, named "Haveli", located on National Highway - 1, near Karnal, approximately one hundred kilometers north of Delhi. The travellers, particularly those travelling by their own cars and luxury buses, have a pit stop here for breakfast, lunch or other refreshments. Another such restaurant by the same name is located approximately three hundred kilometers further north west, on the outskirts of Jalandhar. The latter is also a fine eating joint, frequented by the foodies of nearby cities of Jalandhar, Phagwara and Ludhiana. These restaurants have attempted to create ambience of the village life of Punjab -- the affluent north Indian agricultural state. They not only have authentic punjabi cuisine on their menu, but also serve it in the genuine punjabi utensils by the waiters dressed up in typical punjabi dresses. The courtyard, the funiture and other fixures all take you back to a Punjab village.

Not very long ago almost every well-to-do family in Punjab, which is predominantly an agricultural state, had two dwelling units -- a house in the heart of the village and a 'haveli' on the out skirts, closer to the fields. While the houses, having been located in a cluster, were more compact in size and design, where the joint family stayed together, the 'havelis' were built to facilitate such activities which required more open spaces, like parking of tractors, thrashers, harvesters and keeping other tools such as ploughs, carts, fodder chopping machines and accessories used in farming. Domestic animals and poultry were also housed there. The men fell back here in the afternoons, after having toiled in the fields for the first half of the day. The 'haveli' was a cool place with lot of shady trees. It also had a well where the women folk would come and draw water to be taken back home. Evenings were also spent in the pleasant environs of the havelis, milking the milch animals, giving freshly chopped fodder to them and to the other cattle and winding up for the night before falling back to the house in side the village. Generally a male member of the house or the domestic help stayed back, taking care of the live stock etc. More often than not the 'havelis' were also used as guest houses to lodge the guests. The richer the family, the more luxurious the 'haveli'. Occassionally folk dances or singing programmes were also held in the 'havelis' for entertainment of the family and guests.

A typical Farm House in a Punjab village

and a wheat field

With the change in the life style, the existence of such 'havelis' is a rare sight. The joint families have broken up into unitary ones and the fragments have spread out and shifted to the 'havelis', making them permanent living units. Only few affluent families are maintaining 'havelis' which are now fashionably called 'farm houses'. However, their replicas can be seen at the highways or shopping malls or on the outskirts of big cities in the form of restaurants, commercial centres or marriage venues etc, but, certainly giving the travellers, shoppers or revellers a glimpse of the life style of a Punjab village.

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