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The Changing Face Of The Highway Restaurant

I am not sure why this post is classified as a car trip, and not as 'car trip & food/drink'. But, what the hell…

If you travel on the highway in India, you will stop to eat at a roadside restaurant. In the old days, the restaurants (called dhabas) were meant for truckers who are always on the road. You sit on a bed made of coir (called a charpai) and your plate is a wooden plank across the width of the road. The food is simple, wholesome and fantastic.

When I was in Panipat about ten days ago, I went to do some night photography, and stumbled across one of the old dhabas. And, there I was at 1 in the morning under the starry sky, eating this food that is so very good, and drinking some tea. Waves of nostalgia passed over me, and I felt as though I had gone back years. That made me feel old, of course, but a good sort of old!

Some of the dhabas – like Gulshan – have moved up the value chain. You sit on chairs. the food is still good, and the dhaba has become a sort of a restaurant complex with shops as well.

You also have complexes that have branded names like Halidram's (an Indian chain) and McDonalds. The best thing about these ones, is the clean toilets!

Finally there are some like Haveli that have become starry and where the food is awful! Of course, the loo is clean.

So, when I travel with my family I choose the ones that go from Gulshan 'upwards'. But, when I travel alone, I look for a dhaba that has lots of trucks around it, sit on a charpai under the starry night and dig in to a great dose of nostalgia!

Try out a dhaba once in a while. You will not regret it.



Profile photo of Rajiv Chopra

I have been in the corporate world all my life, and have decided to take a sabbatical from this world. I am now a budding entrepreneur in my old age. This is wonderful because, apart from giving me the freedom to paint my own canvas, and to choose the canvas, it also gives me the time to do some of the things that I really like to do. These are, to travel, to photograph and to write. I still use a Nikon D 200. I started with B&W film, and this is something that I still love. The things that I am really grateful to the corporate world are, that I got the chance to travel the world, and meet lots of very interesting people. I have, over the years, become very interested in history, physics, culture,conservation, the environment and street food! I love landscapes, street photography, people, macro photography, geometrical shapes

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