“Are you back? Let’s catch up.” I messaged Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu, doing a rough calculation of the distance x time to Chandigarh from Himachal’s border with Tibet, where she had been researching for her book on the Old Hindustan Tibet Road when I’d reached out to her almost a fortnight earlier. Her reply, “Long back. Drop in for coffee”, was all I needed to hear before driving over to her beautiful and cosy home in the Tricity. Replete with exquisite period furniture and elegant vintage decor, I was met with the warmest of smiles and the smell of fragrant coffee and old leather-bound books – both of which she happens to love.
Good food, great books and road trips are an integral part of Puneetinder’s personal life, just as they are in her role as an author, travel writer, food critic and columnist. That her profession comes out of her passion for travel is a bonus, and she credits it for making her more resilient, less materialistic and quite disinclined to grow roots. A free spirit who likes to live life on her terms, she advocates the pursuit of excellence over seeking perfection.
Her inspiration to write comes from the road less travelled, and all the experience she garners from it, both literally and figuratively. A lifetime of travelling in India and around the globe have given Puneetinder an interesting and unique perspective. Placing domestic travel – exploring the backyard’s endless possibilities – before international excursions was one such that piqued my interest. And we got talking about her mantra – Travel. Eat. Write. Repeat. over a fresh round of brew.
Q1. What goes into your travel bag?
I like to travel light and avoid check-in baggage. My travel essentials are:
- Extra pair of shoes
- Jeans and a few shirts
- A stole or a scarf (according to the weather)
- A pen and a diary
Q2. What is on top of the checklist for women wanting to do solo travel?
Common sense is right on top of the checklist. Remember to:
- Be mindful of your surroundings
- Do not take chances with your personal safety
- Go by local advisory largely
- Be firm and polite in communication
Q3. What are the common traps for aspiring travel writers?
- Confusing the desire to share vacation stories with travel writing. Be sure or it won’t sustain.
- Not giving importance to what you write; hearsay, unverified facts, for instance.
- Self indulgent and contrived story-telling. Best to share unique stories in your natural voice.
- Choosing to create remotely researched and ill-informed online content instead of empirically experienced stories in print.
- Hankering after international travel and ignoring the backyard. Look around, we’re engulfed with stories.
- Above all, lacking an unwavering passion for travel. Junkets and barters for social media campaigns won’t fill the gap.
Q4. What was the best money you ever spent as a traveller? Also, a place that was a disappointment and one that you can go to any number of times.
Truth be had, all my travels have been money well spent. From backpacking in South Africa to car-pooling my way around Europe, to road-tripping around India. Kasol was a disappointment. The town by itself has nothing to speak of, having gone the tourist appeasing way. That a stunning Parvati valley is accessed through here keeps it relevant. Vienna surpassed my expectations. I found it composite and by far the most striking of European capitals. Its classical music traditions are every bit as enthralling as its history and culture, food and wine included.
Q5. What are the top 3 things that should be on a Foodie’s Bucket List?
Food is so subjective that there can never be a one-size-fits-all list. Broadly speaking, it should include: Acquainting with food histories; experiencing regional cuisine; and learning to tell quality.
Q6. What is the best food you have had and one thing that you will never eat?
Regardless of where I travel, I have found homes (I have been invited to) to be the best examples of local food. A 123-year-old family-owned restaurant in Tuscany stands out in recent memory as Italian cuisine is a personal favourite. The one thing I won’t eat is bugs! And that’s an informed choice having tried out a few in my travels.
Q7. What are your pet peeves as a food critic?
When an eatery overpromises and under delivers! Advertising and story-telling can take you only that far. If you are in the business of food, the food had better be your focus.
Q8. And finally, how do you like your coffee?
I like my coffee strong, black, with lively conversation.
Visit website: http://www.cuttingloose.in/
Picture Credit : Puneetinder Kaur Sidhu