By the time I forcefully escorted myself out of the soothing and super-hot (women’s) public bath inside the Vashishth temple and its carved doorway, it was almost nearing evening. I picked up my slippers and said goodbye to the Dutch traveller I had enjoyed the bath and conversation with. She insisted she wasn’t hungry and would rather go back to her lodge (she is a returning traveller who loves the Himalayas and the hot springs of Vashishth town). But I hadn’t had a morsel to eat since noon, not expecting the dip in the hot spring water to indulge me for so long.
I was literally starving as I dragged myself through the narrow, crowded lanes of this Himachali temple town (around 3 kilometres from Manali). I would stop my steps at the first sign of (any) food, I promised myself.
A quaint, small dhaba-style place came in sight, and I rushed inside. I asked the kind man to serve me anything that he might have at that time of the evening. And lo, what a surprise! Piping hot rice with simply-cooked dal (lentils), super delicious and with the right amount of spices and oil, was placed in front of me. To accompany this, was flavourful aloo-gobhi ki sabji (potato and cauliflower cooked together with tomatoes and Indian spices). I barely managed to click a picture before I tore into the food, shocking myself more than the owner of the place (who simply smiled at a hungry traveller dripping from her hair). And a tea, of course!
With a tummy full of ‘good’ food, I chomped on the last crumbs of food on my plate and turned around to finally glance at my surroundings. The dhaba opened to a view of the road below and mountains yonder. It had a small adjoining sit-out where people—locals and travellers like me—can sit and enjoy sundown while still feeling close to the hustle and sounds of Vashishth. A small place that can hardly accommodate more than 12 people at a time, but comfortable, warm and homely.
I walked out telling myself, yet again, that small towns in India never disappoint. Their impeccable humility, hospitality, and kindness, combined with the (most) authentic flavours when it comes to food from the tiniest and quaintest of places, are stuff travel tales are and should be made of.
PS: I remember not the name of the place, but if you happen to visit Vashishth in Himachal Pradesh, the dhaba lies on the right-hand side of the road as you walk down from the Vashishth temple and though the marketplace. And if you do, please tell me too the name of this place that I hope to return to.