Know the food, and you will understand the place

The word ‘Sair’means wandering or a walk in Urdu.

Know the food, and you will understand the place

Kavish Seth and his band put up a wonderful performance to conclude the SAIR conclave in New Delhi

Monica Arora

The word ‘Sair’means wandering or a walk in Urdu. Therefore, it’s apt as a name for a unique travel start-up that SAIR is. A baby of two women, the objective of this start-up is to ensure safe and sustainable travel across the length and breadth of multi-cultural India. From the lofty Himalayas to the aquamarine waters of the Arabian Sea, and from the luscious sands of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan to the verdant tea plantations of Assam, SAIR offers an authentic and experiential travelling experience interwoven with the warp and weft of the cultural stories woven into the tapestry of the Indian hinterland.

Through SAIR, Shruti Pyare and Shobhita Agarwal offer bespoke soirees for those seeking deeply moving and enriching experiences. SAIR’s first conclave was held at the Bikaner House in Delhi earlier this week. Eric Falt, UNESCO representative for the UNESCO New Delhi Office, which covers Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, set the pace at the event with his insights into cultural dimensions of Southeast Asia. 

Lightning talks enabled artistes, musicians, travellers, and travel aficionados to share their experiences with the audience. Geeta Vaishnavi, a Kashmiri Pandit longing to see her homeland’s beauty restored to its original glory, has been capturing the ethos of the state through her artworks, street art and her educational projects. Her poignant artistic depictions and candid talk were followed by award-winning travel blogger and journalist Mariellen Ward’s experiences in India. Having won the National Tourism Award in 2019, she writes extensively on travel in India from a solo woman traveller’s viewpoint. She spoke about how staying in Rishikesh helped her put her personal demons to rest.

Geopolitics researcher and historian Anirudh Kanisetti presented his insights on the cultural and archaeological diversity of India, which were enthralling and educative. The talks were concluded by Hindustani musician and performer Kavish Seth, an IIT degree holder, who pursues his true calling by performing in the Indian hinterland.

Food and travel 

The highlight of the conclave was the panel discussion on how food is an integral part of any excursion, and how the cultural inferences of any part of the globe can be drawn by understanding its cuisine. Featuring the foodie duo of Rocky and Mayur of Highway On My Plate fame; chef, cookery author, educator, farmer and top chef Master Suvir Saran, food columnist and chef Rajyasree Sen, founder of the erstwhile Bengali restaurant Brown Sahib, this tete-a-tete covered everything from food reviews to the quintessential vegetarian vs non-vegetarian tug of war. These prolific food experts discussed how some food reviewers were merely expressing opinions without the technical prowess. In a large multi-cultural nation like India, where even the taste of water changes every 20 km, discussing or reviewing food is indeed a challenge. Food trails, cooking expeditions, cultural adventures and such curated activities linking food and vacation are increasingly being included in travel itineraries. Eventually, we are what we eat and perhaps the best way to understand and discover a destination is to spend time there, meet the people, eat their food and experience their socio-cultural propensities. So much of their religious beliefs, traditions, festivals, weddings, rituals are revealed through food that it is amazing how a culinary knowledge can enrich a trip to such a great extent.

All panellists agreed that the need of the hour was to adopt a healthy way of eating, including a healthy plant-based diet. Plus, they emphasised how India’s stories could be better interpreted through food experiences, and perhaps the best way to discover India was to eat as the locals do at any destination.

As the sun was going down, a breathtaking live performance by Kavish Seth and his band at the lovely amphitheatre in the balmy evening provided the perfect finale to an extremely well-organised event.


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