A cook from Kutch in Norway

THE SHARAD BAUG HOMESTAY is in the extensive, luxuriant, verdant grounds of the Sharad Baug Palace. Badly damaged in the 2001 earthquake, the palace is a short walk from the excellent homestay. This accommodation is owned and run by members of the royal family of the former Kingdom of Kutch.

Close to the homestay in the middle of a field, there is another ruined edifice. This was formerly used as a guesthouse by important guests of the ruler, the Maharao. For some time, the poet Dara Shiko (1615-1659) hid from his brother (the future emperor Aurangzeb) in this building.

Near the ruined palace, there is a building, which was the last Maharao of Kutch’s sitting room and dining hall. Now, the building houses a small museum filled with exhibits relating to the royal Jadeja family. Amongst these, there are several items connected with the last ruler of independent Kutch when he spent some time in Norway.

After Kutch had joined India soon after 1947, its last Maharao, Madansinhji (1909-1991), was appointed India’s ambassador to Norway. There are photographs relating to his stay in Norway in the museum. There is also a Christmas card in Norwegian and a certificate issued by the Oslo Tennis Club. He served in Norway between 1957 and 1960.

While in Norway, Madansinhji was served by his chef from Bhuj, a member of the Yadav family. For many generations, the Yadavs have been chefs, specialising in non-veg food.

When we first visited Bhuj, in 2018, we were recommended to eat in a simple, small restaurant in the bazaar of Bhuj. Named Shivam Daining (sic), it serves very tasty pure vegetarian food. We returned to eat there several times during our recent (January 2023) stay in Bhuj. While chatting with its chef and his relatives, we learned that the man who produces the excellent food is a grandson of the Mr Yadav, who cooked for Madansinhji in Norway. Although the family have a tradition of cooking meat and fish, they do not offer it at Shivams because they rightly feel that there is little demand for non-veg food in the mainly vegetarian city of Bhuj.

Without knowing it when I booked the Sharad Baug homestay, it turned out that it and one of our favourite restaurants in Bhuj had at least one common connection, and that is Norway.

For the deserving poor of Padstow

THE CONVOLUTED COAST of Cornwall is dotted with picturesque little ports. One of these is Padstow, which has become well-known because it contains restaurants and other food-related establishments connected with the TV celebrity chef Rick Stein. It is also famous for its centuries’ old annual Oss celebrations held on May Day.

While walking around the streets of the tiny town of Padstow, I came across a disused cinema, which bears a commemorative plaque. Opened in 1924 as the Cinedrome, this became the Capitol cinema. It closed in 1996. However, another relic of the past is still in use around the corner in Middle Street. I am referring to the Padstow Almshouses. This is a small two-winged complex of brick-built houses with some Victorian gothic features.

The main entrance to the complex is surmounted by a granite block carved with the following: “1875 Almshouses”. A plaque located on one of the two facades of the complex informs the viewer that these almshouses were financed by subscriptions raised by friends of John Tredwin to remember him. John Tredwin, who was born in 1818 in Padstow, died at St Columb in Cornwall in 1870. Tredwin, who was a timber merchant and shipbuilder, was involved in the construction of various public works in Padstow. He was also enrolled in the 1st Cornwall Artillery Volunteer Corps, and by 1861 he had become a Captain.  The 1851 Census revealed that by then he and his family were living in St Columb.

John Tredwin was mentioned in a book, “The Cornish Overseas. A history of Cornwall’s ‘Great Emigration’” by Philip Payton:

“The ‘John & Mary’, owned by the Padstow shipbuilder John Tredwin, was engaged in the classic export of immigrants and import of timber that made the Atlantic trade so lucrative in North Cornwall …”

Since the days of the likes of John Tredwin, Padstow has become a relatively insignificant port. Instead, it has become a popular destination for tourists. Although it is undoubtedly an attractive little place, it is outrivalled in charm by other Cornish ports such as Polperro, St Ives, Mousehole, Port St Isaacs, Fowey, and Falmouth. Padstow deserves a visit, but not a long one.