The atmosphere was joyous, the occasion truly memorable.
It was the much-awaited dinner hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday for Olympic medallists and participants from the state, and some others, including gold medallist Neeraj Chopra.
Pleasure intermingled with pride, as India’s celebration of the Olympic glory continued days after the return of the heroes.
The lawns of the Chief Minister’s farmhouse in Mohali were lit up with the spirit of revelry and the aroma of the savouries that Amarinder Singh had painstakingly prepared for his cherished guests.
Amarinder Singh’s special touch was unmistakable. It could be seen (and tasted) in every dish of the lavish spread on the table. And the smile of satisfaction on his face, even after hours of hard work as the chef of the moment, was enviable.
“I started at 11 in the morning. Most of it was done by around 5 p.m., and then it was time for some final touches. But I loved every minute of it,” said the Chief Minister, with the enjoyment of it all sparkling in his eyes.
“They (the sportspersons) worked so hard to win us glory, what I have done for them is nothing in comparison,” he remarked, looking his usual dapper self as he greeted the guests personally, with no sign of fatigue from all those hours of cooking and supervising the arrangements.
And the hospitality of Amarinder Singh clearly knew no bounds, as he could be seen serving his guests personally, straight out of the ‘patilas’ in which he had cooked his choicest dishes earlier.
“The food always tastes better if served direct from the cooking vessel,” he remarked — his knowledge of food no less sharp than his cooking skills.
On the menu was nothing short of a royal feast – Mutton Khara Pishori, Long Elaichi Chicken, Aloo Korma, Dal Masri, Murg Korma, Dugani Biryani and Zarda Rice (sweet dish).
Hockey Captain Manpreet Singh (DSP Punjab police) said he had heard about the Maharaja’s cooking but what he savoured today exceeded his expectations.
His personal favourite? Aloo! Discus thrower Kamalpreet said she was truly impressed by both the food and the hospitality of the Chief Minister. “It was rich (quite a bit of ghee) but it was excellent food,” to quote Neeraj Chopra.
Besides Olympic javelin throw gold medallist Neeraj Chopra, the special guests for the evening included Olympics bronze medallist hockey players Manpreet Singh (Captain), Harmanpreet Singh (Vice Captain), Mandeep Singh, Hardik Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Shamsher Singh, Dilpreet Singh, Gurjant Singh, Varun Kumar and Simranjit Singh.
The Chief Minister has already announced Rs 2.51 crore for each of them.
Women hockey semi finalist Gurjit Kaur and Reena Khokhar, reserve player Krishan Bahadur Pathak and Olympics finalist athlete Kamalpreet Kaur, also among the guests, have been awarded Rs 50 lakh each.
The Chief Minister had also earlier announced Rs 21 lakh for Olympics participants race-walker Gurpreet Singh and shooter Angadveer Singh Bajwa, who were also invited for the dinner.