The valley was awash in the warmth of afternoon sun. The scent of Deodar wafted in and tingled my nose. Long winding roads skirted along the forest for kilometers together. With barely any other motorable traffic on the road, it seemed we were really far away. Occasionally, as it happens in the mountains, a lone man/woman could be seen sitting crouched on the pavement or the parapet, bags by their side, waiting for god only knows who to give them a lift. Sometimes one got the impression, they really were going nowhere, but simply needed to get out. So here they were idling away what city dwellers consider ‘ billed to client time’ doing almost nothing.
For a rather young kid, Anuli was bright and chirpy all the way, cooing and giggling at the new sights. Despite many fevered attempts by her mother, she showed no signs of closing those big black eyes. The prick and heat of the plains was slowly shedding away as we gained altitude, replaced by crisp mountain air I have come to love so much. This is my first feel of home. As I stretch my hands out of the car window, the first ting of mountain wind travels through my body and awakens sleeping senses. Unconsciously i bring my hands to my cheeks. Here everything else ceases to exist, just me, the place and the people i love.
After fifteen minutes of being dodged between opposite directions, we finally got to ” Gupta ji’s Dak Bungalow”. From the road, the bungalow was easily discernible. A classic stone structure, sheltered by a tinned red roof. Leaves the color of honey hung low on one side of the roof and flowers of all colors, lay spread like a painters canvas. Fuschia, saffron, white, red and every shade of imagined green filled the space in complete abandon. No neat rows here. A tall and magnificent wild-horse chestnut tree stood stately on one side, encircled by stones that made for excellent sitting.
How many times can a person fall in love, I often wonder. From where I stood in the small terraced garden of the bungalow, the Himalayan giants beckoned attention. 180 degrees sweeping views of the white mountains. Mrigthuni, Nanda Khat, Nanda Kot, Nanda Devi, Chakhamba, Trishul, Panchachuli…..For most part of my three day trip, I possessively guarded the stone bench, sitting on hours endlessly, staring, mesmerised, enchanted. On two nights, I simply dragged my quilt out and snuggled myself on a rather cold stone bench watching the mountains disappear behind the clouds. And as the colors disappeared into inky black night, sleep took over me until next morning I was awake by first ray.
Nights in the mountains are truly quiet and if you are awake enough, you can pick up sounds of smaller beings busy at work. Crickets, insects, a lone bird that cuckooed all night at regular intervals; and the rustling of trees touched and caressed by the wind. And if you were still quieter, as you would be if your heart and mind are still, you can hear the beat of your own heart.
The mornings had another surprise in store for us. Clouds that had hung possessively clung to the mountains in the day quietly slipped down under the cover of darkness; descending to the ground to be with its beloved. Then, as if on cue, they begun to swirl and rise to their abode with the first light.
In the day, Veena, Poonam, Bala and I set out for Mukteshwar. We intended to walk up to Mukteshwar by a well marked trail through the forests. Alas, four pairs of eyes were unable to locate the starting point of the trek till we had almost reached Mukteshwar by car. After a few inquiries at PWD, we found at least the concluding point of the trek. We were sitting right atop it! We decided to walk down to Mukteshwar part of the way. The trail is beautiful, wide and very touristy. Not to say that I mind it, but to me, if a trail is paved out so well, lets refrain from calling it a trek and simply refer to it as a ‘ walk in the park’.
It rained that afternoon; cold mountain rain that fell to the ground in big drops! We were on our way to the RK mission ashram we had heard so much about. Admittedly, the area is beautiful, though they were not too happy to have non RK mission visitors whose sole aim of being there was to see the place. I gleefully and duly walked about in the rain, letting it soak me to the bones. Perhaps this way i could carry it with me when i returned to the plains. Carry I did…a stubborn cold.. that refused to abate despite medications, for weeks.
Three days of long walks, rains, views , good food, wine and excellent company. Three days of being with yourself, in a home far removed from other influences. Three days of bliss that went by too fast.