It was January 2014; winter was its cusp.
Brimming with new-found energy, I was stuffing my rucksack, with the help of an itinerary I pencilled the other night. Of course, I was heading towards a journey, and that too, along with some of my friends.
Mukteshwar, a town nestled in the lap of Kumaon Hills in uttarakhand was our destination,we its pilgrimage. As we were to be ferried by a bus , it was incumbent upon me to befriend one or two novels that lay unattended for many a month in my shelf. In case, my eyes excruciate in pain,music would be my ‘Novel.’
1. The Road Taken.
The journey embarked upon, so did our hearts. The bus chugged along, waved bye to the urban traffic , albeit at a snail’s pace. An ambivalent emotion of getting away from home and nearing to the land unknown enveloped my heart. I continued to gape at the tall grass going wild in the night, slapping past the bus. sometimes, the deserted road , and at times into nothingness of night.Except for few, everyone was coaxed into sleeping ,only after finishing dinner. I too followed suit soon.
With eyes, a mote of sky opened up . One of my friends stooped her head and told me that the bus had broken down. “Broken down”, I chirped.
We alighted from the bus, and settled for a hot cup of tea. We strolled , marvelled and clicked along its narrow winding lanes. Cobbled streets run between the rugged exteriors of old stonewalls, interspersed with earthly balconies and doors, adorned with colourful flowers , and in some places , jarringly juxtaposed with modern construction because the ruins had aged beyond survival. Locals were helpful, interactive and informative. A handful of stray dogs-though friendly- accompanied us wherever we went. Compared with the glass-clad skyscrapers,air-conditioned shopping malls and rush-hour-traffic choked roadways of “DELHI” , Mukteshwar is a grounding antidote to urban existence.
In a jiffy, the bus came to a screeching halt near us, and announced its departure. The road ahead was a spectacle of deep valleys, one too many swirling twists which can potentially give you an up-chuck unless you have strong stomachs.
2. The Hotel.
|“Mukteshwar Himalayan Resort”|
|“The Dining Room”|
We reached the hotel, which had its name scribbled on the mountain as “MHR”
That this kind of hotel could be built at such height is a testament to the fact that beauty is best viewed atop. The birds soared high in tandem,, inviting us to drift into a pastoral trance.
Inside the hotel, we were greeted with a nod-an Indian traditional which one finds at almost every place-and later with breakfast which had egg(s) and bread and butter. Resplendent as it is, the hotel offers an array of food to choose from,which are both mouth-watering and palatable.
The rooms, here, are comfy and airy whose walls you will find etched with beautiful paintings and a bouquet over the mirror. What enthralled me the most was that it [the room]overlooked the breath-taking panoramic view and a balcony which time and again made us realise whether “we were a case of acrophobia.”
3. The Trekking.
|“Encountered a Red Mushroom en route”|
Having taken a siesta under Pashmina blanket[for it was too cold ] , we were raring to go places ripe for exploration. Scouted by a guide, we ventured into the woods en masse, often clutching each other’s hands while treading onto the rugged terrains. Constantly , a voice which stated “make a beeline” filled the air. Only once during my trekking did someone/something wander past at an ,inopportune moment.But once was enough.
I always believe “Inaccessibility of a place is the essence of its charm.” The farther is the place, the greater is the urge to go there.
|“An oasis of Jungle”|
Very soon, we stumbled upon a stream and a swarm of flies overhead. Not only was water crystal , but it was cold also. Given the geography, it was no surprise that the place is home to the different species of birds , insects , and fauna. Sounds are limited to the crowing of red jungle fowl, the chirps of straw-headed bulbuls, and collared kingfishers, or the wind rattling towering trees. The abundance of trees ensured shade was ubiquitous.
It was only after the day dusked into the night did we return to our hotel. All we needed then was food to gorge into and a sound sleep afterwards. The needs were well taken care of.
4. The Sunrise.
|“The first light emerging out of The Himalayas”|
At 5 in the morning,, my friend shook me awake from a dream or perhaps into one.Not even in my wildest of dreams did I think I would watch such a beautiful sunrise out of twinkly, ethereal snow-scape of The Himalayas. I was agog! I was impatient! Nothing could be as surreal and captivating as this.
The same day we visited IVRI[Indian Veterinary Research Institute], premier advanced research facility in the field of veterinary medicine and allied branches. There was a vast expanse of green pasture , and goats grazing over it. It was pertinent to note that scientists working there kept us abreast with the latest developments and research carried out in recent time.
The night marked the inception of ‘Bonfire’ – again a traditional we follow as harbinger of happiness and prosperity- in the hotel’s lawn. We all huddled together, and danced our hearts out, with music reverberating backdrop. Blessings were given; speech made.
Sweets were served in dinner. Being born with sweet tooth , I can say that the joy of sugar needs no cogitation; it scarcely needs a brain.
|“The sun at the dusk”|
The next morning , I woke up to the sound of drizzling , which only made morning grow colder and colder. The rains forced us to stay indoor. We rejoiced the day playing indoor games like table tennis, carom and ludo, sipping tea at regular interval to ward off cold. Had the rains not stopped , we would have missed the soothing sunset . The sun was bright one moment, yellow at another and then turned yellowish-red before it veiled itself under The Himalayas.
The town had a leisurely pace, and everybody knew everybody.Early in the mornings, the men, having been sent out to the bazaars, would stand about on the pavements exchanging sport news and slurping tea. As the day progressed, the morning peace would be broken by a procession of bicycle-powered vendors , each with his own distinctive street cry:the newspaper boy, the fish monger , the milkman and the man with the vegetable barrow.
The memories of the trip are everlasting. And I hope it does.
Just reminiscing what I encountered during my trip -the lofty blue hills, the verdant forests, the inescapable splendour – transports me to the past. Let me stay for a while here!!