Wednesday, August 04, 2010
I have always loved the Mountains and many places associated with these hold a very special place in my Heart---this trip to the beautiful Himachal Pradesh---"The Land Of Snow' was exceptionally magnificent!!!Those days we'd travel to Destinations in this State of India----every location there was literally Picture Postcard perfect!!!In 1996 we travelled to a remote corner of it---to Sarahan----a magical sleepy little Town near the Indo Tibet Border.
That year we planned a lovely trip----beginning with Shimla,then scenically pastoral Fagu---renowned for it's Peach and Cherry Orchards---then on to Sarahan and then back----it turned out to be a visual treat!!!
There were 5 of us---Sudhir,Sayali , me,my sister Ritu and Sayali's best friend from babyhood---Laxmi.We bought Bus Tickets at New Delhi and drove down overnight to Shimla arriving in the morning.Our reservations were already made and we spent the first afternoon napping---stirring out to visit the famous Mall Road that evening.The Mall Road was crowded with People as it was Vacation season---and the first thing on the Agenda was to book a Taxi for Sight-Seeing after which we renewed our aquaintance with Shimla afresh after a gap of 17 years!!!A lot of my childhood Vacations had been spent here---but today there were very few Landmarks of that old Shimla left----it had developed into a bustling large Town---as the Capital of the State!!
The next day we drove down Wild Flower and Pine scented, thickly wooded winding roads---first to the beautiful Naldehra Golf Course---eating Lunch here,then to Mashobra to roam around Apple Orchards,from here to Narkanda to see the Golden roofs of the Potaalaa Palace shining in Lhasa----then the Ski Slopes of Kufri for Tea and finally the erstwhile Vice Roy's Residence---Wild Flower Hall---and here an incident I can never forget took place!!!The Hall is at a height---one has to climb up to get to it---and we spent a really enjoyable two hours up there.On the way down Laxmi stumbled---and sprained her foot badly!!!Somehow she hobbled to the Car and we drove home.Once in the Room I applied an Ice Pack to her Foot but the swelling didn't go down.I was carrying tubes of Pain Killing Ointment but no Crepe Bandages!!! Sudhir and Sayali left to find a Chemist's Shop to buy these.By the time they started on the way back to the Hotel it was pretty late----and the Hotel was in a quiet bylane---though a walking Distance from the Shop-----the poorly lit dark winding deserted Road was spine chilling----the whole atmosphere was pretty spooky to say the least!!!Shimla is famous for it's Nocturnal Inhabitants--Ghosts---and it was this that kept sending shivers down Sayali's spine----and the fact that their own foot falls kept echoing back to them----she was shivering with Fear by the time they came back!!!
However within the next two days Laxmi recovered and we moved on to Fagu----the State owned Old English Guest House is perched atop a Hill-----surrounded by thick Forests,Terrace Farms and lofty Mountains!!!It's Scenic situation is unparallelled---the rooms all face beautiful Views!!!Here we had a beautiful,restful few days----away from the madding crowd---just us,the Solitude and Nature!!!Here the four of them played a funny kind of Cricket---"Walking Stick" Cricket!!!The Walking Stick would be upended and used as a Bat by one of them to strike the Ball bowled at it by another----with the remaining two acting as fielders!!!I'd watch all this activity from the safety of the Verandah---with my favourite Crosswords on my knees.The evenings would be spent playing Scrabble---with each one of us screaming at the top of our voices trying to drown the others out----luckily we were the only occupants!!!This beautiful and leisurely sojourn ended after 5 days and we travelled further to Sarahan---situated on the banks of a fast flowing,turbulent Sutlej River---- A True Paradise!!!
Sarahan was the Shangri--La that I had been searching for since I'd read the Book--and here too I could sense the Footprints of my beloved Kim as he followed the Lama towards Tibet!!!This beautiful quiet little Town once upon a time used to be the Capital of Bushair---an old Kingdom--- the largest in the area!!!It is one of the most magical places I've been to---a fortified Complex with ancient wooden Temples,Palaces and a serenity that truly pervades the Soul like an application of a cooling and soothing Balm!!!Lofty Peaks topped with Snow surrounded these verdant slopes------the beautiful deep Royal Blue Sky overhead,lofty Evergreens,thickly wooded Slopes, Blooming Orchards,the Eagles circling overhead, the cry of the Wild Pheasants and the Golden Sunlight spilling over this Picture---it is a scene imprinted in my mind forever!!!The 10 days we spent here included daily visits to the Ancient Temples,long meandering Walks along steep Crevasses, just sitting in the Balcony watching Evening turn to Dusk and the Night gently descend with the tiny twinkling Lights flickering in the Homesteads clinging to the Slopes---gazing across to the almost Silvery Moonlit Sky---the Stars hanging so near that I felt I could pluck them if I just stretched out my hands to do so!!!Ten days just flew past on magical wings--leaving me awed,bemused and besotted by Sarahan---something inside me changed--an inner Peace and Serenity pervaded my Being---it had a Profound Spiritual effect on both ---my Psyche and my Soul !!!
The hushed Silence was so potent that I felt I'd hear in it Words uttered ages ago----the whole effect was one of complete Timelessness--the Past,Present and Future--All Here and All Now!!!It is such places that still carry the imprint of God's Hand--and only at such places does His Presence truly surround you!!!
Tuesday, August 03, 2010
My friend Ann asked me a question---"Do all Indians love the Rains???"The answer is simple ---YES 90% do!!!Indian Weather is divided by Nature into 3 main parts----Summer,Monsoon and Winter.These enfold both Spring and Autumn(Fall) within their embrace!!!Of all the 3 main Seasons,Monsoon is the most beloved of all----since Time immemorial!!!Our Legends and Folk Lore talk of this Season very lovingly---there are many compositions dedicated to the legendary lovers---Radha and Krishna---both in Miniature Rajasthani and Kangra Paintings as well as Folk Songs----all singing the Song of their Romance---- particularly in the Monsoon!!!
There are great Classics in Sanskrit and Regional Literature devoted to this---"Megh Dootum" being the most prominent---written many Centuries back by the Legendary Poet/ Playwright/ Dramatist Kalidaasaa in Sanskrit.Here the Hero of Kaalidasaa's play uses the Dark Cloud(Megha) as a Messenger to send a message to his Beloved far away----the helpful Cloud takes pity on the lovelorn soul and does as he's asked---carrying the reply back as well!!!Kalidaasaa's description of The Dark Clouds from his mountain abode is just mesmerising----it really catches hold of one's imagination---and the Clouds are not just harbingers of Rain any more--but sensous messengers carrying Love Lorn Messages back and forth between two pining souls!!!The Monsoon is the Romantic period of the year---resounding with Songs of Love Lorn Lovers who separated by the desperate Circumstances and pine for each other in dark lonely Rain filled Nights!!!It is also a time for Celebration---everywhere celebrated and feted by Legend,Folklore and Poetry!!!India always experiences flooding---many States of India flood badly year after year---but despite that we love it,revere it ,worship it and celebrate it----all over India!!!Even our Culinary Tradition endorses it ----with piping hot spicy, crispy "Pakoras" and mugs of steaming hot Spicy Tea---"Chai" in most of the North,East and West or Coffee"Kaapi" in most of the South,East and West----Heaven is just a replete and satiated sigh away!!!
I grew up in a Family that adores Rain--- during my chilhood everybody would wait for the Summer Heat to break and the beautiful "Taandav" of the Clouds to begin----the wild Sandstorms and Thunderstorms beating a tattoo with huge pellets of Hail----these were the preparatory precursors of the Monsoons!!!!The real Show would follow later----only those who have experienced the wild abandon of a torrential Indian Monsoon can relate to it---with both Heart and Soul!!!It used to cause and still causes a lot of Discomfort----Potholes on the Roads,damp Clothes,wet Footwear, Gastro-Entritis,Malaria and more---not to mention the flooding of Mumbai's low lying areas year after year----not forgetting the cataclysmic Torrential Cloudburst of 26 July 2005!!!In fact even people who suffer the ill effects of the Monsoon every year-----both my Bais(Domestic Help) Chhaya Bai and Vanita---love the Rains---despite living in an area where it causes severe flooding during the heavier downpours!!!
As children both the Girls loved the Rain---those days during the heavier Deluges it meant a Holiday for them thanks to all the flooding around their School----also meant loads of Hot Soups with lashings of Hot, Buttery,Crisp Toasts,Maggi Noodles,Roast Chicken and piping hot Spicy,Crisp Pakoras with Spicy and Pungent hot Chutney besides othe piping hot Spicy, Pungent Indian Snacks with steaming hot cups of Chai----and leisurely visits to the Wayside Inn----Samovar or the Sea Lounge----all looking out at various Bombay Vistas---the first under the shady canopy of a thickly leaved shady Rain Tree overlooking a view of old Gothic Style Buildings and Pavements shrouded in the fine misty Rain--- crowded with people scurrying around under their colourful Umbrellas or in their vibrant Raincoats---the second overlooking the lush,wet Tree covered Green Expanse of the Museum Grounds next door to the Verandah the Restaurant is housed in----and the last over looking he choppy Grey Sea,the beautiful Arch of the Gateway of India and the Waves lashing and frothing over the protecting Sea Wall of the Promenade with resounding crashes---splashing and soaking the People standing there---just WAITING expectantly for this to happen!!!These were the days when the Stereo played my collection of old Songs---at night it would be the Dreamy strains of Instrumental Musical Themes from old Hollywood Films----a must to lull us to Sleep!!!Today Lotta lives in L.A. where it rains almost daily and she still LOVES it!!!So do her husband and daughter----but surpisingly while our younger son-in-law loves the Rain---Sayali's grown averse to it!!In fact she hates it so much these days that poor Kartik---- sheepishly apologetic for something that's not his doing----stays clear of her when it Rains---or he catches the brunt of her displeasure!!!Both Sudhir and I are puzzled at this turnaround on Sayali's part----but ours no to question why!!!I doubt she'd have a logical answer even if we did!!!
Both Sudhir and I loved going for long drives when it poured----the falling water streaming past the Windshield and the undulating Road---wet and Black----the wet Landscape----the Green Hills clothed in fine Mist in the distance------soft Music playing on the Tapes---now CDs----and just the two of us--- I just couldn't have asked for more!!!The steep,sparsely wooded Hills used to turn into lush verdant Green Pastures with Waterfalls cascading down the crevasses of the steep Hillsides---playfully gurgling and splashing down without a care in the World!!!With heartfelt apologies to Omar Khayyam those days I'd changed his couplet a little------"The vast Rainy Expanse of the World,The strains of Melody playing softly and Thou beside me!!!!"----both of us loved our weekly long drives to the nearby Hill Stations---Lonavala and Khandaala---situated atop the steep Western Ghats!!!It is this Season that these places overflow with Visitors---the locals just rake in the Moolah from April to September---the first half to beat the tiring Summer Heat---the second half to soak in Nature's Monsoon Beauty and Bounty!!!
Today if we go we have to include Pradeep---he's been driving us everywhere for almost the past 10 years now-----he's a good lad but sort of puts a spoke in the Wheel of my Romantic Spin!!!Most of our long Drives these days lead to CBD Belapur----one of the outermost Suburbs of Mumbai---to visit Sayali's In-Laws!!!It means greater comfort for Sudhir to be driven----given the choked Traffic Conditions these days---so be it!!!Besides Pradeep too loves the Rain----he suggests many of these long Drives----in fact he wants to drive down to Kolhapur in this Weather!!!
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