Thursday, December 06, 2012
I grew up in a beautiful little Town--one that is as old as I am--Chandigarh.It is a very beautiful place--flat fertile Farmland over which the City was built is surrounded partly by the Himalayan Foothills called the Shivaliks.Memories of my childhood are filled with the misty blue of the distant Hills, wide open Spaces,beautifully scented Gardens and Sandstorms---a huge Canvas of Nature---each aspect of it fascinating to say the very least!!Life in the 1950s and early 1960s was easy paced and uncomplicated and The Almighty granted me a very beautiful and enriching childhood.I was lucky to have spent it in an uncomplicated and wholesome environment.
The Hills were what I loved--still do-- and they had the mystic allure that have held me in thrall from my earliest memories till today.As a very young child I'd visualise the Fairy Kingdom in those far away Hills--for each evening and night the lights of both Kasauli and Shimla would twinkle like Stars carpeting the Slopes---their edges softened by the darkness.On Winter nights these gleamed Silver in the Moonlight--covered by a thick blanket of Snow.My Nanny--Amma-- was a Hill woman and lying next to her at night I'd hear the old Legends and stories of the Hills--deepening their allure for me.There would be legends of the Gods,Fairy tales as well as Ghost stories--an inexhaustible store of this would open up each night--and I'd insist on her continuing an unfinished tale the next night--remembering the exact spot at which I fell asleep!!This turned me into a girl with an extremely vivid imagination who had her head in the Clouds--and spent time day dreaming of so many things.Treks in the same Hills with Daddy and Jeanneret Uncle also taught me to appreciate Nature---both these Men would take pains to point out the perfect shape of a Wildflower or the intoxicating scent of another--in fact they have gone so far as to show me how perfectly a dried Cow pat we found on one these Treks had been formed!!
Trekking in the Hills gave a new insight into so many things--I began to love the various scents of the open Air--the smell of new mown Hay and Hay drying in the Sun,the beautiful elusive perfume rising from the Wildflowers we crushed underfoot on the Trails,the sound of the Indian Flute called "Bansuri" plaintive and hauntingly lingering in the atmosphere as the Shepherds herding their Sheep played different Folk melodies to pass the time.I also developed a taste for food cooked over fires fuelled by Cow pats--even today the wonderful taste of the simple Meals provided to us by Villagers of the different Villages on the way still lingers in my mouth.In the Winters we'd trek in the Mustard fields of the Punjab--most of these combined with Sugar Cane.The fresh foaming tall glasses filled to the brim with Fresh Sugarcane Juice and the preparation of Mustard Leaves served with Corn Bread that they'd share with us for Lunch had an aroma and flavour I have not found since--anywhere at all!!This would be accompanied by huge balls of freshly churned White Butter and tall glasses of Lassi---and Heaven would be just right there!!
After I married Sudhir, we continued our visits to my beloved Mountains--each Summer.On our way there we'd stop at tiny roadside "Dhabas" to eat.Most of these were run by the farmers whose lands ran alongside the Highway.Fresh Vegetables cooked in either Butter or Mustard Oil and Dals along with thick Whole Wheat Rotis gave us the needed nourishment and a little Siesta would beckon invitingly in the form of the string cots laid out invitingly under the thick foliage of a Neem/Margosa or Mango Tree next to the Dhaba.The sights and sounds of rural India are truly fascinating for me--and my heart swells with emotion each time I remember those times.
The Mountains are mystifyingly beautiful--the clear deep Blue Skies with fluffy White Clouds scudding across them,the gentle Gold gilding of the Evergreens by Sunlight,the Air redolent with elusively scented Wild Flowers and fragrant Pine Needles carpeting the Slopes,the Summer Fruits luscious and juicy---a perfect Paradise to be sure!!Walking in the cool,scented shade of the thick Woods of Pine,Spruce and Fir along the steep winding roads in the late afternoons was another favourite pastime.The cool whispering Breeze would gently pass by--- caressing our hair and ruffling it and the Sunrises and Sunsets would be spectacular--the rays of both the rising or setting Sun turning a violet Sky a blushing,delicate Rose and then Gold each Dawn and the deep Rose gently merging into Violet and then a velvety Grey each evening.Each time it rained in the Summer the beautiful scent of the Earth coupled with wet Foliage would linger for a while before the chilly white fingers of Mist rolled in---perfect Weather for bowls of steaming hearty Broths and Soups!!Those who have visited the Indian "Hill stations" as these are called will vouch for the excellent Colonial Cuisine available in these places---coupled with hearty Indian Fare.To me the Mountains are magical in the Summer and make for an extremely enjoyable and unforgettable experience!!!