I stood there awe-struck.The chill Himalayan air seeped through every inch of my body invigorating me.The magnificient Himalayas lay before me, a spectacle to behold. Huge undulating folds, enveloped in lush greenery,spotted with red brick huts; silent, serene,understanding and at peace. Puffs of overflowing clouds fringed the ranges and the setting sun splashed a bucket of rainbow colors onto the clouds’ white canvas. My favorite song played in my head as it always does when I’m unusually happy;
Kitni Narmi Se , Kitni dheere se,
Dil mein aati hain,dabe paon Mohobbat
Dhadhkon mein yeh chupkar dolti hai,
Rang sa zindagi mein gholti hai,
Aankhon aankhon mein jaise bolti hai,
Haule se, Dheere se
Slowly but surely love flowed out of me, love for life, love for being there and when you are in love everything is all the more beautiful, more colorful. I stood there lost, transfixed. Mountains have always had this effect on me. They evoke a sense of spirituality in me; huge, foreboding creations of God yet so calm, so giving, so majestic, so protective, so uncorrupted, a silent reminder of the might of creation. This was my first morning in Shimla and it was a knockout.
We ( my parents and I) started the journey early one cool monsoon morning in July and took the 7 o’clock Kingfisher flight to Delhi . Our connecting flight to Shimla was due in an hour from the time of landing but due to bad weather(I suspect low passenger capacity) the flight was cancelled and we were left stranded in the national capital. Thankfully, we had a local Shimlaiite with us on route and he recommended we board the afternoon flight to Chandigarh and then drive down to Shimla.We had no choice and I was up for a visually stimulating car journey! Chandigarh was overcast and chilly. We hired an Innova with a driver who a cheerful , talkative chap and set off just in time before it started pouring. That car drive would rank high up in my list of “most scenic” ( the most interesting+nerve racking would we the one where my Grandparents, mom, uncle and I were caught in a cyclone in Veraval, Gujrat!). The driver skilfully manouvered the vehicle on winding, treachrous and narrow paths as we steadily gained altitude. Apple carts, verdant agriculture lands and brightly coloured trucks were few of the sights we passed by. Stopping only twice in our 5 hour journey(once for corn on the cob that we were forced to share with man’s closest relative aka the monkey and then for cutting chai and bread pakoda at the drivers’ hangout) we breezed into the hillstation just as the sun started retiring for the day.
We dropped our genial fellow traveller at his destination and carried towards our humble abode-the Oberoi Wildflower Hall. Perched atop a mountain at 8000ft, the front facade of this castle glowed in the blue moonlight. Aptly lit pathways led us directly to a grand entrance fit for a King.That we just hit the bed out of exhaustion after a sumptuous Himachali dinner of course!
The next morning I woke up to the chirping of birds and a golden Himalaya. We had decided that this holiday would be an exploratory one with as less time as possible spent thronging in shops ;) So on the first day we went on a self-guided Strawberry Trail. As the weather gods would have it, the clouds began squeezing every drop of water they had. Armed with sturdy umbrellas we set off on the hour long trail through dense cedar and pine forests with only thrushes, cows, bright red strawberries and the silent plunk of raindrops in the puddles for company. I’m not sure if I’m really made to spend time in solitude for after about half an hour or so I longed to see some signs of modernity and familiarity and you have no idea how ecstatic I was to see an electric pole!!! We returned recharged with all the fresh mountain air. The rest of the day was spent touring the hotel’s grounds, reading in the library and playing a game (disastrously)of snooker.The next day we went on a mountain view trail…this one 2 and half hours long and with a guide who took us trekking through the same forests but in the opposite direction but this time we had stunning views of Shimla from above! He seemed to be a keen botanical expert and keenly point out rare species of plants and even beetles!
By the end of the trek my dad was panting unusually too much. That night he got worse. But still the next morning he braved the Mall road but by evening we had to order an oxygen cylinder.It turned out the high altitude and consequent low oxygen didnot suit him. We forced to cancel out trip to Manali and were confined to the hotel for the day. The Oberoi staff need a special mention becaue their courtesy and service was extraordinary. We felt like we were bing taken care of by family members. The chef visited and made special dietary adjustments . The staff also arranged for us to be transported to a hotel at a lower altitude. And so we packed our bags and bid adieu to the serenity of Wildflower hall.
That night my dad’s health improved but we still needed to reach the plains and so our driver was called in early and we set off for Delhi. Thankfully by the time we had reached our destination my dad had gained much in health.
That’s how our Shimla hoiday ended. I will always carry memories of the fresh air and welcoming mountains of Shimla