In the lap of white
We missed Gagar, at almost a blink of an eye, driving up the windy road, cradled on either side with the dense Maheshkhan forest. I popped my head out swallowing the wild, rain-drenched air that instantly filled me up with a dose of freshness. And I thought to myself- “How lovely is this? The sky is falling, the wind is calling and here I am, far away from the cacophony of the city! ”
The dark, nimbus clouds played coy as the sun took turns to shine unabashedly on us. We finally reached Gagar and pulled over on one side of the road. A little hamlet, straight out of a story book, the modest chai shops had familiar smiling faces of locals who hoped we had stopped for a cup of piping, hot adrakh chai! A brief three-minute walk up the meandering road through the forest took us to The White Peaks, our heavenly little cottage at Mukta Niwas, which was to be our little home for the next couple of days. Life looked good. We stepped into the courtyard only to be spellbound by the stunning, panoramic view of the snow-capped Himalayas, commanding attention and awe. The cottage, fringed by a dense oak and rhododendron forest is apt for writers, poets, artists or those who truly value the silence and beauty of nature. The quietness of the forest is punctuated with the chorus of cicadas. After lounging around for a bit and exploring the quaint little place, we napped a while, waking up to a gorgeous evening with a crimson sky and the noisy neighborhood birds heralding the advent of a full-moon night. We spent countless hours sitting out, sipping endless rounds of Earl Grey, talking of joys, sorrows, expectations and disappointments, retiring finally into our beautiful Magpie room. I tucked myself into bed, snuggling inside my duvet, reading an Arthur Conan Doyle after years! Retiring to bed with a favorite book, feeling the chill of the night and being thankful for a warm and cozy bed (made cozier with a hot-water bag!) is one of those small yet priceless joys of life.
I don’t quite remember when was the last time I woke up so early in the morning, yet feeling completely rested and peaceful. I stepped out into the balcony to breathe in the fresh forest air and actually felt all the accumulated stress, slowly ebb away. It had been a while since I last found such a tranquil and serene place to slow down. Mohan, the caretaker of The White Peaks showed up with a cup of tulsi tea and for a change I agreed to give up on my unforgiving, caffeine dependence and opted for something healthier. After an hour of uninterrupted yoga, I gorged on the most delicious home-made stuffed aloo parantha which came topped with a dollop of butter and some yummy aam ka achar. It was a crisp, sunny day with hints of rain-bearing clouds threatening a downpour once every now and then.
The plan for the day was to explore the walking trails in the forest. We trailed bird songs, sat still, admiring the woods, feeling the wind in our faces. After wandering around a couple of hours, we finally came back to the cottage, our lazy aching bodies calling for some rest. But we had a plan for evening too! After a sumptuous, loving meal of Kali-mirch chicken, dal tadka and jeera aloo, we decided to rest a bit and catch up on some sleep. It was a cold, nippy evening in the middle of April and we quickly zipped up our jackets before heading out on an hour long walk to the nearby town of Ramgarh.
The Ramgarh market seemed to buzz as locals looked busy, winding up chores for the day before sun down. An old post office, a dilapidated bank hanging over the valley and a few grocery shops tucked in a tiny tea-shop where we had our fill of piping hot samosas and some mixed pakoras before we started heading back for the cottage. With the wind now getting more than nippy, we feasted on the calorie high, local specialty, blissful and satiated.
As we walked back, I wondered if we could stay on for a few more days to look around the neighboring towns of Mukteshwar, Sitla and Nathuakhan but for restless, busy city souls, a peaceful holiday is such a rare occurrence. On that note, my husband and I promised to come back to the lap of the hills, especially in winters to witness the place when it is wrapped in a pure white robe of snow.