Romancing the Hills

Himachal has hills and mountains that just entrap you into them. Earlier I did not like the hills, but now I realise those were the early days at Himachal and I was just homesick. Now I just miss those aimless wanderings around Waknaghat. Sitting on plain grazing areas on the way from the university to waknaghat, the Shimla toy train used to be visible with its little engine emitting steam and blowing its horn which could be heard till ten kilometres around. I shall try to give a vivid description of reality, sketching the indelible scenes in my mind on the canvas of words.

A day when I decided to go ahead and start my romance with the hills, started off early at 8 AM. Walking on Dumehar road, gentle yet chilly breeze ruffling my hair, the sun shining down providing warmth whenever the wind subsided, looking over the edge of the mountain watching the people working in their fields in the shallow valley below. Giving way to oncoming trucks and then walking in the center of the road as soon as they passed by. Turning around often to watch out for the occassional local bus. Hitching rides from lorries, water tankers and trucks. Passing by the grand house on top of the hill, near a complete hairpin bend as the road turns the entire three hundred and sixty degrees, the rush of the wind in my face, sitting in the back of an open lorry. My nose and face used to redden due to the cold. This is how the trip used to be made from the university to Waknaghat, scavenging for hitchable vehicles.

Once on the highway, having parathas and tea at a Wakna shop and then waiting for a bus to shimla at the super-tiny roundabout. Watching the college bolero and jeeps making endless to and fro trips, ferrying the construction people. And then clambering onto the Shimla bus….. excitedly… running…. I like Shimla….. even my grandfather loves Shimla! Watching the mountains whiz by. There are no bus stops in Shimla and not even any redlights. Wherever the mountains change sides, the place is called as a ‘ghat’. Watching the train track running parallel slighly above the road. Rounding Kathleeghat and if lucky, catching a glimpse of the chugging toy. The furniture house biulding at Kathleeghat is visible from the JUIT to Waknaghat road, more than twelve kilometres away. Passing by all the temples, with their fluttering flags. Passing by Shoghi…… across the Shoghi market, catching sight of a lecturer and waving goodbye…. beyond the snaking curving roads and impatiently waiting for Shimla.

Reaching the outskirts of Shimla and past the railway station, past the Cecil hotel, past wooden decorative buildings “Crow Burrough”, “Eagles Nest” serving a reminder of Shimla’s colonial times. Past the Victory tunnel and beyond, cutting through Shimla past IGMC and further, to Sanjoli. Getting down and then catching a bus to Kufri….. anticipating the sight of snow with the wind whistling in my ears, skies overcast with clouds and occasional pelting rain. Watching the tops of the mountains invisible in the fog. Going beyond the pine and fur trees and reaching Kufri. Delighted at the two feet of snow. Watching the cars skid on the snow which had been compressed into ice, inching slowly ahead. Playing in the snow and having snowfights with friends. Everything covered in white and still it was snowing more n more. Even though I have seen Kufri before, but it looks so different when painted all white that nothing around can seems even remotely familiar. Gallavanting in the snow and then ironically sweating…. the cold wind used to blow and make me shiver due despite sweating. Breathing in, and feeling my lungs being chilled by the rich mountain air. Saving some snow in a plastic bag to take back to the hostel, for friends.

After spending nearly four hours, it was time to go back. Darkness was setting in. The traffic had been closed on the highway coz vehicles were skidding. I walked a long way, my legs and hands numb and senseless, and then hiched a ride in an open jeep… covered my head with my jacket to avoid the wind…… Got off at shimla and headed straight for Barista. The hot coffee warmed my chest as it flowed down my throat. Then I caught sight of my watch and started running to catch the 6:40 Garu bus. Unfortunately I missed it but all this running brought circulation back into my numb body. I caught a bus headed for Solan and proceed to sleep in the seat…. watched Shimla pass by, the beautiful lights of the city…. like shining glitter on a black saree. The bus drove on, the brakes screetching and whistling and every turn. Beyond Shoghi and towards Waknaghat…. Since it is difficult to spot Waknaghat in the night, so I kept a watchout for the “Terrace Garden Dhaba”, and proceeded towards the exit and got down.

Walking from Wakna to JUIT at night is a bit scary if you are alone. I occasionally used the light from my cellphone screen as a torch, it was pitch dark all around, a moonless overcast night, even the road, on which I was walking on, wasnt visible. There are no streetlights in the mountains. Walking along in the dark, hearing the leaves rustling in the wind, nearing the hairpin bend and then….. catching sight of the university, brilliantly lit, right in the middle of nowhere, and heaving a sigh of relief on heariing the sound of a water tanker driving in…… hitching a ride inside the warm, cosy cabin of the jaypee tanker with a jovial Sardarji at the wheel.

The feelings are indelible but the sights are smoky now. I just wanna go there again, just want to experience all this once more. just wanna live a normal and everyday life with my freinds and teachers, in my university, in my room H1-22. I miss everything, the sights, the sounds, the smells.

I am out of Himachal, but Himachal wont ever get out of me.

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~ by sleepwalker on February 22, 2005.

One Response to “Romancing the Hills”

  1. great ,my sis is at waknaghat

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