9th June 2017: Sunshine in my shoulder makes me happy. Just moss cover. Very thin elegant fall.
I feel so peaceful here internally rested no random sounds just the chirping of birds the quiet sunrise a feeling I get when I would go for choir practise at 6 am It’s the way the chapel would light up the organ plays its first chord and you tune in to sing. All this place requires is a synthesiser some beautiful hymns and the feeling of alls well with the world. Tippy and Gyan are very gracious hosts let you be with tea that sends up wisps they are both on their morning walks. Vinayak’s reading on one chair me writing and Cheenu doing his huff n puff pranayam
Wonder how it will be Vinayak goes off to hostel after class 12. Strange the nest empty with just parent birds whose whole life surrounds the kid. To think your whole life revolves around parenting for both Cheenu n me and it’s amazing how Vinayak tolerates and synthesis both of us. 3 people all of us have differing viewpoints but hang around and understand each other’s moods body languages well. Seeing all the Himalayan river meanders I feel I’m like a boulder around which my mongrels meander I’m just a small part of their journey which in some way helped them change course. It’s interesting to watch them meander around and then flow away to their destiny. Each has softened the boulder as it swished by.
7th June 2017: Today the wine called Munsiary is cloaked in mist grey thin and grey dark. Somewhat like my heart it’s gone into a slow cold after xxx news I guess the weather mirrors my mood a bit frozen. But anyways since it’s my last day here I chronicle Munsiyari for you I wonder why people settled here in this high altitude place where the daily grind to survive requires fortitude. It has a mix of bhotias who must have come from the borders of Nepal or Tibet sturdy meat eating tribes with their bhotia dogs in tow.
There is something about these majestic heights which does make you want to take sanyas the sheer beauty of nature alpine meadows I don’t think I will ever be able to do this mrf tyre add journey again. The car tyres literally crush the shale and limestone under your feet and tumble and crumble to start a land slides. People come here photographers mostly to catch a glimpse of the peaks glaciers go to glacial lakes nearby. They sit all day with their cameras aimed and already there are 10 such lodges in existence and more coming up with names like milam view snow view etc. So the view sells and tourism enters to quickly set up the infrastructure. It’s easy to have rooms with a view basically a glass pane a balcony with chairs.
And plonk on those chairs come the tourists in tempo travellers. So ya it’s a matter of time when this too shall become premium. Anyways high mountains bring out high and pure thoughts for some reason. Somehow the pettiness of everyday emotions goes through the sieve of the heart. And you move the grain from the chaff. You feel large forgiving wondering and feel it’s ok people have reasons to do the things they do.
Anyways the feet are cold so is the nose so on come the socks that warmth I was talking about. Even holding the phone is cold. It’s a chilly feeling all around but the eyes gaze on the sheer beauty around. These are the 3 mithais of the hills. The white dots on brown is the Baal mithai. The other brown one is chocolate. And a milk cake wrapped in a leaf is called singora. The juice of the leaf adds to the taste. All are milk based sweets. I love the singora the most. You sort of are meant to suck the milk cake out of the leaf. If I could I would send you photos of a bhang ki chatni. Apricot chutni too. Bhang is a basic masala. Slightly gravelly when it’s ground. And then added to the kaddu. Or simply made into a chutni. It’s like tooth powder the black one after you have eaten bhang you clean the teeth with your tongue. Now for the langoors here. There white beard and hair on the head are super white. A whole gang comes everyday long tails but curious eyes that look around. The crow is a raven dark black the size of a hen. We have a festival here called kala kauwa. In which kids feed the crows a diamond shaped mathri thing. Basically feeding the ancestors. So ya it’s a nature thing feeding crows cows and such like. Since it’s a Shakti cult goats are sacrificed in most temples too.
Yes this is what I say the hills have moods. Now do you get what 8000 feet feels like. Yes that’s the whole point the moods of the mountains. It does look like a whole different place. Spectacular. Yes yes the moods of the rains and us season. And within seconds it’s covered up. Just a short walk and the micro view of a spring some moss another angle of Munsiyari and the skies up above azure blues which take your breath away. Ok the Ramganga overflowed at thal yesterday.
“Visible invisible coexist.
You see you know
Yet you know and don’t see
Dualism of the hills
Or non duality
It is and it’s not”
– A poem dedicated to Nagararjuna.
Within seconds of writing this everything got covered. It’s like entering the flow of consciousness stilling yet moving. With hardly any signal it’s impossible to write or mail something from here so I’ve thought I’ll share with photos and on whatsapp as it unfolds.
So I am close to the Nepal border perched very high so this highland feel of Kumaon is different. We can almost touch the glaciers and peaks. This place has a mixed foliage walnut chestnut oaks and birches not pines. We travelled through only pine country yday. Which makes you wonder was it a mega social forestry event that happened during the raj. It was dull compared to this. The journey from chowkori till here was an adventure steep falls sheer drops through a road that was basically crumbling limestone and shale. It was a nightmare there were waterfalls lots of nallahs and every nallah because of the water started a landslide. Midway through this we encountered 4 huge Himalayan griffins or eagles with a wing span of say vinayak with hands open. They circled us and went away. I tried to send you photos as we climbed up the Ramganga valley. A blue river meandering and being fed by springs. So the hills are alive buzzing and quiet. Occasionally in the towns we crossed we saw the women going about their chores carrying head loads of grass. Men with caps and sticks. The colourful markets with same four veggies. Kaddus laukis aloo and such like. But almost each house has a dish tv and everyone had a mobile. Many houses had marutis parked. So yes Kumaon is prosperous now. More developed and touristy
I thought of my father as we crossed Almora the ugliest town of them all. I imagined him walking upto his school this was a story related with great pride of how he walked From his village to Adams school almora and then educated himself and was now an IAS officer. I think he literally took his climbing up the ladder a bit too seriously.
Yes these hills can really make you feel the hardship toil and struggle. Also I think this general hardship made babu the angry and severe person he became Clarky and very unforgiving towards those who got it easy. When you’ve made it on your own there’s an arrogance mixed with pride. Yes part of 10 bros and sisters and the only one who made it really son of an inspector of schools. So ya he was in many ways like cheenu is. Such arrogance really takes no account of small failings it is backed with I did it in worse cases so can you. Yes I understand a clarky mindset totally. Anyways so the hills are my eja and babu in more ways than one. Inf act I saw Eja’s uday shankar’s dance academy outside almora a clearly artsy space which my father would have growled about as he walked past. So ya cheenu n me are like him n her. It’s amazing these divides. And I can imagine eja enjoying the graces of kathak and my father stopping her mid track saying life is not poetry theatre or dance. So ya both their childhoods were here and mine too so I guess the hills are me. Both exist hardworking and leisure all hard workers need not be arrogant. Yes I am only explaining why I love the hills so much.
So we come back to the question of dualities again. Monoculture cannot and must not exist. Correct flowing does it. There was s no one way. So my great realisation is this that I love the hills because of my parents and me and so I feel secure happy and at home here.
So ya now about chestnuts the tastiest nut. You light a fire and throw them in. They become soft juicy and tasty. They are an essential part of growing up in the hills. So you have black hands that open black chestnuts you have black on your nose and mouth. And generally you never look clean or want to share chestnuts. They are carried about in plastic packets. And the minute you see twigs the roasting begins. Yes Heidi it is. Then there are ferns mosses and small lilies. They are there I was coming to the undergrowth section. So ya as you walk past a hillside you get a green slash on your clothes from either the moss fern or the daisy. But you just duck a bichoo ka ped. Because nettles as the name suggest sting hard. You are left with only sarson ka tel. To wipe out or soothe the itch. That’s the other thing here you like soft touch warm touch kind of thing. Here everything is about touch. Like most people wear old woollens as they are both soft and warm. So ya a nettle sting starts the whole family soothing the stung. It’s often you hear a wail go up in the air as a kid has been stung. And it’s amazing how a million hands rub oil to soothe it. Then wrap the burning hand in a cotton sheet. But ya ferns they slowly and gently caress. As you walk past a very tiny hish sound. They almost tickle but not really. And when they catch raindrops they tickle and if wet moist you up or can sometimes drop into your socks. But this lush undergrowth gives off a very distinct smell of leaf and flowers which mixed with the smell of pines is heady heady so heady. So ya all kinds of touch happens here. When you walk in from the cold someone rubs your cold nose and hands. So warm touch it is infact kumaonis hold hands and talk pull and make you sit serve food affectionately and this is this whole thing about warm. So we could lead upto the question of what is Kumaon? is it the beauty of the hills the flora fauna the cuisine the behaviour of a certain type the rivers the ferns the winding roads the alpine meadows the glaciers the rolling views the sloping terraced towns the hair pin bends what is the Kumaon? And why do I feel the core of this whole Mish mash called Kumaon so strongly as an identity in my core
Why do people feel the regional so strongly. It’s amazing how intuitively I was showing cheenu the caves of the leopard high up in the hills. How I would spot a bus a mile before and tell him to stick to the side or even spot from afar which hill we would climb next by spotting the road from afar. So ya in modern life urban bread so to speak expat kumaonis or any regional person lies his identity somewhere tucked very unconsciously deep the seed from where he grows out to be modern cosmopolitan or international
The roots are deep somewhere which from time to time shake up or awaken. In another note Vivekanand attained enlightenment in a small town here. Hemkund sahib is also here. So is Badrinath.
Why I am saying this that there is something about this place which makes you question existence itself. The why and wherefore. Maybe. Not saying this with certainty. But yes it inspires. There’s no signal as it’s very cloudy and has been raining for the most part this afternoon. The rumble of thunder echoes around to quote sometime. So what starts now reverberates for a long time and maybe in the peaks it’s like faint patakas after Diwali.
Reached chokori and the deeper I go into Kumaon the more raped it is indiscriminate construction. Finally at chokiri it feels like the hills it’s cooler. Ok so have bathed feeling more relaxed. We travel daily 7 to 8 hours so it’s a road trip till tomorrow when we reach munsiyari. Today felt the breeze finally turn cool at chokori. Else the summer here needs fans a car with the AC on it’s crazy where has my Kumaon gone. Development seems to have taken over hugely Loads of construction has happened all you see are earth movers every one hour. A lot of limestone quarries have left ugly gashes on the serene pine landscapes. Almora is an ugly sprawl so is Nainital makes Ines blood boil.
But yes worse is the temperatures have totally gone for a toss vinayak said that was the only reason he travels with us at this time but if that is not left then what amma? And amma sat dumb as the car gave a 360 view of the quarry which made it worse as you wound your way upwards. In place of all those small four dukaan towns are resorts. Club Mahindra and all the big games are in so yes Kumaon sells and sells big. Tomorrow we head for munsiyari and that’s as close to the peaks as we get. From there we can see nanda devi and panchachuli and generally will get a 180 degree view. True this is soon going to be a RAJASTHAN of tourism but the haze will surely not reveal the peaks unlike forts.
So am up to watch the peak. Shivering a bit but who cares. Up in front behind the green hills are the powerful majestic…. the peaks. This sonna lu meir… began half an hour ago. The sky was a yellow blue from behind the green hills. The peaks were a camel brown silhouette… now just a tip has caught the morning sun. So flecks of shimmering snow just at the top. Like a solitare kept on their heads. They are very slowly catching a slanting light of the sun. And i am sitting alone waiting for this dramatic spectacle to unfold. Some bird is doing phuk phuk as though bubbles are bursting in its mouth. A lone truck is rambling up to my right. The green hills upper slopes are beginning to light up. And close upfront in some village red sari is winding her way down terraced slopes towards a cow shade.
The background score is a dog’s bark. A bird chirping and insects. To my left a C hulha has been lit and blue smoke is bellowing upwards. The brown terraced slopes are like stairways to heaven so the major colours are green brown orange n yellow with a clear blue sky. Firdaus where are you? Yes this is heaven on earth. Here here here. The 3d effect of this painting coming alive in front of me is so difficult to capture. Cause things are happening up close in middle distances and far ahead. Cheney has peeked at the peaks and curled up again while I’m deciding to chronicle this sunrise for all of you. A tree right next to me is rustling in a very tinny way. In some village a deep sound of a bell just went off. Below me talks ramgarh is just in shade winding roads dotted with houses. Talli means lower and Malli means upper. So im in malla ramgarh. Behind me malla ramgarh has caught the sun on its slopes. Some terraced and some just a gash in the hills. Those are the naulas as in naulas which flow down the hills the main water supply. Am writing so furiously because the peace is about to be shattered. The cook has walked in with Chaha pilla. Meaning will u have tea. Also some friend of tippy is arriving with mom n daughter guess will have to chat some. Ok guys there it is the shimmering glimmering peaks. Sunrise has happened. There I go hum choon kumaiya. Humro kumaon hamra Chana yo pahaad. You are meant to sip your tea with a sur sur.. sound. That’s the pahadi way with mist coming out if your mouth. The longer the sir the better. It’s annoying and noisy and pahari….. So off for tea break
So am now curled up in bed warm sheets n pillows… with a lamp on and iyer with a pillow covering his head but encouraging me to write on. Yes he’s heard this story of kumaon in parts in every trip to the hills but feels I should put it in ink…
Tas hairow ki koon jharan jus aee ro myaar umaad meaning what to say it’s all coming like a waterfall from within. I’m a woman possessed tonight. So in my oh so very upper class and snooty finishing school I was taught how the Himalayas were young fold mountains and him alays was a broken word… all I remember was in my head thinking no they are flowing fold mountains…… the river’s youthful stage in the hills was described in the dullest way possible and there I would be writing answeres like the river is bubbly frothing noisy as it crashes through interlocking spurs moving boulders and pebbles with alarming speed meandering along pahari temples almost leaving and undercutting some from below leaving one wondering what if God lost his balance. All of this would be cancelled by a red slash across the page as it was not geography and I would be told to write as the book said. Funny how dumbing down geography can be…. the mountains had to be described as fold with sedimentary rock and maybe metamorphosis. What a dull way to say it. To my eyes the mountain was layered with just so much more than sediments. It was carved by waterfalls undergrowth bichchu ka ped which stung you if you were not careful. Leeches would suck your blood in the monsoons even through your gumboots and the small daisies would nod in a friendly way.
The flora and fauna in the hills in October is multicolored green gold pink aadoo trees blood red rhododendrons dark purple salvias red salvia marigolds all popping out of slopes Windows balconies and the forest. Can such an amazing riot of colour be called just temperate evergreen forest only no way watch the silver birch the oak the walnut and the willow a shaggy richly textured growth with pines n firs be labelled just temperate no way never. Needless to say I loved Heidi what a book captures the hills and Jim Corbett what books….. English/ kumaoni in my head. So very few can write about these hills with passion n fervour. Just so much to say between earth n sky happens with a jagged edge horizon thrown in. Then comes the icing on the cake on a clear morning the peaks. Majestic the trishul. Nandadevi so many catching the early morning Orange Sun lighting up and so close you can almost touch them. You sit stunned with a cup of tea wondering what you ever did right to get to see this view. Hello guys maybe I should stop. Break it down into morning afternoon and dusk and night much like vivaldi would have done what say. Any ideas???? Pls write in so I know you are seeing through my eyes….