I dreamt I had gone back to Chakrata (With apologies to Daphne Du Maurier). The mere thought of Chakrata fills me with a wistful longing to go back in nature’s pristine arms. The crystal clear mountain air, the view of the snow capped peaks fills my heart with pleasure.
I had visited this small cantonment town near Dehradun (Uttarakhand) last winter with two women who are very dear to me. If I say this was a getaway of a lifetime, I am not exaggerating.
The one week that we were there, we followed no agenda. We just wandered around this small town soaking in the sights and sounds. Sometimes it was in the neighboring villages other times it was a forest trail. But almost every day we ended up in the small café in the market enjoying ‘pahar ki maggi’. I am no great lover of maggi but the mountains somehow give it a flavor which is all their own and appeals to my palate.
If we were to choose the most enjoyable day it has to be the day we hiked to Deoban. The view of the Himalayan mountain range from Deoban is something to die for. The three of us along with a guide commenced the journey to Deoban in the morning armed, with a picnic lunch. To reach Deoban we had to cross the delightful village of Mohna. As we entered the village children rushed out to greet us while the women peeped shyly from their homes. We halted briefly at the village and chatted with the children and women. The women joined us after some cajoling.
After an hour’s climb our trail led us through thick forest. We walked silently, taking in the sights and sounds of the forests. The bird calls were the sweetest music while the rhododendron and deodhar trees towered over us providing the most beautiful canopy. In this paradise the poem ‘The woods are lovely dark and deep…’ by Robert Frost was repeating itself in my mind. The variety of birds we saw made our hearts sing along with them. Some of the birds we sighted were blackbirds, flycatchers, finches, chough, barbets and Himalayan bulbuls We soon found ourselves crossing vast stretches of snow and we just had to make a snowman much to the amusement of our guide. As we walked on, the snow became deeper and after a while we started to get a bit anxious that we might not be able reach Deoban. Unfortunately the snow became so deep that it became difficult to walk. After consulting our guide we gave up on the idea of going to Deoban. But we refused to get bogged down by disappointment and sat down to have lunch. Rajma chawal never tasted better. It was indeed a novel experience to sit in the forest in the snow eating lunch. The sheer pleasure of walking in the forest more than made up for not making it to Deoban.
To make up for missing out on Deoban the guide took us to his village, Sawara and we got a taste of the hospitality of his family. We made ourselves comfortable in their tiny kitchen where the lady of the house was making hot rotis on a choolaha. We reveled in the warmth of the fire. The kitchen had tiny window from which we got the most spectacular views of the mountain range. We sat enthralled as the setting sun lit up the mountains. Who needs a painting when you have a kitchen with a view?
We devoured the hot rotis and black tea, while we were sitting around the kitchen fire and the simple food tasted better than the gourmet meal available in a fine dine restaurant. Being in the lap of nature and meeting people, who were without any pretences or artifice, is something I would love to do again and again. And what better way than to dream that I had gone back to Chakrata.