It had been so many months that I had almost forgotten the smell of the mountains, the touch of the cool mountain air on my skin, the clouds that tumbled gently over the mountaintops and the wind that rustled through the trees. It had been a long time since my last trip to Naukuchiatal and I missed the mountains and its smells, its cold, and its sounds; carried far along the clean mountain air.
And then one day, Bindiya called. ‘We are going to Naukuchiatal for Holi’, she said, ‘join us there.’ It was just what we wanted. The children were almost done with their final exams and we needed a break too; and Naukuchiatal was such a great place to spend a few quiet days. So we packed up our bags, got the car serviced, filled her up with fuel, loaded all the beer we could buy and set off one fine day for Naukuchiatal.
The car drove along familiar routes once more, guided, as before, by Google Maps. Few nature stops by the way and we were at the foothills. After Haldwani one could ‘feel’ the mountains, smell the fresh air, hear the engine protest as the gentle ascent began. The roads were familiar too…………………………………it had not been that long, as I had feared.
We reached Kathgodam and the ascent began, as expected. Up and up we went, winding along the roads, enjoying the landscape, and letting the fresh air fill our lungs, savoring the scent of the flowers, which had blossomed at this time of the year. The palash and the semal trees along the way added color to the already fascinating landscape. We stopped at a couple of places to pick a few Kinshuk flowers; soaking in the countryside.
Soon we were at Bhimtaal, and then the ascent began, the real one. The engine groaned once more, in first or second gear, and the roads got narrower. Up and up the mountains we went, till we saw the familiar white-green house.
Soon we were inside and I was unloading the vegetables and the beer. This time Bindiya was there with her husband Asit, my friend from my college days, and his brother. Since Asit and his brother were away doing some work, we sat down on the balcony again to have our tea and nachos; and the chatter started.
After the tea, as Vaishali and Bindiya carried the utensils inside, I noticed that it was almost dusk and a few lights had started to twinkle in the distance…….
……………………………..To be continued……………….