‘Raabta’ with Naukuchiataal – I

As the car turned the bend in the road, the dust settled, and the cacophony of the cities was suddenly left behind. Green trees, tall with age, and bent with the continuous suction generated by the passing vehicles, stood by the side of the road, and swayed, as if welcoming the travelers; their leaves forming a yellow and green carpet on the road. The ambient noise, the dust, the heat; we seemed to have left everything behind as we turned the bend on the road that led from Haldwani to Kathgodam. 

I waited, my breathing shallow, for that first glimpse of the mountains; the glimpse that was etched in my mind ever since we made that first trip from Lucknow to Naukuchiataal, to ‘Raabta’, several years ago now. Lately, I had often dreamt of that place; of the road leading up to the mountains, the green and brown house that stood on the hillside, and the balcony that jutted out from the house and overlooked the lake. ‘Dreamt’ would be a wrong word; no, I had seen the place in my mind’s eye while still fully awake, while working, while talking, while watching television. The vision had not left me for the past several days now, it tormented me, made me yearn to be there again, to see those green hills with my bodily eyes, and not inside my mind. 

It was not difficult to understand why this was happening. We had not had any break from work, or the monotony of daily life, for more than a year now. Day in and day out, we had got up early in the morning, and gone to work, and come back home, and did the things that needed to be done. The global pandemic had eaten away one year from the world’s collective consciousness, deleted it, rendered it null and void. Millions had died, and millions more had lost their jobs. And while some could ‘work from home’, we, the doctors, did not have that option. In fact, all our leaves were cancelled, and we had been plunged headlong into a nightmare not of our own making. 

The whole medical fraternity had pulled up their socks and had geared up to fight the invisible enemy which was ravaging the country, and the world. Days had turned to weeks, weeks to month, and months had, inevitably, turned to a year. One whole year the grueling schedule had gone on and on and on. And now, finally, when we had a vaccine, and the pandemic seemed to be receding, we had decided to spend a quiet couple of days at our favorite place – Raabta. 

And thus, I almost held my breath to catch that first glimpse of the mountains when the car turned that bend in the road and began the gentle ascent up from Haldwani. 

There they were – the mountains – green and brown, aged, mostly ancient, but some just a few thousand years young. They stood in the distance, a mute testimony to the passage of time, pointing skywards, towards the heavens, showing whence they came – from the stars – and where we must all go, finally, the resting place of all that is present on this earth, this piece of rock that has been created from the stardust. 

To be continued……

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