Picture this. Waking up to the faint rhythm of gongs from a monastery resonating through the valley; listening to the sound of wind rushing towards gaunt mountains, losing momentum in its windy trail to only crash back into the valley, shaking every leaf, every blade of grass in its wintry dance; sighting goat-herds shepherding merry white and brown goats towards greener pastures; immersing oneself in the heavy smell of tea and the intoxicating smell of burning cedar leaves; parting curtains to chance upon a purple-orange brush stroke across a glowing sky that nature had been busy painting while you snoozed under layers; rubbing your eyes to see the faint yellow green plains below and matchbox houses, red and blue against the ochre scattered across the plains! Yes, this is what I precisely indulged in for three days that I was at Mcleodganj, a small hill-town in Himachal Pradesh, much after an impetuous decision to escape from the humdrum of city life.
Mountains equate a warm cup of chamomile tea if you were to ask me, and being a mountain boy I keep seeking the majesty, mystery and magic of mountains. I’m often frowned upon, questioned about, and guffawed at for my solo travels! If only I could accurately describe the unanimity I sense, making me joyously giddy, at the sight of and surrounded by the grandeur of mountains, that being alone becomes inconsequential, and a babbling voice would only be deterrent to the prevailing serenity! And there I was absorbing, feasting upon all that my eyes could gather, treading through narrow tree lined roads, sipping upon cup after cup of Honey Lemon Ginger concoction in the little hill town of Mcleodganj, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama resides. Walking away from the throng of the town I would head towards cedar forests, listening to birds chirp, crickets chirrup, leaves rustle and the wind whistle, in perfect harmony, attuned to the mystical rhythm of nature. Quaint tea shops, fellow solo travellers, soul-stirring conversations over dumplings and tea only added to the adventure.
I woke up early to trek towards Triund Peak stopped often at the rocky trail to gaze at the mighty blue green valley extending far and beyond, smiled at mountains tearing through layers of mist to unite with an ozone blue sky, rested under the canopy of Rhododendron trees, and submitted my entirety to the oneness. And reaching the summit I knew no equivalent joy; sighting snow-capped mountains, the soft grassy earth, the air crisp and cold, my heart sang a tune, my feet danced to the tune within and spreading my arms I smiled, only smiled.
I walked through roads not taken into the silence of St. John’s church, the stone walls blackened with time, cedar trees guarding its serenity and yonder lay a cemetery, covered in moss, stones broken, graves marked, unmarked, wild flowers around the gravestones as though nature had been weaving a wreath for the lost and forgotten graves, their families oceans away! I prayed in silence for the souls who had found a home in the wilderness, where peace, perhaps, prevailed.
Ancient, undated, rock temples at Masrur, from the 8th century as archaeologists claim, beckoned to me, their perfect reflection upon the green pool never swayed, the many deities etched upon the walls danced in the silence of the mountains. I listened intently and heard the sound of chisels breaking upon the rock, craftsmen humming at the hammering and chipping, giving shape, embellishing patterns upon the monolithic mound. Legends, claimed a local, have it that the Pandavas, during their exile, carved the temple in a single night! The mystery of faith.
I walked through the ruins of the ancient fort of Kangra, perched atop a hill, surrounded by mountains on all sides and guarded by the confluence of two rivers. Oh the stories that the walls and ramparts narrated, tales of grandeur and plunder, celebrations and earthquakes, ceremonies and capture; if only I could relive the time that was, horses daintily walking past the many gates, palanquins and an entourage of men and women singing, dancing, the colours of festivals, cymbals, drumbeats, the piercing sound of war-cry, arrows swishing through the air, swords clashing, cannons resounding-the wonders of history!
I walked till my feet hurt, smiled till all my worries bled away, merged with the happy crowd, swam in the silence of the Dhauladhar mountains, sentinels chronicling the stories of our lives through centuries; I sailed with the wind, soared high with hawks, resonated with the resplendent sound of chimes and gongs; I laughed, cried, sang, whistled, and I lost myself to find myself in the magic of mystical Mcleodganj!