W

E were cruis­ing at a height of 4600 me­tres. The cap­tain an­nounced that those sit­ting on the right side of the air­craft can en­joy the snow-capped Hi­malayas. The glimpse at the un­du­lat­ing peaks as­sured a glo­ri­ous head­start to our va­ca­tion. Our first des­tina

Woman's Era - - Short Story -

noth­ing but in­dulge in spec­tac­u­lar views around with scrump­tious buf­fet meals. The ver­dant for­est pre­sented a beau­ti­ful view from lit­er­ally ev­ery sin­gle di­rec­tion. My camera rolled with never-end­ing de­sire.

I can only say, “Kandaghat is the best house in the loveli­est street!”

Shimla was next on the itin­er­ary. This name is de­rived from Shya­mala Devi, an in­car­na­tion of Hindu god­dess, Kali. Jakhoo hill at 2454 me­tres is the high­est point.

The con­crete hill dis­ap­pointed me. It ap­peared more of a com­mer­cial town.

Be­ing one of the most pop­u­lar ones in the North, the tourists keep pour­ing in, but in the ab­sence of end point. Oth­er­wise lift­ing tod­dlers up the gra­di­ent steep could be a bother.

With noth­ing much to do, we sa­ti­ated our­selves with what­ever came to us and left. The fine drops of rain swiftly breezed past. We rushed back to Mashobra where we booked our ho­tel for the next two nights. Our first din­ner at Mashobra was re­plete with the balle balle theme. We had it to our heart’s con­tent since the lunch wasn’t sat­is­fac­tory. Next morn­ing we re­sumed our trip to Kufri. Barely 13 km from Shimla, bask­ing in the glory of the Hi­malayas, it’s a small hill sta­tion in Shimla dis­trict. Kufri Fun Cam­pus at New Kufri, on Gallu Hill, was our first stop. We were told it is

Hav­ing been to Es­sel World and Imag­ica Theme Park this looked like a tiny pocket, but I feel once you set out for your cho­sen des­ti­na­tion you must en­joy what it of­fers. It has a restau­rant, a fast food counter, well man­i­cured gar­dens and nice land­scape, be­sides the 25-plus rides in close prox­im­ity of each other that didn’t tire our num­ber 11 (a child­hood funny name given to our legs!).

Bhatura chhole was su­per yum! With a mea­gre ` 30 per plate with two big balls of bhat­uras and fat­free pip­ing hot chhole it was like one ate a free meal. I’m wary of eat­ing fried stuff but it was fried in fresh oil. Even the 2 minute noo­dles with juli­ennes of green bell pep­per and car­rots looked fas­ci­nat­ing – quite like the colours of the Italy flag! With an en­try ticket of ` 250 in­clu­sive of CGST and SGST per adult you could barely peep in. It didn’t

WITH A MEA­GRE ` 30 PER PLATE WITH TWO BIG BALLS OF

AND FAT-FREE PIP­ING HOT CHHOLE IT WAS LIKE ONE ATE A FREE MEAL. FUN AND FOOD

in­clude any ride. How­ever, Go Kart­ing at 9000ft above sea level was stu­pen­dous!

A few kilo­me­tres away from this is the point where it gets the heav­i­est snow­fall. At this time of the year we didn’t ex­pect the white cover, but the misty clouds dom­i­nated wher­ever our eyes could go. In sum­mers what cov­ers the potato plan­ta­tion strangely changes into a glo­ri­ous ski­ing des­ti­na­tion in win­ters.

Cars parked in long stretches and horses in abun­dance im­plied a heavy rush. One could not scout around in cars from here on. To en­joy the ap­ple or­chard and a few points one has to hire a stal­lion. The muddy wet weather and preg­nant clouds hov­er­ing over the sky re­stricted us not to ven­ture out fur­ther.

We agreed to pay ` 13, 000 to the taxi ser­vice with a prom­ise that it would run the AC through­out but while trav­el­ling up Kufri we had a strange de­sire to smell the air. We rolled down an inch of win­dow – some­thing we never do in our home­town – for no rea­son and for all the rea­sons.

The colts’ exc­reta emit­ted an un­de­fined odour and we in­stantly rolled up even the last inch of our win­dow glasses.

From 2600 me­tres at Kufri we were now at 2200 me­tres at “The Palace” – Chail.

Its his­tory might bore you but you would hap­pily re­mem­ber it served as Chan­chad Villa of 3 Id­iots.

Built in 1891, it was orig­i­nally a part of Keon­thal state and later came un­der the sway of Gorkha war­rior Amar Singh.

Ear­lier the sum­mer seat of the Ma­haraja of Patiala, it was pur­chased by Hi­machal Tourism in 1972 and stands to­day as a pre­mium her­itage ho­tel. It nes­tles in the shel­ter of vir­gin forests cov­er­ing an area of 72 acres on three ad­ja­cent hills. Chail is about 200 me­tres higher and 48 kms from Shimla.

To glimpse or be there for food, an en­try charge of ` 100 per adult in­clu­sive of GST is levied. We lunched at the King’s Din­ing which served good food. It was rea­son­ably priced too.

The chhah meat – a recipe of ten­der lamb pieces cooked in Hi­machali lassi ( chhah) along with tra­di­tional spices was whole­some.

I never imag­ined I would re­visit one of my honey­moon des­ti­na­tions with our grand­child. It was truly ex­cit­ing! With more me­mories added, now I just needed to shut my eyes to be there once again...

Just do­ing noth­ing and hav­ing those still mo­ments by your side is what re­ally re­ju­ve­nates our body.

Tucked amidst beau­ti­ful green land­scapes and pic­turesque val­leys, we fi­nally had a great peace and com­fort in our ho­tel room for the fi­nal night. While book­ing a room I al­ways put up a re­quest for room or floor pref­er­ence. The val­ley view was re­plete with fog even in the af­ter­noons. The pine trees looked ma­jes­tic!

It was our sec­ond and fi­nal day at Mashobra. We didn’t visit Pres­i­dent’s Re­treat or the he­li­pad. We opted in­stead for a good walk. The weather con­tin­ued to em­brace us. Ly­ing on the com­fort­able bed it was a de­light­ful sight as mon­keys frol­icked over and un­der, and up and down the trees. We had early din­ner with Hi­machali cui­sine. Chana madra with steamed rice, a re­gional dish, was a de­vi­a­tion treat. It’s akin to Pan­jabi chhole with the dif­fer­ence that here the curry is thick­ened with yo­ghurt.

Af­ter a good two nights here, it was time to pack our bags. Some pre­fer to lazily stick at one place, but a cir­cuit re­sort va­ca­tion around one par­tic­u­lar area is a bet­ter con­cept, ac­cord­ing to me. It was nice to be with hills with­out any sick­ness but our appetiser Ha­j­mola kept us from im­paired stom­ach rhythm. Fred­er­ick Wil­cox said, “For travel to be de­light­ful, one must have a good place to leave and re­turn to.” The sun smiled brightly and so did we to re­turn where we started from – our sweet home.

At the air­port, when I thanked the driver for his skil­ful hill driv­ing. He said, “Madam, ek minute...!”

He took out a hand­ful of pic­tures and said, “Madam, main aapko kuchh pho­tos dikhata hoon. (I want to show you some pho­tos).

MITAB (Amitabh) BACHCHAN chose only me to drive him through...”

We praised him openly, thanked him once again, and walked to­ward de­par­tures. Af­ter a good dose of re­ju­ve­na­tion, we were back home.

Even though the me­mories last for­ever, the best mo­ment to share these is soon af­ter – and not later. We

CHAIL DI­ARIES

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