Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dalhousie-I

24.1.09

5:20 AM. A clear day ahead. Still dark. I sat in the car while Mahesh went to receive ParryAnka from the Ludhiana Railway Station. Our plan was to head straight to Dalhousie after picking them up. The train was late by about an hour. It was expected at 4:30 AM and it arrived at 5:40 AM. Just when I started to get bored waiting on the front passenger seat, and prepared to take a nap before they tapped on the window, I saw them coming. Hugs and hand shakes and Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes later, we set for our journey. Mahesh on the driving seat-Parry with him, Pinku exactly behind Parry and I sitting behind Mahesh. Typical Pativrata women, you would say. But my idea of sitting behind Mahesh is that I want him to check on me every few minutes through the rear view mirror. Attention freak !!!

We started on an enthusiastic note but then I started to feel sleepy, having slept only minus 3 hours the night before. Roop can vouch for it. I was chatting with her till 1 A.M and I was up at 3: 30 AM the next morning. When I woke up many bumps later, we were in Pathankot, it was a beautiful dawn and Mahesh was on phone with someone arranging for our stopover at the town. I actually thought the Municipal Commissioner would come to welcome us and to express his/her gratefulness for having set foot in his/her city. But no one came. We had a sumptuous breakfast in a luxurious room in a beautiful hotel Venice , freshened ourselves up and set for the onward journey of about 80 kilometers to Dalhousie. Like a seasoned driver, Mahesh wound the car on the snake-like roads. And I kept getting excited about how it was 16-17 years back when I had come as a Youth Camper from my university. As soon as hills of a reasonable size started , we got down from the car and started to click pictures. My Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S700, which I was feeling ungrateful enough to change in favour of a high end one, came to my rescue. As if to prove its worth, it gave out brilliant pictures. Pinku had a genuine problem posing for pictures. I don’t know how, but she can manage to twist her face in such a way that the picture has to be reclicked. She was always in animation. My camera failed before her, but never gave up, and as a result we ended up having some really funny pictures of hers. But let me add that as it happens, she has gone home a reformed person. She now can tolerate being clicked rather gracefully.

As we started to get closer to Dalhousie, I started to get ecstatic. I have childhood memories associated with the town. Parents used to bring us here for our annual vacation. I can distinctly remember walking hand-in-hand with my sister and parents walking leisurely behind us.

We let the fresh-hilly air run through the car. We did not meet much traffic on the way. Early birds perhaps. We reached Dalhousie by 12:30 P.M. Reasonably enough, considering that it is about 2100 Mts above the sea level. And then nostalgia stuck! That same old bus stand, that same old Subhash chowk, and Gandhi chowk. We managed to find our hotel Geetanjali that Pinku had booked for all of us. Among the shiny new hotels, it looked like a poor cousin. But once we went in, it offered us that old world charm of high ceilings, really big rooms-you could actually play football if you wanted to, and a room sized drawing room in the front. Before checking out, Mahesh went and tried to ask the hotel people where did those mysterious doors from the room open? They told him that one opened from the room to a kitchen, and one from the washroom to the outer corridor. Purrfect exit doors for Sahib log. For it was an Officers Mess before it became Indian government’s money earning hotel/resort. Pinku later found out that it is 140 years old. That is quite impressive, considering that Dalhousie itself is a 150 year old settlement. Col. Napier found this place really great and converted it into a cantonment. I find Dalhousie a quiet retreat. Coming back to the hotel Geetanjali, it is an HPTDC venture. What venture? Its just perhaps a dying building. The government is actually planning to tear it down and erect a brand new hotel here. Phew ! God save the building and god save the guests.

Anyway, we checked in, rested a while and then moved out. Mahesh was tired after that tense driving. Leaving him sleeping, I got ready and came out with Pinku Parry to have a wonderful view of snow clad mountains in the distance. We stood munching peanuts and giggling and enjoying the clean-cold-chillingly cold air. Meantime, Mahesh came. Had our lunch at ‘a’ Lovely Dhaba. It was flanked by a ManMahesh Dhaba also. This was a surprise to me because I have often come across the name ‘ManiMahesh’, because of its obvious association with the Kailash yatra, but ManMahesh…?? I thought I had invented the name, obviously I was wrong. Or wait, perhaps they read this blog and thought of making use of the name. Yes, that is a happier interpretation. Anyway, Mahesh aka Shiv ji Zindabad. However, we didn’t patronize it because , because because....

I made enquiries about the existing tourist places. Yes, Panj Pula ( 5 Bridges) still stood about 2.5 kms away from the Gandhi chowk with a desolate Gandhi Statue. A narrow road, four excited people, and we reached Panj Pula. This place has a monument in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh of the Pagri Sambhal Jatta movement. He was Sardar Bhagat Singh’s chacha and the force behind the mental make-up of Sardar Bhagat Singh. He died on the 15th of August 1947 in Dalhousie and his memorial / Samadhi has been erected here at Panj Pula. I kept running from one end to another trying to find this place where my parents had bathed us in the cold water to ensure we had shiny and healthy skins and then were cruel enough to click pictures of a freezing 6 year old Mampi and her younger sister. Can I ever forgive them? Yes I think I can, for that pool is now stagnant with a few paddle boats out to make some money. No children are bathed there anymore. The Samadhi is littered with torn balloons that come from a recreational stall behind it. We Indians don’t miss any opportunity to make any money, do we? Mahesh is seldom sarcastic but he happened to quote, “Shaheedo’n ki chitaao’n par lagenge har baras mele, watan pey mitney walo’n ka yahi baki nishaan hoga…” (The martyrs will be remembered through these memorials and people will congregate here every year to mark their anniversaries) Being the cynic that I am, I added a question mark at the end of the quote. He was joking that this is how the melas will take place, and that too, everyday instead of the yearly melas as the quote promises.

I was more interested in going right upto the origin of Sapt-dhara (seven streams). My mom had told me that it had water that contained medicinal values. Lord Dalhousie got this water in big quantities for his wife who had some sort of a skin ailment. While Parry and Pinku chose to stay behind, I and Mahesh ventured ahead to reach the visible falling stream. The water was pure, sparkling and untouched by civilization because thankfully, civilization needs to huff and puff to reach there. And civilization has gotten used to using what it gets right at its door-step. Civilisation loves to litter the waters-with plastic bags, disposable glasses, empty liquor bottles, empty chips bags and what not what. We stayed for a few minutes at the Sapt-Dhara and then came back. Hardly a trek you would say, but I loved it. There was a board displayed there that promised a 2 and a half hour trek to Chanmari dam. I wanted to do that one day. But the next day we had planned to go to Khajjiar. Now Khajjiar was higher up from Dalhousie and we had been advised by local shopkeepers, our hotel servants, and others against going there. There had been recent snow fall and rain. Both separate are perhaps not a danger, but can prove to be a deadly combo. We were wavering between going and not going. Over a cup of tea at the Panj-Pula, we finally decided against going there.

At Panj-Pula, we saw a group of guys who were busy drinking and smoking. If Mahesh had not been with me, I would surely have asked them what right did they have to pollute the sacred nature with smoke. Well, Mahesh doesn’t like me getting into the virago mode. His first preference is to keep peace, not to get into a tussle and certainly never to argue. It spoils one’s own peace of mind, he says. So, I had to ignore those stupid guys. We came back to Dalhousie and roamed about in the very very small market. Bought a shawl for mom. I usually refrain from shopping in these markets. They buy stuff from plains and sell it in hills and we, the stupid plain-wallahs buy it again and bring it back to plains. Well, if we didn’t do that, the economies wouldn’t mobilize. So, in buying that shawl, I helped mobilize the economy, yaay yaaye.

We sat in a small time fast food-general store kind of a joint and had some soup and gossiped. When we came out, Pinku located this shop that had a machine that told you of your love quotient. Obviously we had to experiment with it. First Pinku, dropped a 5 rupee coin in it and put her hand on the given space and it showed that she was ‘sensual’. SENSUAL !!! You rock girl ! We giggled and laughed. Then came Parry’s turn. Pinku insisted that it would show ‘dead fish’. No, it didn’t. It showed PASSIONATE (I think so, I have short term memory loss). Then came my turn, and lo, it showed the indicator to ‘hot stuff’, HOT STUFF !!! Finally someone knows my worth, hehehe !!! I shrieked, “Mahesh look at this, it thinks I am HOT STUFF!!!” We couldn’t stop laughing. When Mahesh put his hand on the machine, it said PASSIONATE. No comments!!! Could it have something to do with the hand temperatures? But the machine didn’t seem that intelligent.

It was raining by the time we were done, and it was windy. The eternal question of ‘where to have dinner’ remained. Not that it was hard to decide. Because we hardly had a choice. There were practically no eating joints open. The locals told us that the joints open only in March. For now, we would have to make do with the available eating places. Because we wouldn’t be able to wait till March. Geetanjali did offer dinner and breakfast. But we didn’t want to go back to have dinner to only to come back again for our mutter-gashti. So, in the icy rain, we went inside the only decent eating place that chowk had, and it was the same old Lovely restaurant.

The funny thing about this joint was that it offered elaborate meal – but only on menu sheets. Parry wanted a dosa, they didn’t have it. I wanted a pizza (I knew it would be a tadka-pizza), they didn’t have it. I offered to change my order to a sandwich (yes, I was crazy to want it at dinner time) with a chai. You guessed it right, they didn’t have it. I am not taking chicken etc these days, so I had to order different than these three paapi’s I was travelling with. But it was a big disappointment. The guy serving us was a sweet fellow though. Despite a crazy rush for dinner (because all the famished people of the entire town had come here) he gave us a priority and a service with a wide smile.

Post dinner, we braved the rain again and reached our hotel. Now came the next big issue of parking on the hills. There was an open parking, but I didn’t trust it. We would be parking at an insecure space on a curve of the hill. My paranoid mind was imagining a drunk driver coming fast at 1 A.M. and going tangentially at the curve, and hitting our car. So, all four of us decided to park our car at a nearby hotel parking which was at least in an enclosure. It was tricky. Mahesh did not agree with it, but he gave up 3 to 1. Of course, if we had told them that we were not putting up at their hotel, they would never have agreed to keep our car there. So we just risked it and kept it there for the night. And came back to our hotel. We were cold and we were tired. The old fashioned heaters were a great help though. But I wished the defunct fireplaces were working too. The rooms were big and it took a great while to warm them. But we finally fell asleep.

More Later...

32 comments:

Life Begins said...

sooo nice...Wish i could be there too...enjoying that cold wind and peaceful nature (not that its not cold here) But a vacation in such an environment is a blessing in itself.
Waiting for Part-II now...BE QUICK!!

roop said...

wow thanks!!!

great insight into dalhousie. i feel like i visited it myself. thanks mate. :)

Rajindarjit said...

Thanks for sharing your experience of your short visit to Dalhousie, where we,four of us, used to spend a part of our summer vacations some one and a half decade ago. While reading this post,I felt the moments of the past- walking on the Garam Sarak and Thandi Sarak (Warm road and cool road) as people know by virtue of feeling its temperature during summer on it.One road around the hill and two names.Interesting.
First time I visited Dalhousie with my parents, when it was in Panjab state. Now Dunera is the border town- famous for its Tapka Mangoes and Amb Paapers.You can not pass by this town without buying tempting mango-stuff. The
way you expressed your experience is highly appreciable.
Keep it up!
Dhindsa

maheshinder_singh said...

It was indeed a good time to be there.The best part was though the happiness,smile and laughter on your face all these three days that made my vacation worth.Dalhousie is nodoubt a good place to visit.

sukumbho said...

I was on a virtual tour of Dalhousie again - those roads, the trees, and the Geetanjali Hotel where we also stayed. Waiting for the next part.

Mithe said...

Beautiful...waiting for the next part:)

Gurinderjit Singh said...

wow! Thanks for refreshing the youth camp memories.
Didn't u have Amb Papad??

Dalhousie in Jan.? daring!

Manasa said...

body guard, driver, lifetime free atm card..... and at last husband?? :P

seems u had a gala time :)

Monika said...

lovely lovely waiting for part-2....

Pradeep said...

The best part of such trips I am sure you will agree is the refreshing feeling one returns with. Enjoyed reading it all...

Devaki said...

Pictures please! At least of the scenery? :)

Your trip sounds wonderful, just the sort of relaxed vacation I'd want to take, especially the trek to the waterhole...

And yes, it's nice to see you back in action!

Tandarin Nike said...

Fantastic travelogue.... keep it up.

Pinku said...

hey....you have it all here...all thats needed are some pictures and people can have a virtual trip.

awaiting the second part...

(Loved mahesh's comment...and am taking some of the credit cause I MADE you guys go)

Sneha Divakar said...

nice account.. put up some pics too. i have heard dalhousie is really beautiful. somehow missed it on my last visit to simla

hitch writer said...

Wow.. seems like you had a pretty good time out there...

hey how bout sharing some nice pics !!!!

Phoenixritu said...

Havent been to Dalhousie for a long time. Sounds like you had fun!

~nm said...

Loved reading the post.

And had a good laugh at the love meter thingy :D

Mampi said...

Life Begins-Your prompt comment is so sweet.

Roop-U r welcome buddy. Next time u come, we go there.

Mama-Thank you for introducing me to the town.

Mahesh-I laughed three days at a stretch. It was fun. Thank YOU.

Sukumbho-Sorry, I forgot to mention that Geetanjali hotel was your suggestion. Thanks.

Mithe-coming up today.

Guri-Oh I love amb-papad. Only I didnt go in the GNDU holiday home. Though I wanted to. But it was raining, and there was no parking space there.

Manasa-Hahaha, Buddy first, baki sab kuch baad mein. We had great fun.

Monika-Thanks.

Pradeep-I am feeling absolutely refreshed and energized.

Devaki-It had amazing impact on me. Pics, sure. In the next post.

Mampi said...

Nike-Welcome to my blog. Hope you will keep visiting. Thanks for your comment.

Pinku-ALL the credit to you. If you had not been persistent, Mahesh would have wriggled out of the plan, and I would have had to follow him.
where is your post?

Sneha-it really is a great place to visit, better than Simla.

Hitch Writer-Pics come in the next post.

Ritu-You must, in the coming winter, go there.

nm-I took the machine rather too seriously.

How do we know said...

oh man! Someone had a rocking time in life!

churningthewordmill.wordpress.com said...

i have been to dalhousie too.. long,long back with a school group.. have some good memories of that place... :D your post brought them back to life.

shawl buying is essential when u visit any hill station..:D
mandira

snake said...

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Snake wine is shown there:
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I previously bought a snake wine I am now looking for any other creature wine as mice or tokay, any idea where to find ?

Thanks a lot for your help.

Gazal said...

'attention freak'....
completely candid confession

havent been to dalhousie...looks like its time to go and i know where i can get a guide too !!!!

zirelda said...

How fun.

I wonder if the healing waters there are like the ones here. Mineral springs that they used to tout for almost everything. TB patients came here from all over to regain their health.

I love the hot springs though. They are my favorite.

nidhi said...

wow...i would love to go to Dalhousie one day...but now i just wish i was some place warm ;-)
post some pics !!

June Saville said...

Hi Mampi
What a wonderful stroll down memory lane for you. And with Pinku! Will you be putting some of her pictures on the blog - I think that's the Pinku who visits 70 Plus and Still Kicking ...?

June Saville said...

YES it is the same Pinku! It was fun reading her account of your trip as well ...
Cheers
June in Oz

philip9876 said...

That's a long long travelouge and looks like only the first part. Humko Dalhousie ka pictures mangta. I too need to got to a hill station for a lung full of fresh mountain air.

Himalayan Adventurer said...

Very graphic and vivid narrative; reminded me of my visits there, first as part of our NCC camp in college days (in fact, we all had joined NCC because of the camp in summer vacation), and second time while returning from our Mani-Mahesh trek beyond Chamba and Bharmour.
Yes, people buy Ludhiana made cardigans in Manchester and Scotland to bring them back to Delhi and Ludhiana.

Sidhusaaheb said...

I've driven through Dalhousie and Khajjiar valley, with brief stop-overs at both places, of course, but have never had the opportunity to stay there overnight or longer.

:)

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Whew.. long description! And yes, definitely a good read. :)

Indian Home Maker said...

Sounds like you guys had a lot of fun :)

LOL@ passionate, Hot Stuff and Sensual :)))
Freezing for good skin wasn't such a bad idea, my daughter tells me all that I could and should have done to make sure she had pefect skin!