At home in the mountains

At home in the mountains

Photo for representation only. - File photo

Rishabh Kochhar

With the coronavirus back with a newfound vengeance, I had to cancel a trip to the hills with my friends. I never thought that missing a trip to the hills would haunt me so much because growing up, I hated the mountains. My family’s annual retreat to my aunt's place in Shimla would see us walking aimlessly along the Mall Road, having lunch with old family friends, and tea with another acquaintance. While my parents loved these endless walks, I abhorred them. But after spending the better half of the last decade in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and remote Manipal, I grew inexplicably fond of the hills. So in November, with an ease in travel restrictions, I convinced my extended family to accompany me to a remote village near Kasauli.

Just 7 km short of Kasauli lies the quaint little village of Jangeshu. Other than a private homestay accommodation, there exists no commercial property between Jangeshu and Kasauli. This makes it the perfect escapade from civilisation. I decided to test my limits in the peaceful hamlet and vowed to leave on foot for Kasauli before the break of dawn. The trek proved far more interesting than I had thought.

It took me all of two days to settle into my carefree, slow life. My mornings began with my newfound love for trekking, and the owner of an under-construction grocery store wished me, a complete stranger, a good morning every day. Breakfast was a couple of ‘aaloo paranthas’ to compensate for the long trek. The mellifluous sound of water from a nearby waterfall with water so clean, it could be sipped right there, provided the perfect background music for my slow mornings. I was content with the idyllic life, but nature wasn't quite done with me. As if privy to my new hobby of bird-watching, a pair of lovely yellow-billed blue magpies greeted me on my walks, flying away the moment I took out my phone to take a picture. Life's best moments can't be photographed.

Life in the hills is simple, and people are often kind. I carried my urban fears of being robbed during the trek, but I needn’t have worried. Twice, a local couple in a car offered to drop me to Kasauli, but part of my mission to reach Kasauli was to do it on foot. Some jawans descending from Kasauli offered me tea from their flask since I looked thirsty, but I was determined to have tea in Kasauli — it would make for a wonderful Instagram post!

I never made it to Kasauli on any of my treks because a group of ferocious monkeys always barred my path just before Kasauli, but the fresh air of the mountains, the challenging trek, and the stunning spectacles made up for it. I felt a deeper connection with Ruskin Bond’s books, and his undying love for the hills suddenly felt very real. After all these years, I now understood why my parents enjoyed their long walks in Shimla.

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