It seems only the other day that I sat down to write about my holiday trip Himachal way, and already another whole year and another grand vacation has come and gone. How fast time flies. All that is sweet in life lies in looking forward to happy things and relishing their memories afterwards in the soft, warm glow of recollection. Thus passes the glory of this world!
This year wasn’t a good one for me – to put it very mildly. Not much about that here: those who know (my wife knows much more than anybody else) don’t need to be told; others don’t need to know. Suffice it to say that unlike most years this time round I wasn’t too sure until only a few days before whether I would be making that long-overdue holiday trip or not. My two old boys Arani and Aakash, both currently working and sharing a
flat in , kept up a barrage of incessant requests, telling me again and again that I was coming over to stay and travel with them in end-December, and it is largely owing to their steady, eager Delhi urging that I finally decided to go because it would be churlish to say no.
Subhadip Biswas, my ever-faithful pointman in the capital (what wouldn’t a cabinet minister give to have a secretary as loyal and dependable as he! God grant him a great career; whoever employs him, in whatever capacity, would be lucky
indeed), was there to receive me at the railway station for the fourth year in a row; this time so were Arani and Aakash to give me a right al welcome and ride home. What with Arani’s doting and enormously hospitable parents hovering over us, it was really like being home away from home (only the third time that way in roy for me). We lazed around the city a bit, taking in the lights, then pushed off the same evening by an ‘A/c-special’ train to Dehradun. Arriving at about 7 in the morning, we hired a car that made a three-hour trip (part of the road in a hair-raising state of disrepair, thanks to frequent landslides) to drop us off at a lovely and cosy little hotel in a quiet, out of the way hamlet called Chakrata nestling in the Garhwal hills at a height of about 6500 feet, offering a magnificent panorama of a huge range of snowclad Himalayan peaks, including the Yamunotri range. Mercifully, those two days we stayed at Chakrata (and only those two!) were blessed with bright, crisp sunshine, and we had the best suite, so the views we had took our Delhi th away. Being a military cantonment where tourism is definitely not encouraged, Chakrata remains one of those (vanishingly few) hill stations which are still unsullied by the curse of overpopulation and ‘development’ – despite the fact that the local literacy rate is close to 90 per cent! It is located on a thickly wooded hill, in sharp contrast to the moonscape-like terrain of rugged and bare hills all around, so it offered very lovely walks too. The delightful chill in the air gave us the excuse to brea ulge in a real log fire at night (a first for my daughter), and the service was excellent and the meals were mouth-watering and the conversation as rich as I could ask for, and all of us were in good health, so that’s as close to heaven as one gets, I suppose! ind
On the third day we drove off to
via Mussoorie, a long and expensive trip, and the driver was surly and unhelpful, but the scenic views greatly compensated for all that, and the drive down from Mussoorie to Dehradun, followed by the one that takes you through Rajaji (Chilla-) National Park on the way to Hardwar from Hrishikesh, charmed as much as ever, though I was doing it for the fourth time. As in Hardwar , it was (surprisingly) hardly cold in Delhi Hardwar, and there was disappointingly little water in the Ganga (it was even worse at Lachhmanjhula!), and far too many people, but we got the best possible hotel right on Subhas Ghat, a stone’s throw from the famed Har-ki-pauri – twice before, looking up at the lights while walking along the riverside, my wife and I had sighed to think it would be too costly for the likes of us to afford, so this time, having dared to find out, we were most pleasantly surprised. We moved around quite a bit, of course, but we could have happily lazed around on that balcony, watching the day’s routine scenario unfolding before and below our eyes, from dawn to dusk without a whiff of boredom. Arani had to leave for a day early, but Aakash kept us company, and vowed that this first visit of his would be a very satisfying memory. I think every one of us thoroughly enjoyed the Delhi Ganga aarti ceremony at evenfall, chokingly overcrowded as the ghats were. There was a long midnight wait at Hardwar station for the train that took us to , and when we arrived at dawn, the drive home in racing autorickshaws through fog so dense you could hardly see the tail lights of the cars ahead of you was enough to satiate my middle-aged appetite for adventure. That day, too, we had an MUV at our disposal, and Subhadip took us around to see some more sights. We took in the National Gandhi Museum, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid, lunched at Eatopia in the Delhi H India abitat Centre, strolled around the lovely (though Arani swore they had been far more lush only a couple of months back), snacked at Chocko-la in Khan Market, and then made a beeline for home; we were falling asleep on our feet! Dinner at Arani’s place was a treat that we could hardly do justice to. Lodhi s Garden
Then it was back to Kolkata. A day’s rest, and my daughter’s birthday quietly celebrated. A very dear old girl, who had come over from the
US to get married, very kindly took the trouble to see us off at station, and embarrassed us by literally shoving a load of lovely gifts into our arms (my best wishes to her and her husband for a long and happy married life). A swift, untroubled trip back home, and again we were received by two favourite old boys – one of whom, Stotra, had been generous enough to keep a watchful eye on my house and garden all the time I was away. And as usual, we were united in feeling that while the trip was much needed and much enjoyed, it was good to be back home! Howrah
Those who are interested in photographs might look up the following link (best seen in slideshow mode, with the timer set to 10-15 seconds). I haven’t bothered to upload videos.
Now here are a few observations by way of summing up:
1. The Rajdhani Express is a pale shadow of its former self. I
h we had better trains in the luxury segment, even if they cost more. Faster, more comfortable, quieter, and less filled with newly-rich riffraff. I have always loved trains, but now I’m having trouble coping. wis
2. There are simply too many people – and crooks, con men and beggars – everywhere these days, metros and holy places included.
3. The sons and daughters of the idle, uncouth, ostentatious super-rich are the same disgusting types everywhere. I
h there were a law against them, like they have laws against stray dogs in some countries. wis
4. Among the curious sights I saw this time round, sadhus fighting tooth and nail over alms was one of the most remarkable.
5. There used to be an old and long-standing complaint among Bengalis living in
that you can’t get good fish anywhere, unless you shop in Delhi Chittaranjan Park. No longer. Arani treated me to some of the most icious fish I have ever eaten, and I am no great fish-lover, either! del
6. A large number of ex-students got together to make this trip particularly heartwarming for me. I often feel blue to think of how little people remember me and what I have done for them in years gone by, but some people might quite possibly envy me: few teachers these days can boast of so many old boys who care, and care so much. My most grateful thanks to them, and blessings. This year’s good experience has gone a long way to help me live down the distressing events that followed my last trip. Those who have dropped out of my life I regret no longer: there are still apparently plenty of others who are only too glad to warm the cockles of my old heart. More power to their elbows. I hope they enjoyed doing everything they did. They can take satisfaction from the knowledge that these year-end trips fill me with new
ur and enthusiasm to cope with the almost-thankless drudgery through the year ahead. vigo
There's just about an hour and a half of 2008 left as I publish this post. I
h every reader a very Happy New Year! wis