Why is life so unfair? Am I a rain man?
Our class 8th finals had just finished and we had passed out with flying colours. To celebrate, my friends and I had moved heaven and earth to persuade our parents to agree and send us to our school camp to Kumaon region. It is one of the natural and adventurous places near Delhi to visit. Frankly till last month none of us knew where Kumaon even existed. We had learnt about the serenity and beauty of the place as part of our geography project. We were surprised to learn that it was in the list of tourist places near Delhi within 300 kms! Our persuading skills proved out to be quite strong which meant we were finally going there via an exciting road trip from Delhi ……..yippee!!
However, here we were – stuck, not knowing what to do. We were supposed to go out for paragliding that day and we were super excited about the same. Maybe destiny just didn’t want that….why? A huge storm had erupted the night before and all of our tents had flown away…….we were quickly scuffled into a small wooden shed which was called BOMB SHELTER!? We let out a huge sigh of relief when the storm FINALLY did END!!
You must be thinking what could be even worse…right? But I caught you there cuz you are….. simply wrong. Our trip was extended by two more days because of some stupid landslide in the middle of the road…..oh gosh!! The main highlight of the trip- adventure activities was cancelled. No kayaking! No paragliding! No rock climbing! No…nothing!
Instead the camp organizers had planned a trek trail to a village. A village…yeah right! What a big bummer!!We carried our big heavy rucksacks and trekked for about 2:30 hrs. And let me tell you the route was not at all straight-forward. Instead with its narrow edgy paths, sharp poky spines and big bushy hedges, the 10 km route seemed to be about a 40 km route to me.
From a far off distance, I could smell cow dung and then it dawned on me! Villagers cover their huts with cow dung to keep it warm in winter and cool in summer….isn’t that super-smart? We were to visit the village at this beautiful Kumaon hill station near Delhi, but not stay in there. Hungry as we were, we were led to a carpet which had a wide spread of local dishes. The smell tricked in through my nose and water started flowing in my mouth. All of us threw our rucksacks and dived onto the floor for food. However, the villagers stopped us from eating. We were surprised as to what the reason was. But we felt so ashamed on hearing that it was no other that washing our dirty hands. We were pleasantly surprised by the cleanliness practiced that too in a village!? We washed our hands with the help of a hand pump and again went towards the carpet, this time less greedily and more cautiously in the hill station near Delhi.
We were given information about each dish we ate. We were told that all of the food was made with the help of organic ingredients. Not only were the vegetables grown by themselves, but also were the spices and sugar-jaggery. Imagine, all at a hill station near Delhi. I recalled that back at home mom paid so much just to buy a packet of organic turmeric, but here the people had been cultivating all of this at such a little cost but with so much of hard work since such a long time.
Just then, I heard the barking of a dog. I turned back and saw an off-white dog running towards us with its tail wagging in the air. I love dogs and of all kinds! All of the kids rushed towards it. It really was the center of attraction.
In the evening, we had lots of fun as the villagers had organized a bonfire especially for us. The air was filled with wails of laughter as all of us tapped our feet to the beats of their traditional folk songs. They taught us some lyrics of songs that were written in their native language. We enjoyed so much that we didn’t realize how soon time flew by at a hill station near Delhi.
We even visited a small school in the hills. Ohhh, it was just a plain small building! But the local kids took great pride in taking us around. Then it occurred to me that all the facilities that I took for granted at my own school would be such novelties up here. And these kids were very happy with whatever limited resources they had, and us, probably, didn’t value our so called ‘privileges’!
A trip that was supposed to be the one filled with adventures turned out to be the one filled with interesting interactions with the roots of the region. Wow, our villages, especially the one that are in Kumaon, are such full of such ‘happening’ vibrancy! The clear air, the warmth of the locals, wide open spaces and open hearts with which they welcomed us, has left a lasting impression in my mind forever!I It surely was the best-est experience in the best hill station near Delhi!