Somewhere between the excel sheets and the futile meetings, my thoughts had already resigned from the monotony. My heart was yearning for yet another journey. A journey that could once again make this restless soul meet the infinite ocean of silence!
A trip to the Himalayas was soon made to make the ends meet. The trip was well planned with the aim to witness the snow and experience the life in the Himalayas in the winter. I had made up my mind to travel solo to Srinagar, Pahalgam, and Gulmarg. I embarked on my journey on 9th March 2017 when I received a message from my friend, (who was already aware of my travel plans) that he too is going to join me from Delhi. I learned that it was snowing heavily in the mountains for a few days and I had kept my fingers crossed. “Let it snow!” I prayed to God. The snowfall had an immediate impact on the lower regions of Punjab and Haryana. As the train whizzed past the green fields of the plain, the cool breeze and the drizzles gave the hint of harsh weather up in the mountains. It was already evening when we reached Udhampur from where we had to hire a taxi for Srinagar. Soon, we were acknowledged that all the roads up to Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam were closed due to heavy snowfall and that the taxi was only going up to Patnitop. And there I was, left again in the dilemma of covering maximum places within the confined time. In such perplexed states, I prefer to give up to my heart to show the way and enjoy whatever comes on my plate, thus giving rise to the series of the impromptu journey. (I ended up visiting Patnitop, Dalhousie, Kalatop, Khajjiar, and Chamba instead.)
The taxi halted directly at one of the guest houses in Patnitop. It was pitch dark when we arrived. The driver informed us that there was no electricity in the area from last 2 days due to heavy snowfall. Since it was difficult to wander around in search of a cheap homestay in the dark and bone-rattling cold, we settled with the first guest house sealing the deal for Rs.800 a night for two people.
The night grew harsh and the cold was taking the toll over our enthusiasm. Even the thick jackets and gloves failed to provide the warmth we needed. My friend briskly opened up a bottle of rum to get our body heated up. It somehow helped us to bravely stand in the balcony. It was snowing. I lay my hands out to touch and feel the tiny little snowflakes. As it fell on my hand it vanished away quickly, like magic that exceeded my grasp. The night had made us oblivious to the beauty around us. Soon we hit the bed after having dinner. Tucked inside many layers of damp blankets, lying on the moist bed and the pillows, it was very difficult to fall asleep. The only thing that made me sleep was dreaming about how beautiful my morning would be!
The next morning, I woke up at 6 without an alarm (usually, I don’t wake up to the alarm clock. My mother acts as my only alarm who forces me to get out of bed.) and immediately got out of the bed to see the mountains and lo! It was still snowing. I kept gazing at everything my eyes could behold, appreciating this piece of art. The roads, the houses, the trees, and the cars looked like toys beautifully decorated with the sheet of ice. Everything was covered in white, tinted with the different shade of colors of the houses, vehicles and the trees. Didn’t we imagine a heaven where everything is white in colour? This was it! Few vehicles that passed by had sketched the road out of the fresh snow that separated the main road from the yard of our guest house. The dogs were lying under the roof, comfortably curled up to keep themselves warm. The snowflakes were gently falling on the leaves of deodars and the dried twigs and branches of the other trees, carefully filling the void (inside me). As if God had meticulously painted the canvas of earth with his own hands! The town was still in deep slumber. The raven sitting on the tree was the only one accompanying me. The occasional cawing of the raven and whispers of the snowflakes falling on the earth was like relaxing music to my ears. I immediately wore my boots and rushed downstairs to play in the snow. My happiness knew no bounds!
Read: Kalga: A hamlet from a fairytale
The owner of the guest house woke up to my activities. He was smiling looking at me knowing that I was enjoying the snow.
“Itni thand me baraf se khel rahe ho? “, he asked me rubbing his hands and blowing his palms simultaneously and smiling at me gently. His smile was telling about the hardships they go through in such harsh conditions. But he was well aware that snow is one of the main reasons tourists flock up to his hometown. He told me how lucky I was to witness such heavy snowfall in March.
Read: Tosh in monsoon
With running nose, numb toes and fingers almost frozen, carrying warmth in our heart, we hiked and explored a lot of places during our 3 days sojourn.
Read: Kheerganga: Trek to the mystical land
From talking to the local people and the hallucinatory views, devouring rajma chawal at just Rs.30 at Jammu station to eating patisa at prem sweets in Kud and having dal makhani at local dhaba where the butter exceeded the quantity of the dal, it is experiences like these that reaffirm my love for travelling. The experience of the unknown and the series of serendipitous moments take me to a parallel universe where it is hard to distinguish between the dreams and the reality. Sometimes the reality is way more beautiful than anything I have ever dreamt of. I hope I get lost like this more often where my dreams meet the reality and the reality of my life turns into a beautiful dream.
I am also thankful, that I am able to turn my dreams into reality (at least to some extent).
This innocent, childlike heart knows no barriers and flies to that beautiful place again, where I had left it. And in return, the mountains have stayed with me forever. I carry this little piece of heaven with me, everywhere I go. I feel the same cold which comes in the form of goosebumps, even now, as I pen down my experience from the closed chambers of my office.
There is magic everywhere waiting to be disclosed. I can see it- The pie in the sky!
Can you see it?