It was a little dark outside when I stole a look from the window. The dawn, still languid with sleep and conspiring with the rain-impregnated clouds lording over the sky, had cast a hush of sensuous magic. The wet, winding road looked lonely and desolate.
I was soon at my choice spot by the bend. There, I stood to cast a reverential gaze at the distant Dhauladhar peak with a couple of stately deodars standing in front like dutiful sentinels. Birds were busy singing Raag Bhairavi while a brook gurgled by behind me. I paid my obeisance as if to a deity, muttered my favourite hymn, “Sarve bhavantu sukhinah…”, and strode ahead.
Suddenly, a vehicle hurtled by, breaking my spell of bliss with its ghastly noise and a cloud of obnoxious fumes.
Minutes later, having passed by the houses still cradling their inmates, with the misty quiet of the outdoors fondling their dreams, I was now by the most beautiful stretch of the road. To my right lay the verdant carpet of a lush tea-garden and beyond the mountain’s lofty summits peeking through the soggy coiffure of trees; to my left, the Neugal Khud. The clouds – as if under diktat from the amorous heavens – had descended low to form a silken veil all around to ensure privacy for the imminent rendezvous with the river. Hardly anything could be seen: neither its sensuous curves, nor its monsoon-pampered, swollen bosom. But of course, my ears could hear the music of its incessant, soul-soothing roar – part an ode to the beauty of nature, part a love song, part a lullaby for the slumbering earth and part a dirge for the dying planet.
Also read: Lament of a Small Man
Further uphill I was greeted by a couple of stray dogs. One sat crouching under the shuttered shop’s extended tin roof. The other, looking lovelorn, sat right on a tree-shaded patch of tarmac while casting a meek wistful look to win an affectionate ‘hi’ or a small word of endearment from apathetic me.
A young health enthusiast in a sporty outfit goes huffing past, making me a tad envious of his youth and nostalgic about my own. I had now neared the ITI building displaying its ugly façade, typical of almost all (PWD-divined) eye-sores, and smelling of corruption.
A park lay next to my left: a swathe of green with anthropogenic additions – some for the toddlers to play, others for all to rest. Rain-sodden, it wears a gloomy countenance. Casting a lingering glance at this welcome getaway for the residents, an involuntary sigh of relief escapes from my heart recalling how narrowly it escaped the noose when some alert neighbourhood residents pulled the right strings and rescued it from turning into a monstrosity: a 5-star hotel!
I was now near the Neugal Cafe, popular for its unassuming, rustic greens to enjoy sips of beer with pakoras under the blue summer sky, and the wide welcoming grin of the Dhauladhar range. But a construction project almost right under its nose – perhaps a hotel – is underway that makes you squirm. The pull of the cafe will be gone with this massive ugliness-in-concrete dwarfing the cafe and thumbing its nose at the mountain. Fretting over this yet another assault on the dwindling pristine greens of the town, I move on and pass through the spellbinding verdure of tree-dotted tea-gardens flanking the road on either side.
With my mobile now increasingly abuzz with trash from WhatsApp university’s factory being served by overzealous zealots, I am finally back home: part elevated, part saddened.
Subhash C. Sharma, am a retired zoology teacher living in a small town Palampur in the Kangra Valley. He spends his time reading, scribbling and watching sunsets.