The Magnetic Pull of the Mountains: Soul Speak and a Month of Gratitude

“Once you have lived with the mountains under the whispering pines and deodars, near stars and a brighter moon, with wood smoke and mist, sweet smell of grass, dew lines on spider spun, sun-kissed buttercup and vine; once you have lived with these, blessed, gods favourite then, you will return, you will come back to touch the trees and grass and climb once more the windswept mountain pass”.

– Hip Hop Nature Boy and Other Poems, Ruskin Bond

For a person who likes to wander the mountains, explore its valleys, learn about the culture and the essence of everyday life in a rugged terrain, Ruskin Bond’s words would ring true.

Though I’ve only been living in Himachal Pradesh full-time for a short while, these past few months have made me realise how even the smallest of things can be elevating – from enchanting and inspiring mornings to routinely chasing sunsets and watching the skies vividly change colour as the days change to night and back again.

The mountains are magical and magnetic, luring many of us time and again. With each visit, travellers tend to form an unconventional and unconditional connection that brings one back time and again.

But very often, an infatuation with the sprawling Himalayas is met with skepticism at home, normally followed by a deluge of questions about the root of the enthusiasm.

In the face of such parental pressure, supplying satisfactory answers is hardly an easy task.

I was in a similar boat – one that rocked for quite a while – when I decided to upchuck my life and move to Himachal after spending 24 years in the sprawling and ever growing metropolis of Mumbai.

It was a gruelling task explaining my decision to my parents of dropping my job at a prestigious law firm to work for the Experiential Living Project, better known as the elivingproject, at the Mudhouse Experiential Hostel in Jibhi, Banjar Valley.

Their worry was boundless, especially when it came to the ever-haunting question of ‘what do we say to people about what our son is doing in life’.

That worry, I thank my stars, didn’t last long.

All it took was a visit to the mountains where my parents ate, laughed and explored places with people they had met just a handful of hours ago.

Did they like it?

They loved every minute of it.

Every time they took a new turn and witnessed the changing landscapes, my parents had a smile that reached their ears. They were taken in by how locals delightfully invited them to their homes for tea, by the vast apple orchards and by eating freshly harvested fruits joyously handed over by big-hearted locals for the price of a conversation.

When the time for departure arrived, my father actually told to me that my decision to live in the mountains was a good one; my mother said that she finally understood my love for the mountains as she herself didn’t feel like heading home.

While I may have managed to open my parent’s eyes to the possibilities of living life off the beaten track and shown them how a new generation enjoys travel, the opportunity to do so is not easily available to everyone whose parents do not understand the magnetic pull of the mountains

Thus, it becomes nearly impossible for many to show their parents the joys of not-so-touristy places, finding new paths to clamber and of meeting like-minded people.

To this end, the elivingproject has decided to throw open August as a ‘month of gratitude’.

The plan is simple: over the next month, you and your parents can come stay in any of the hostels in either Bir, Jibhi and Shoja – all for a nominal fee of Re 1.

The idea behind the ‘month of gratitude’ arose from the recent visits of the parents of several team members who absolutely fell in love with experience while reconnecting with their sons and daughters and getting a glimpse of their chosen life.

The objective is also to thank our parents for bearing with our idiosyncrasies and for everything they have done – knowingly or unknowingly – to support the dream.

Travelling with your family to your favourite destinations will help them understand your love for travelling to the mountains, allowing them to witness how everyone comes to a place as strangers in the morning, but are by evening seated around the bonfire together to share a meal and conversations.

The ‘month of gratitude’ will showcase how friendships made on the road can last a lifetime, how people from different parts of the country come together to make everyone richer in terms of knowledge, experience and wisdom.

The elivingproject was launched by a bunch of dreamers using an eco-friendly and sustainable approach towards travelling. Thus, it is experience, emotions, empathy and the environment that are put on a pedestal.

After all, the business of happiness and gratitude will always be more lucrative than the business of making money.

Featured image credit: Aleesha Matharu/LiveWire